Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the known universe, making up approximately 75 per cent of visible matter. It is also extremely chemically versatile, capable of being converted into other useful forms, such as ammonia, or as a renewable fuel source. A number of projects around Australia are investigating ways to commercialise green hydrogen and provide a clean source of gas for the economy – here we take a closer look at some of the most advanced projects and see how they are tracking on the path to commercialisation.
National interest in hydrogen has been steadily increasing. As more innovative technologies for the production and use of hydrogen continue to emerge, Federal and State Governments are investing more money and resources into green hydrogen projects, which is highly valued as a zero emissions fuel source and industrial feedstock.
Specifically, green hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced from water, using a process known as electrolysis, which requires electricity.
When the energy used in this process comes from a renewable source, such as wind, solar or hydro, the chemical produced is commonly considered green or renewable hydrogen.
Growing a renewable hydrogen industry
The Federal Government has said that its ambition is to become a renewable energy super power, decarbonise its economy and increase clean energy exports to contribute to regional and global decarbonisation, in part thanks to our abundance of natural resources.
The Federal Government has said that it believes hydrogen is a promising avenue for reaching this ambition thanks to its range of uses, including energy storage, blending with natural gas, fuel cells and trade.
Since the release of Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy in 2019 there is now a $127 billion pipeline of announced hydrogen investment in Australia, making it the largest hydrogen pipeline in the world.
» Explores Australia’s clean hydrogen potential
» Considers future scenarios with wide ranging growth possibilities
» Outlines an adaptive approach that equips Australia to scale up quickly
» Details nationally coordinated actions involving governments, industry and communities
According to CSIRO-operated hydrogen project database, HyResource, there are 108 hydrogen-related industry projects in Australia. 79 of these projects are in the development and planning phase, 16 are under construction, only 12 are currently in operation and just one has reached completion.
Prominent hydrogen projects across Australia include:
Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC)
Pilot Project – The only hydrogen project to reach completion so far in Australia, the HESC was used to demonstrate an integrated hydrogen supply chain encompassing production, storage and transportation in delivering liquefied hydrogen to Japan.
The pilot project, located in the Latrobe Valley, integrated coal gasification and gas-refining, hydrogen gas transportation and liquefaction, liquefied hydrogen storage and loading, shipbuilding and operation of a specialised liquefied hydrogen carrier.
In January of 2022, a shipment of liquid hydrogen was successfully shipped to Japan, marking the end of the pilot.
Hydrogen Park South Australia (HyP SA)
– Opened officially in May 2021, HyP SA produces renewable hydrogen for blending with natural gas for supply to around 4,000 homes and businesses in metropolitan Adelaide. It is also providing direct hydrogen supply to industry and to supply hydrogen for transport uses.
Located at Tonsley Innovation District, HyP SA produces renewable hydrogen using a 1.25MW Siemens Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolyser – as of August 2023, the largest single unit of its kind in Australia in operation.
Australian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH) –
AREH is a proposed phased development located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The project intends to supply renewable power to local customers in the Pilbara, a large mining region, and produce green hydrogen for the domestic Australian market and for export to major international users.
At full scale, the AREH is expected to:
» Develop 26GW total generating capacity from wind and solar power, the equivalent of producing over 90TWh per annum
» Produce 1.6 million tonnes of green hydrogen per annum
» Abate around 17 million tonnes of carbon in domestic and export markets annually, equating to roughly 0.5Gt of carbon savings over the lifetime of the project
Green Hydrogen and Battery Storage System
– This project consists of a 150kW PEM electrolyser and a 5MW battery energy storage system. The demonstrator scale project is being undertaken by Marubeni Corporation, and is located in
Northern Adelaide and is planning to use grid-based renewable energy to power its hydrogen production facilities. An important utilisation aspect of the produced hydrogen would be its transport in a metal hydride container to Indonesia for use in fuel cell applications.
Construction on the project began in February 2023 and the first shipment of hydrogen to Indonesia is planned by the end of 2023.
Hunter Energy Hub
– AGL and Fortescue Future Industries undertook a feasibility study, completed in 2022, to explore the development of a renewables-based hydrogen and ammonia production facility in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales.
The facility forms part of a proposed ‘Hunter Energy Hub’ development, that would combine grid-scale batteries, solar thermal storage, wind and pumped hydro.
Western Sydney Green Gas Project
– This project, operated by Jemena, involves a trial power-to-gas facility to transform (surplus) renewable electrical energy into hydrogen gas for use in blending in a gas network, storage, power generation, and potentially mobility and industrial applications.
A 500kW PEM electrolyser, using purchased renewable energy, converts water into hydrogen which is injected and blended with natural gas into the existing Jemena natural gas distribution network.
Only a small percentage of these projects have progressed beyond the development phase, meaning it is still early days for renewable hydrogen. But, with a wide variety of proposed projects and billions of dollars and government commitment in the pipeline, Australia is set to have a world-leading hydrogen industry.