Australia banks on green hydrogen as fuel of the future

FILL HER UP: The federal and state governments have now committed large research budgets to helping develop Australia into a green hydrogen production superpower.
FILL HER UP: The federal and state governments have now committed large research budgets to helping develop Australia into a green hydrogen production superpower.

The federal and state governments are now on board in the push to develop a world-leading green hydrogen fuel industry in Australia.

They have used this year's annual budgets to pour many millions of new dollars into research to turn the green hydrogen fuel dream into reality.

New green hydrogen research projects and investments are being announced so thick and fast it's hard to keep up.

And among those clapping hardest are farm leaders because green hydrogen can replace diesel, agriculture's main fuel, while producing zero greenhouse gases.

The Australian red meat and livestock industry has committed to achieving carbon neutral status by 2030 while the National Farmers Federation wants the Australian economy to reach the same target by 2050.

NFF has a goal for farm energy sources to be 50 per cent renewable by 2030 and for agriculture to be trending towards carbon neutrality by the same year

Green or low-carbon emission hydrogen is made from the electrolysis of water (to produce hydrogen and oxygen) using power from renewable energy such as wind or solar.

Most hydrogen is now extracted from fossil fuels using processes that produce high emissions of greenhouse gases.

An energy engineer with engineering and environmental consultancy Pitt&Sherry, Mark Wallace, says he is "extremely bullish" about hydrogen as a future farm fuel.

Speaking during a recent Exploring Beyond Diesel online forum hosted by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Mr Wallace said hydrogen was a fuel that would support agriculture and remote communities "in the very near future".

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He said hydrogen could be easily substituted for diesel in farm tractors but produced no carbon emissions.

Mr Wallace said hydrogen can be produced locally using electrolysis and transported to where it was needed for use as a fuel to power engines or generate electricity and heat. It can also be turned into emissions-free ammonia fertiliser.

"We are only beginning a price point for hydrogen, prices over time will fall," he said.

A global push is underway to further develop and refine fuel cells which generate emissions-free electricity through an electro-chemical reaction between hydrogen and atmospheric oxygen to power vehicles including trucks and tractors or stored in batteries.

Mr Wallace said the Federal Government was committed to creating a "hydrogen economy" while hydrogen also had potential as a new export industry.

GREEN POWER: Global farm machinery giant New Holland has made a prototype hydrogen-powered tractor.

GREEN POWER: Global farm machinery giant New Holland has made a prototype hydrogen-powered tractor.

Australia recently signed an agreement with Germany to advance the development of a hydrogen supply chain between the two countries.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said partnerships with countries like Germany would be the key for Australia to become a world-leading hydrogen producer.

"This international partnership will help to lower the price of hydrogen, which will get us closer to our goal in the Technology Investment Roadmap of producing hydrogen for under $2 per kilogram," Mr Birmingham said.

As well, Origin Energy is working with Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries on a green liquid hydrogen export project in Townsville.

A feasibility study for an initial 300 megawatt hydrogen export and domestic supply project has been done and front-end engineering and design is expected to start next year

Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said Australia had a competitive advantage to be a world leader in hydrogen exports.

"The expertise and infrastructure from our gas industry will assist us to use hydrogen as an energy source at home," Mr Taylor said.

"Australia's future hydrogen industry has the potential to generate 7600 new jobs by 2050, many in regional Australia, with exports estimated to be worth around $11 billion a year.

"This is why the Federal Government has committed more than $500 million to back this industry's development."

A small $2.6 million slice of that money will help fund Horizon Power's construction of Australia's first renewable hydrogen micro-grid in Denham on the Western Australian coast south of Carnarvon.

Horizon Power, which is owned by the WA Government, plans to use solar and renewable hydrogen to generate 526 megawatt hours a year of green electricity, enough to power 100 homes.

It will consist of a 384 kilowatt (kW) hydrogen electrolyser with accompanying compression and storage and 100kW fuel cell, alongside 704kW of solar that will power the electrolyser.

If successful, Horizon Power will look to replicate the technology in other remote power generation systems.

The WA government is funding a number of other demonstration projects for the use of green hydrogen in transport including using the gas to fuel waste collection services and a light vehicle fleet in Cockburn and a hydrogen refuelling hub in Mandurah.

PLANTS OF THE FUTURE?: A hydrogen plant based on a large-scale electrolyser and storage tanks.

PLANTS OF THE FUTURE?: A hydrogen plant based on a large-scale electrolyser and storage tanks.

The Queensland Government will trial five Hyundai Nexos hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles powered by home-grown hydrogen.

Its Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Minister Mick de Brenni said the three-year trial would help underpin the development of Queensland's domestic hydrogen industry.

"This trial will accelerate our journey towards establishing Queensland as a renewable energy superpower," Mr de Brenni said.

"Hyundai Nexos can be refuelled in five minutes with hydrogen to be manufactured in Queensland by BOC Australia."

The NSW Government's new Electricity Investment Bill included $50m over the next decade to develop a green hydrogen generation sector along with a low-cost renewable energy for the emerging industry.

And a NSW-based company, Elvin Renewables, has announced the manufacture of scalable electrolysers which will put the ability to make hydrogen fuel into the hands of farmers and rural businesses.

The company plans to make the electrolysers in Port Kembla as a joint venture with hydrogen vehicle manufacturer, H2X.

In its recent budget the Victorian Government pledged $108 million to the emerging renewable hydrogen industry in a record $1.6 billion investment to accelerate the development of cutting-edge energy technologies.

The South Australian Government has launched a $240 million world-leading hydrogen project as part of its efforts to develop a green hydrogen export industry.

The project would be the largest green ammonia plant in the world, 60 times larger than Australia's largest electrolyser at Tonsley in Adelaide.

The initial stage of the $240 million H2U Eyre Peninsula Gateway Hydrogen Project will see the installation of a 75mW electrolyser near Whyalla capable of producing enough hydrogen to create 40,000 tonnes of ammonia (which can be turned into hydrogen) each year.

This story Green hydrogen - hot air or fuel of the future? first appeared on Farm Online.