• Press Release

Starting the Joint Research Project on the Cultivation of Sorghum for Biomass Power Generation

Seeking to Reduce GHG Emissions from Coal-Fired Power Plants

Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo
Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.
NYK Line

Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo (Location: Tokyo; Dean: Nobuhiro Tsutsumi), Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd. (Idemitsu; Headquarters: Tokyo; Representative Director & CEO: Shunichi Kito) and NYK Line (Headquarters: Tokyo; President: Hitoshi Nagasawa) (hereinafter “the parties”) have agreed to utilize land from the Idemitsu-owned Ensham Coal Mine in Queensland, Australia, to conduct joint research on the cultivation of sorghum for biomass power generation fuel that can be co-fired with coal.

The demand for co-firing of coal and biomass fuel at coal-fired power plants is expected to increase in the future, from the standpoint of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG). The parties will focus on sorghum, an annual Gramineae grass plant, as a raw material for biomass fuel, and will carry out joint research on selecting the optimal variety and establishing cultivation methods that match the characteristics of the vegetation. The parties will also utilize the genome breeding technology, gene analysis, cultivation technology knowledge, etc. possessed by the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences to select varieties and establish cultivation methods.

Since sorghum can be harvested about three months after sowing, it can be harvested multiple times a year. In addition, because it is resistant to drought and has high environmental adaptability, it can be expected to grow even in harsh environments. Moreover, there is no competition with food applications, so the plant is expected to be one of the promising raw materials that can contribute to the stable supply of biomass power generation fuel.

In a test conducted by Idemitsu last year at the Ensham Coal Mine on sorghum cultivation for fuel use, the smooth growth of sorghum in the area for use as fuel was confirmed. In this new joint research, the parties will further develop the previous test, conduct cultivation tests on 17 pre-selected sorghum varieties, select varieties suitable for power generation fuel with higher yield and higher calorific value than the conventional varieties, and attempt to establish an effective cultivation method in the area.

Outline of joint research project

  • Plant name: Sorgham (17 varieties)
  • Verification schedule: December 2021 to October 2023
  • Cultivation test site: Land at Ensham Coal Mine owned by Idemitsu in Queensland, Australia
  • Planted area: 0.25ha
  • Cultivation test:
    ① Local climograph / weather condition analysis
    ② Intersystem difference test*
    ③ Production period transfer test**
    ④ Optimization of fertilizer application amount, irrigation amount, planting density
    ⑤ Evaluation of lignin amount in candidate varieties***
    *This is a test to confirm the growth difference in each variety when cultivated under the same conditions (land, weather conditions, fertilizer weeding, etc.).
    ** This is a test to confirm the amount of growth depending on the sowing timing.
    *** The larger the amount of lignin, the higher the calorific value, thus making it a more superior fuel.
  • Role of each party
    Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo:
    Supervision of joint research, main party in cultivation test implementation, evaluation/analysis
    Idemitsu: Project management, support for cultivation at the Ensham mine
    NYK Line: Project management

Photo of Sorghum

In the future, the parties will utilize the results of the joint research to build a supply chain for the production, transportation, and marketing of biomass fuel for coal co-firing that will contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Overview of each party

<Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo>
Location: Tokyo
Dean: Nobuhiro Tsutsumi
Website: https://www.a.u-tokyo.ac.jp/english/

<Idemitsu Kosan Co.,Ltd.>
Headquarters: Tokyo
Representative Director & CEO: Shunichi Kito
Website: https://www.idemitsu.com/en/index.html

<NYK Line>
Headquarters: Tokyo
President: Hitoshi Nagasawa
Website: https://www.nyk.com/english/

Inquiry contact details

Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo
General Affairs Division,Public Relations and Information Section
Telephone: +81-3-5841-8179;
email: koho.a@gs.mail.u-tokyo.ac.jp

Idemitsu Kosan Co.,Ltd.
Public Relations Department Public Relations Section, Idemitsu Kosan Co.,

NYK Line
Corporate Communication Group, Media Relations Team
Telephone: +81-3-3284-5177;
email: NYKJP.ML.MEDIA@nykgroup.com

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