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Major Japanese trading firm Itochu Corp. said Friday that it has formed a partnership with the Japanese unit of French industrial gas giant Air Liquide to develop liquefied hydrogen production and distribution systems.

Itochu will also collaborate with subsidiary Itochu Enex Co. to build hydrogen plants and hydrogen stations, mainly in the Chukyo region of central Japan.

Air Liquide has a liquid hydrogen plant in the United States, which produces 30 tons per day. The Japanese and French companies are considering building a hydrogen facility with similar output capacity in Japan. If realized, the plant is expected to be one of the largest in the country.

The companies will also aim to utilize Itochu Enex’s gas station network to expand the network of hydrogen stations.

The Japanese government is pressing ahead with its decarbonization policy, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to virtually zero by 2050, but building a hydrogen supply network for fuel cell vehicles remains a challenge.

Itochu, Air Liquide and Itochu Enex also hope to be involved in hydrogen imports to Japan in the future.

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