Australian-first hydrogen-powered electricity generation trial

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In a $15 million trial, Jemena will use international technology to convert solar and wind power into hydrogen gas, which will then be stored for use across the Jemena Gas Network in New South Wales.

It is estimated Jemena’s New South Wales gas network – which delivers gas to 1.3 million customers – is capable of storing as much energy as 8 million Powerwall batteries without further investment or network augmentation.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA has committed $7.5 million in funding for Jemena to build a demonstration scale 500kW electrolyser at its facility in western Sydney which is able to generate enough hydrogen to power approximately 250 homes.

Hydrogen can be safely added to natural gas mains at concentrations of up to 10 per cent without affecting pipelines, appliances or regulations.

The two-year trial —the largest of its kind in Australia — involves converting solar and wind power into renewable hydrogen via electrolysis; the process by which electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The electrolyser will produce hydrogen to be stored in the natural gas network to demonstrate and address the technical, regulatory, environmental and economic barriers to the production and use of hydrogen in various Australian conditions.

The majority of the hydrogen produced will be injected in the local gas network for domestic use and demonstrate the potential for renewable hydrogen storage in Australia’s gas networks.

A portion of the hydrogen will be utilised via a gas engine generator for electricity generation back into the grid with the remaining stored for use in an onsite Hydrogen Refuelling Station for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said hydrogen had huge potential to store renewable energy and supplement natural gas use.

“As Australia transitions to renewable energy, hydrogen could play an important role as energy storage and also has the effect of decarbonising the gas network with ‘green’ gas,” Mr Miller said.

Energy Networks Australia identified hydrogen injection into the natural gas network as an avenue to decarbonise the gas distribution networks. Jemena’s trial will support future activities around the production and storage of renewable hydrogen at larger scales.

“There is significant potential in the power-to-gas value chain including the ability to stabilise the grid as well as pairing renewable energy with electrolysers to soak up and store surplus electricity,” Mr Miller said.

In the longer term, hydrogen also has the potential to be a major Australian export opportunity. Earlier this month, ARENA announced $22 million in R&D funding into exporting hydrogen, supporting 16 research projects across nine Australian universities and research organisations.

Jemena’s Managing Director, Frank Tudor, said, “In the future Australians will need to decide what to do with excess renewable energy on very windy or very sunny days.

“Jemena’s Project H2GO will demonstrate how existing gas pipeline technology can store excess renewable energy for weeks and months, making it more efficient than batteries which can only store excess renewable energy for minutes or hours,” Mr Tudor said.

“Our trial will also explore how hydrogen can be used to power Australians who are on the move, with a hydrogen refuelling station being developed to support the burgeoning hydrogen-vehicle industry.”

Mr Tudor said Jemena’s Project H2GO lays the foundations for a renewable energy grid which would take advantage of Australia’s abundant renewable resources.

“Australia has established solar and wind powered industries, and this trial will leverage off this as we develop a hydrogen industry. It will be very exciting to explore the benefits for customers and how these could be rolled out more broadly across our NSW gas network, and potentially, across Australia, in the future.”

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