May 31, 2004



Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.21 (May 2004)

Staff writer Kazunori Kobayashi

Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd., Japan's largest gas company, distributes city gas to Japan's Kanto region, which encompasses Tokyo and its surrounding area. Since its establishment in 1885, the company has consistently dedicated itself to the stable distribution of gas for nearly 120 years. Currently, the company has about 8,800 employees, and provides 11 billion cubic meters of gas to about 9.4 million customers. Its annual domestic sales in fiscal year 2003 amounted to about 1.14 trillion yen (U.S. $11 billion) and its recurring profit is about 116 billion yen (U.S. $105 million).

The main source of city gas is natural gas. In 1969, Tokyo Gas imported liquid natural gas (LNG) for the first time to Japan, and in 1972 the company started to supply city gas produced from natural gas. Currently, the company has long-term imports contracts with 6 countries, the United States (Alaska), Brunei, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, and Qatar. The imported LNG is gasified at Tokyo Gas factories, where its caloric content is adjusted, and the gas is then distributed to customers as city gas through an underground pipeline network.

Compared with other fossil fuels such as coal or petroleum, natural gas is perceived as "cleaner energy" because its combustion not only emits a lower amount of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas), but also a lower amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx), which causes acid rain, while it emits no sulfur oxide (SOx) at all.

Natural gas is therefore a clean energy source. As of 1999, it accounted for 12.7 percent of Japan's primary energy supply. According to the national government's " Outlook for Long-term Energy Supply and Demand," published in the Report of the Advisory Committee for Energy and Resources in June 2001, the ratio of natural gas to other fuels is expected to increase to 13. 2 - 14 percent by 2010.

What is Tokyo Gas doing to help form a sustainable society as it aspires to be a top runner in corporate environmental management? One of Tokyo Gas's stated corporate principle is to contribute to improving the global environment.

Tokyo Gas is making efforts to reduce its environmental impact both in its own internal operations (gas production and supply) and in the field of its customers' energy (gas) use. Firstly, when manufacturing city gas, Tokyo Gas uses seawater to heat and re-gasify LNG. In addition, its overall energy efficiency has improved through production facility upgrades, such as using LNG and implementing energy conservation measures. Moreover, Tokyo Gas is making efforts to use the cold temperature of LNG (minus 162 C) to produce dry ice and in freezer warehouses. This resulted in a reduction of 75 percent of CO2 emitted per unit gas production in fiscal 2002 as compared with 1990 levels.

In the field of gas supply, in which Tokyo Gas deliver the gas to consumers, improvements have been made in the excavation work for laying gas pipes, which normally generates excavated soil and asphalt/concrete debris. In order to reduce these waste products, Tokyo Gas introduced new construction methods, including a "closed excavation method," while reducing and recycling the amount of wastes generated and treated for final disposal. Tokyo Gas succeeded in reducing the amount of soil it excavated to about 50 tons in fiscal year 2003 from about 1.5 million tons in fiscal year 1999. It is also actively pursuing the recycling and reuse of disposed gas pipes.

The last phase is when consumers use the gas. Burning city gas generates CO2. In order to reduce the environmental impacts generated in this phase, Tokyo Gas has been introducing more energy-efficient gas appliances and other fuel-efficient products, as well as introducing gas co-generation systems, which promote the effective use of both electricity and heat. At the same time, it has been promoting eco-cooking* for an environment-friendly diet.

In fact, an increasing number of Japanese gas companies are promoting eco-cooking, based on the idea that thinking about food, a familiar and enjoyable topic for everyone, is an effective way to raise awareness about the environment. The notion of eco-cooking brings up the issue of eco-friendly habits in a wide spectrum of activities, from shopping to cooking and washing up. Tokyo Gas has been holding eco-cooking classes since 1995, and as many as 15,7000 persons participated in the 500 classes held in fiscal year 2003. These classes are convened not only in the company's cooking classrooms and showrooms, but also at a wide variety of venues in cooperation with government agencies, companies, NGO/NPOs and schools. (in Japanese) (in Japanese, for children)

Tokyo Gas's leaflet "Eco-cooking Reader" that it distributes free of charge to communities and schools, includes tips for saving money and at the same time reducing impacts on the environment originating from gas and electricity use in the course of shopping, cooking and washing. For example, in the section on cooking, there are tips such as "the most eco-friendly way to cook is to keep the flame within the diameter of the pan bottom," "using lids (including Japanese-style partial lids) improves heat efficiency," "pans with larger bottoms can boil water more quickly and efficiently," "it's more economical to boil water already hot from the tap than to start with cold water."

The leaflet illustrates how eco-cooking is good both for the environment and for household economy by comparing each case in terms of gas use, CO2 emissions and gas expenses. One examples of eco-cooking is the use of the "otoshibuta" lid, the Japanese-style partial lid that is placed directly on the ingredients and allows the heat to circulate. In the case of cooking Japanese daikon radish, a typical homemade dish that requires several hours of simmering over low heat, if this dish were cooked every day for a year in a 24-cm pan without a lid, it would consume 33 cubic meters of gas, emit 79 kg of CO2, and cost 3,673 yen (U.S. $35), while with a lid, the totals would be only 13 cubic meters of gas, 31 kg of CO2, and 1,422 yen (U.S. $14). The leaflet also introduces various recipes and tips for eco-cooking. During Tokyo Gas's cooking classes, students measure how much gas and electricity they use to prepare the recipe so they can see the results of eco-cooking first hand.

While working with the customers to promote reduction in CO2 emissions, Tokyo Gas is also actively developing the technology to create a "hydrogen-powered society" in the foreseeable future. The company's highest priority has been placed on developing a fuel cell. (Japanese only)

A chemical reaction between atmospheric hydrogen and oxygen is what generates electricity in a fuel cell. This system can reduce CO2 and NOx emissions while providing exhaust heat as a potential energy source. One fuel cell that has already been commercialized as a fixed power supply is the 50-200kW phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC). As of the end of March 2004, Tokyo Gas had introduced 61 of these fuel cell units (amounting to 9,780kW) within the company's distribution area, mainly among environmentally conscious customers and hospitals that have a high heating demand.

Another product being developed and targeted for commercial sales by the end of fiscal 2004 is a cogeneration system for residential use that employs polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFC). Some of the features of PEFC are quick start-up, compact size, light weight, and inexpensive construction materials. A wide range of possible applications includes automobile and cell phone [charging], in addition to cogeneration for residential use. Tokyo Gas is also developing a new heating system that is expected to supply both hot water and electricity from city gas. This system applies the concept of "a hot water system that generates electricity." This new system helps reduce the use of primary energy by about 20 percent and CO2 emissions by nearly 30 percent compared to conventional systems that need separate heating and power generation systems that use gas-fired power plants.

Tokyo Gas is also participating in the construction of hydrogen refueling stations, aiming at providing a supply of hydrogen produced from natural gas for fuel cell vehicles that can also be powered by methanol and gasoline. In exploring ways to help establish a sustainable society, Tokyo Gas is attempting to promote natural gas as a cleaner energy source as well as developing energy-efficient products. The company's efforts to reduce environmental impacts are not limited to its internal operations, but have been expanded to include customersenergy use. It is also working on technology development and the commercialization of products for creating a hydrogen-powered society. Tokyo Gas sees itself as a top runner in corporate environmental management, and will continue to meet the challenge in accordance with its corporate principle that calls for contributions to improving the global environment.