Geothermal Energy Interests Growing Steadily in Japan

Japanese companies are renewing their interest in geothermal energy after the March 2011 nuclear crisis shut down reactors for safety checks and the introduction of an incentive program for clean energy encouraged investment.

A unit of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., Japan’s largest steelmaker, expects annual sales of 5 billion yen ($49 million) from its geothermal business as early as 2015.

Nippon Steel & Sumikin Engineering Co. plans to expand its business in Japan and in countries such as Indonesia, Ryuichi Kageyama, general manager for the geothermal power business, said at a briefing today. It also plans to enter plant operation, maintenance services and power retailing, he said.

The company doesn’t have a comparative figure for current geothermal sales as there has been little development in Japan over the past several years, he said. The country’s last commercial geothermal plant was built in 1999 on Hachijo island, about 287 kilometers (178 miles) south of Tokyo.

Nippon Steel & Sumikin, based in Tokyo, has supplied steam production equipment and pipelines for nine of the 17 geothermal stations currently running in Japan, including the Hachijo island plant, according to the company.

Meanwhile, JFE Holding Inc.’s engineering unit and partners announced they’ve started test drilling for a 7-megawatt geothermal power station in northern Japan.

A venture set up in 2011 between JFE Engineering Corp., Japan Metals & Chemicals Co. and JMC Geothermal Engineering Co. is conducting the test in Hachimantai city, Iwate prefecture, the companies said in a statement today.

With the start of test drilling, Mitsui Oil Exploration Co. has decided to join the venture, according to the statement. Mitsui and JFE will each have a more than 33 percent stake. The rest will be split between the two other companies.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg

Lead image: Geothermal station via Shutterstock

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