Japan is to perform tests for its biggest carbon capture and storage project to date next month off the coast of Hokkaido.

The tests are to be performed by Japan CCS Co at a refinery operated by Idemitsu Kosan Co. despite fears that the seabed around Japan is prone to earthquakes and unsuitable to the storage of vast quantities of carbon dioxide.

Engineers plan to inject carbon dioxide into deep saline aquifers and the gas will be siphoned away from the refinery. If all goes to plan, it is hoped the technology can help limit the carbon being emitted from thermal power plants in the country.
CCS process
Japan last week relaxed rules on the development of coal-fired power plants and should the CCS project prove successful it could offer a means of removing excess emissions from those plants.

“Individual technologies have already been established” for the project, Tetsuo Kasukawa, a spokesman for Japan CCS Co., the Tokyo-based research company that built and prepared the site for the carbon injection, said in an interview in Tokyo. “We want to prove CCS is also possible in Japan.”

Another concern is whether stored carbon dioxide will leak, releasing the greenhouse gas back into the atmosphere in high concentrations but Japan CCS is confident the geology of the area is sound.

“Carbon dioxide will be injected in such a way that there won’t be any impact on geological formation,” Kasukawa claimed.

The project off Hokkaido is the first in Japan to involve the three stages of the CCS process — capture, transfer and underground injection of carbon dioxide for storage — according to Kasukawa. An earlier demonstration project conducted by the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth injected a total of 10,400 tons of carbon dioxide at a test site in Niigata Prefecture.

Beginning in April, between 100,000 tons to 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide will be injected annually into two separate reservoirs 1,000 meters and 3,000 meters, respectively, in depth under the seabed off the port of Tomakomai in Hokkaido, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is sponsoring the pilot project.

About $300m had been set aside for the project from the ministry for the four years through the end of this month to build the project site. Cost estimates for the entire project haven’t been made available by METI, though the government’s target is for CCS to be viable by 2020.

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