The Great Hydrogen Race speeds up

SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S RACE to become the nation's No 1 in hydrogen production and export just got a lot tougher.

The federal Labor Party has chosen Queensland as the state it wants to see supported by the lion's share of $1bln in federal government funding.

The federal shadow energy minister, Mark Butler, said in a statement on January 22: "While benefiting the nation as as whole, regional Queensland will be the big winner from Labor's plan."

Labor's $1 bln National Hydrogen Plan will include $3 mln (rpt $3 mln, and not $300 mln as accidentally reported) — to establish a National Hydrogen Innovation Hub in Gladstone, in Queensland.

The announcement, clearly aimed at boosting Labor's election chances in Queensland and Northern NSW, comes at a time when South Australia is working hard to lead the nation on hydrogen.

In a statement, the South Australian energy minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan, said South Australia was "well regarded as a national leader in this emerging industry, which has considerable capacity to grow the economy, create jobs and deliver tangible environmental benefits by improving supply of clean power to the grid.

 “Sadly, Labor’s Mark Butler seems to have forgotten his home state in a blind rush to spruik Queensland as the major focus of his party’s hydrogen plan, before taking to social media to talk up the so-called benefits to Western Australia.”

The South Australian Government has already invested more than $17 mln in four hydrogen projects: a “Hydrogen Super Hub” at Crystal Brook in the mid North; the Hydrogen Utility at Port Lincoln, on the Eyre Peninsula; a hydrogen demonstration and training project at the University of South Australia, and Hydrogen Park in Adelaide which iis building Australia’s largest electrolyser to produce hydrogen for feeding into the gas network.

Detailed designs for the $7.7 mln hydrogen demonstration project at the University of South Australia’s Mawson campus have been completed, and construction is about to go out to tender.  It is expected to be fully operational before the end of the year. 

The project’s coordinator, Dr Stephen Berry, says “SA is at the forefront of the hydrogen economy.

“I can understand the political announcement in Queensland, where there are lots of marginal seats.  There is also great infrastructure there already for the gas industry.

”South Australia is extremely well placed to take a large share in the hydrogen economy, but it will need continued investment from state and federal sources.”

Ben Wilson, CEO of the pipeline company AGIC, which runs Hydrogen Park, welcomed the federal announcement.  AGIG intends to use its hydrogen to blend with the methane it supplies to domestic users.  He said the federal Labor announcement was more focused on boosting hydrogen exports.

Exporting hydrogen, however,  is one of the key aims of the Port Lincoln proposal, and it is understood that discussions are already under way about the possibility of using the proposed iron ore/grain deep water export port planned for Cape Hardy, just north of Tumby Bay.

Planning and feasibiliity studies are still underway for this Hydrogen Utility on the outskirts of Port Lincoln.The aim is to produce hydrogen cheaply by using surplus electiricity from a nearby wind farm. The gas would then be used as power storage, generating electricity when the wind was insufficient.  Surplus hydrogen would also be used to make ammonia, the feedstock for fertiliser, or for export to Japan and other hydrogen-hungry countries.

The Utility will be a demonstration of advanced water electrolysis developed by the German- ThyssenKrupp engineering group, which says it will be one of the world’s first commercial plants to produce CO2-free ammonia from intermittent renewable resources.

“The minister ( for energy, Dan van Holst Pellekaan) is dead keen to get something up and running,”  according to Peter Scott, Economic Development Manager with Regional Development Australia in Whyalla.

Scott, who has been actively facilitating the Pt Lincoln proposal at both state and local level, says the state government “is doing a huge amount behind the scenes” to get the Port Lincoln facility happening.

The proposed $600 mln Hydrogen Super Hub at Crystal Brook is part of French energy giant Neoen’s plans for the world’s largest co-located wind, solar, battery and hydrogen facility, in SA’s mid north. It would include 110MW of wind generation, 100 MW of  solar, a 100MW lithium-ion battery, and produce up to 50 MW or 9,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year. 

A feasibiiity study is expected to be completed and a final investment decision made before the end of the year.

It is not yet decided whether the hydogen part of this will be at Crystal Brook or Port Pirie.  Designs for the rest of the super hub near Crystal Brook are already well advanced through the state planning approvals process.

Hydrocarbon heavyweights back hydrogen

AUSTRALIA’S PEAK LOBBY GROUP for the oil and gas industry, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), has thrown its support behind the push for hydrogen as a new, cleaner fuel.

In a statement welcoming federal Labor's $1bn hydrogen plan, APPEA's CEO, Dr Malcolm Roberts, said the Australian liquid natural gas industry "has the technology, the expertise and the commercial and trade relationships to make hydrogen exports a reality".

"Indeed, hydrogen is already being produced from Australian LNG exports in some of our overseas markets.   In the US, natural gas is the dominant source of their growing hydrogen industry."

Hydrogen can be produced from LNG through a process known as steam methane reforming.

Unlike hydrogen produced from electrolysis of water, this "blue" hydrogen comes with greenhouse gases as a by-product.

APPEA says these can be "managed through market offset or technical abatement to offer a carbon-neutral product".

Corrected January 24, 2019

Updated February 5, 2019