Japanese oil giant buys stake in US hydrogen producer with export ambitions




Eneos plans to work with private-equity-founded MVCE on shipping H2 via chemical carrier


Japan’s largest oil company Eneos has bought an undisclosed equity stake in Mountain View Clean Energy (MVCE), founded by private equity firm Azimuth Capital to produce clean hydrogen in the US.


While little information has been released on MVCE, Eneos said in a press release that the company is planning to build “one of the world’s largest plants for the manufacture of hydrogen, [methylcyclohexane] MCH, and ammonia in the Gulf of Mexico”.


MCH is a liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC), formed when H2 is chemically reacted with toluene.


Eneos is already evaluating this chemical, which carry 500 times more hydrogen by volume than hydrogen gas, as a potential carrier for imports to Japan


The firm had launched last year a government-backed, kilowatt-scale pilot project to directly produce MCH during electrolysis in Australia and ship it to Japan, with an eye towards a 5MW follow-up project in 2025.


The oil company cites similar properties of MCH to petroleum, allowing it to use existing tanks and vessels to store and transport the carrier at ambient temperatures and atmospheric pressure.


Ammonia, another potential hydrogen carrier that most export-oriented developers have backed, has to be stored either under pressure or at sub-zero temperatures.


Ammonia exposure is more dangerous than MCH — causing blindness and burns, while the latter can be fatal if it is swallowed or breathed in— both chemicals are also toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects, which could present an ecological risk if they are shipped long distances overseas.


Dehydrogenation — ie, extracting the hydrogen from the MCH — and then sending the resulting toluene back to base for rehydrogenation are both highly energy-intensive processes, raising questions as to the round-trip efficiency and affordability of this method of transporting hydrogen.



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