Dr Kaur and Dr Giddey

Hadean Energy, a new company co-founded by CSIRO and RFC Ambrian, is set to commercialise new technology capable of producing hydrogen with 30 per cent less electricity, helping to decarbonise heavy industry, beginning with a pilot scale trial.

CSIRO will trial the technology at BlueScope’s Port Kembla Steelworks to demonstrate the equipment in an industrial environment. 

CSIRO’s tubular solid oxide electrolysis (SOE) technology efficiently produces hydrogen by electrolysing water using a combination of heat and electricity and is expected to significantly reduce hydrogen production costs and industry emissions through process efficiencies.

The International Energy Agency estimates demand for hydrogen is expected to increase by 138 per cent by 2030, but high production costs and energy inputs are key challenges for producing green hydrogen.

Lead scientist on hydrogen research at CSIRO, Dr Sarb Giddey, said the development of tubular SOE technology at CSIRO is a key project aimed at producing more affordable and efficient hydrogen to help industry dramatically reduce emissions.

“CSIRO’s SOE technology has the potential to produce hydrogen at a higher efficiency and lower cost for integration with industrial processes,” Dr Giddey said.

“It allows industrial waste heat to be integrated back into the industrial processes, which decreases the electrical energy required to produce hydrogen or syn-gas by up to 30 per cent.

“It’s great news for industry, because integrating the hydrogen product back into industrial processes onsite also eliminates storage and transport costs while drastically reducing the use of fossil fuels in the industrial process.”

The hydrogen product can be used as a feedstock for producing chemicals including ammonia, petrochemical, methanol, dimethyl ether, sustainable fuels and has applications in low emission steelmaking and heavy transport. Being free of platinum group metals and nickel also reduces reliance on international supply chains.

Hadean Energy will have exclusive rights over CSIRO’s SOE technology.

The trial with BlueScope will commence in April 2024. Integration aspects and other findings from the trial will help to demonstrate the technology at a higher scale and confirm the technical robustness of the equipment.

BlueScope’s Chief Executive Australian Steel Products, Tania Archibald, said BlueScope supports the trial project as it aligns with its sustainability objectives.

“SOE has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of hydrogen for low emissions steelmaking. The improved efficiency of SOE systems reduces energy consumption and reduces the electrical infrastructure required by electrolysers,” Ms Archibald said.

RFC Ambrian manages a decarbonisation technology fund targeting early-stage investments in emerging technologies with the potential to decarbonise high emissions industries.

RFC Ambrian’s CIO, Stefan Skorut, said the technology is well placed to address the existing industrial hydrogen market which is currently almost 100 per cent derived from fossil fuels.

“While SOE is the most efficient method of electrolysis, green hydrogen and synthetic fuels will remain uneconomic unless we address the scalability and cost of electrolysers,” Mr Skorut said.

“CSIRO’s tubular SOE technology represents a step change improvement across these metrics.”

Featured image: Dr Gurpeet Kaur (left) with Dr Sarb Giddey (right) in a CSIRO laboratory. Image credit: CSIRO.

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