SRI trialling hydrogen energy in tyre manufacture
This month, Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. (SRI) begins a proof-of-concept study to determine the viability of harnessing hydrogen energy for tyre manufacture. The study will take place at SRI’s plant in Shirakawa, Japan and is being supported by national research and development agency the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
SRI is looking at hydrogen energy as part of efforts to make its tyre production carbon neutral, an engagement that will also see it utilise solar power. The tyre maker will specifically deploy hydrogen power to generate the steam required for high-temperature, high-pressure stages of the vulcanisation process. It notes that “various technical limitations” prevent steam generation from electric power alone.
“We selected (the) Shirakawa Factory as a pilot factory to demonstrate hydrogen’s potential while taking advantage of existing programmes to harness hydrogen energy that are already underway in Fukushima Prefecture. We then submitted this plan to NEDO, who selected it for backing and support,” shares SRI.
With support from NEDO, SRI will conduct a proof of concept that involves harnessing hydrogen energy in certain tyre production processes from August 2021 through February 2024. Thereafter, the company plans to expand the use of hydrogen energy throughout its Shirakawa site and, ultimately, to its group factories in Japan and overseas.
An eye to replacing conventional energy
This proof of concept will involve harnessing hydrogen energy for production processes involved in SRI’s proprietary NEO-T01 tyre manufacturing system. It will study the challenges involved in maintaining continuous 24/7 production using hydrogen energy. “Through the process of identifying and enacting countermeasures to overcome various technical challenges, such as how to control nitrogen oxide emissions when using a hydrogen boiler, we hope to demonstrate the effectiveness of hydrogen as a safe and clean energy source to eventually replace the conventional energy sources currently used in tyre manufacturing,” states SRI.
At the same time, with an eye toward increased demand for hydrogen following the completion of this proof of concept, SRI will also examine various possibilities for producing hydrogen using electric power generated from other renewable energy sources as well as for the procurement of carbon-free hydrogen.