For community and Earth

One Komatsu plant acts, toward carbon neutrality by 2050

Slashing CO2 emissions with biomass gas power generation

“It gives me great joy to show customers this biomass gas power generator during the plant tour. Gets me every time,” says Satoshi Koizumi, who works at Komatsu Ibaraki Plant as a member of Facilities Section of Production Department. There is a reason why he feels strongly about biomass gas power generation — a promising pathway to decarbonization.

Ibaraki Plant opened in 2007, as a production base for mining equipment. It is one of Komatsu’s most environmentally sustainable plants: decarbonizing building design, solar panel installation, small-wind turbines, to name but a few. And in February 2022, a brand-new biomass gas power generator went into operation.

Biomass is a renewable organic energy source, and Ibaraki Plant uses wood chips made from thinned wood from the nearby forests as fuel. The gas produced by heating the wood chips powers the engine to generate electricity, and the exhaust heat can be reused in hot water supply systems and other equipment. The goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 141 tons per year through the biomass gas power generation.

Wood chip challenge: connection with community deepened

Koizumi says, “The biomass gas power generation project could not have been successful without the help of the forestry industry in Ibaraki Prefecture.” One of the challenges they faced is that the wood chips used in the existing biomass boiler turned out to be unsuitable for the new biomass gas power generator.

The help came from a wood chip processing company from the local forestry community. Determined to produce and secure wood chips that would work, Koizumi and the processing company went through dozens of meetings, experiments, and prototypes before producing the one type that fits the new system. 

In retrospect, the wood chip production not only deepened the connection between the plant and the local community, but it also had many positive impacts on forests and watershed rivers. If thinned wood (raw material for wood chips) is left as it is, it could hinder the growth of surrounding trees. Or worse, in the event of a disaster, it could flow out downstream leading to devastating damage. Thus, the effective use of thinned wood was an environmentally-friendly deed and practice.

This is how one Komatsu plant acted, making real changes to the local forest environment and community.  

Environment preservation activities at National Hitachi Seaside Park

Ibaraki Plant is located by National Hitachi Seaside Park, a park famous for its beautiful blue flower carpet of nemophila and kochia plant. Every year, the park attracts more than one million tourists and takes their breath away. 

Once a year, dedicated members of Ibaraki Plant volunteer to take part in activities to preserve the environment at the park. They plant and care for flowers and trees and maintain walking trails and vegetation. What motivates them (because it is hard work) is simple: the look on visitors’ faces, completely mesmerized by the stunning scenery.

Think of community ― you are thinking of Earth

You may be wondering at this point why Ibaraki Plant is so keen on environmental measures. It is because Komatsu upholds the long-term vision of achieving carbon neutrality, virtually zero carbon emissions by 2050. To that end, every means and technology feasible such as biomass gas power generation should be used to achieve the goal.

And the use of wood chips from otherwise wasted thinned wood for biomass gas power generation is beneficial to both nearby forest environment and local economy. 

This is how Komatsu employees and local people preserve the environment of community together. What Ibaraki plant has done with biomass gas power generation is a community-minded and earth-conscious act ― a strong move toward the goal Komatsu drives.
Just as Koizumi pushes forward with environment management at work, he does the same at home. “I am quick to turn off the lights and the TV after my kids are done, to save electricity,” he says with a laugh.

In a sense, your community may be the closest and dearest Earth that you can care for.

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