What will the future of the Australian hydrogen industry look like?

Chief Scientist to present keynote on National Hydrogen Strategy
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As hydrogen continues to increase in popularity as an electricity source, the Australian energy landscape needs to consider the future of the hydrogen industry. Ahead of the Australian Hydrogen Forum, we spoke to three industry insiders.

Keith Owen

Head of Systems Development and Energy Systems, Northern Gas Networks (UK)

What role could your business play in a future hydrogen economy?

Northern Gas networks are a gas distribution business. Over the last 4 year we have invested in research to establish hydrogen as a low carbon substitute for natural gas. The output of this work would extend the life of the gas industry, and provide customers with continued choice over their source of heat for their homes, businesses and industry. 

Our role would be to continue to convey gas for heat but also power and transport as the energy industries become ever more intertwined, through a whole energy systems

On a strategic level, how is your business approaching this opportunity and are you actively running any pilot or research projects?

Northern Gas Network have two hydrogen research programmes.

  1. H21 : running since 2015 this is a long term programme to establish the safety critical evidence to support the re-purposing of our gas distribution infrastructure for the conveyance of hydrogen gas [98 per cent hydrogen].
  2. HyDeploy is a blended gas research programme led by Cadent Gas with NGN as partner, to establish a blend of up to 20 per cent hydrogen in the natural gas stream.

How do you see a burgeoning hydrogen industry impacting domestic energy markets?

Hydrogen has the potential to become the foundation for a Whole Energy Systems approach, a strategy which sees power, gas and transport [alongside other energy vectors] becoming ever more closely bound.

In this scenario, hydrogen can play a key enabler for greater efficiencies, flexibility and low carbon energy solutions. So areas such as heat, transport and power could become a primary market for hydrogen, alongside far great deployment in heavy industry.

What do you see as the biggest barrier to a large-scale hydrogen industry taking off in Australia?

Difficult for me to comment on this being UK based and not too aware of developments in Australia.

If I base my answer on what I see on the European side then I’d say there is still not sufficient evidence to support the safety case for hydrogen for heat. So more research required to establish that. There is also an urgent need to enable CCUS at scale to begin to capture the carbon elements of very large scale hydrogen production.

What’s the most important thing that needs to happen in the next 1 – 2 years to support the growth of the hydrogen industry?

Research to establish the safety case for hydrogen for conveyance in the natural gas network infrastructure. That then becomes a key enabler for other applications and realises a significant anchor load for hydrogen production and also CCUS.

Keith Owen will deliver a keynote presentation at the Australian Hydrogen Forum, he will give an insight into progress being made in other leading markets from around the world and how countries with a high penetration of renewables in the energy mix are looking at the growth of their own H2 sectors, and what lessons may be already present for Australia.

David Roberts

Executive Director & Head of Project Advisory, ANZ

What role could your business play in a future hydrogen economy?

ANZ’s role would be to focus on supporting customers involved in all facets of the development of and investment in the Hydrogen Economy. Relevant products the Bank can provide include Financial Advice, structuring and delivery of Project Finance and capital markets services.

On a strategic level, how is your business approaching this opportunity and are you actively running any pilot or research projects?

ANZ is closely following developments in the Hydrogen sector and maintains close contact with clients involved in the industry. The Bank is developing its understanding of the technical and commercial aspects of H2 Projects and positioning to be ready to support the significant capex which is forecast to be required by large scale H2 operations.

How do you see a burgeoning hydrogen industry impacting domestic energy markets?

Potential applications for Hydrogen include the use of Fuel cells for transport applications, integration into the existing gas network and as a large scale energy storage and export medium. Large scale hydrogen development appears to offer a significant opportunity for domestic renewable energy generation.

What do you see as the biggest barrier to a large-scale hydrogen industry taking off in Australia?

Ensuring that all environmental issues, including the provision of water are fully addressed, achieving “bankability” on technical issues to allow the funding of large scale project development and ensuring the applicable regulatory regimes address the impact of H2 on the energy sector as a whole.

What’s the most important thing that needs to happen in the next 1 – 2 years to support the growth of the hydrogen industry?

Ensuring that technical and environmental issues are adequately addressed. Development of clear regulatory regimes which address the growth of the Hydrogen sector and identification of “Flagship” projects which can move the sector from the theoretical to the actual.

You can hear more from David in the panel discussion on ‘Finance – where will the money come from to fuel H2 sector growth?’ Joining David on the panel will be Attilio Pigneri from H2U the Hydrogen Utility, Tom Campey from ARENA, and David Grabau from Austrade.

Jason Froud 

Manager of Policy, Synergy

What role could your business play in a future hydrogen economy?

Near term:

  • Provide clean energy
  • Provide power for project proponents
  • Possibly operate and maintain H2 plants through our resources and expertise
  • Leverage H2 production to provide power system security and reliability services

On a strategic level, how is your business approaching this opportunity and are you actively running any pilot or research projects?

  • As the state’s leading energy provider we have been approached by various hydrogen parties to explore options
  • To understand the risks and opportunities to Synergy of the hydrogen economy, we are actively talking to hydrogen experts and researchers
  • As a government owned trading enterprise we are also supporting the state government on key strategic initiatives such as the WA Renewable Hydrogen Strategy, the National Hydrogen Strategy and exploring collaborative research vehicles including cooperative research centres (CRCs)

How do you see a burgeoning hydrogen industry impacting domestic energy markets?

  • Supporting decarbonisation of energy generation, energy intensive industries, and transportation
  • Helping to solve for the energy trilemma
  • Providing energy products and services to help reduce system costs such as load shifting and ancillary services

What do you see as the biggest barrier to a large-scale hydrogen industry taking off in Australia?

  • International market energy prices make it currently uncompetitive (not cost competitive with gas; electricity prices are a large input to production)
  • Lack of a carbon price to drive low emissions technologies
  • Scarcity of low cost treated water
  • Limitations (currently) on how much renewable energy is possible in the grid, to generate clean/renewable hydrogen
  • Technology lead time
  • Uncertainty
  • Regulations and standards for H2 equipment, infrastructure and vehicles

What’s the most important thing that needs to happen in the next 1 – 2 years to support the growth of the hydrogen industry?

Government policy and support:

  • To increase confidence and certainty around the future of hydrogen
  • For R&D to drive down costs
  • For trials

Around transport infrastructure and investment decisions (eg public transport and fleet vehicles)

Jason will join Claire Johnson – Hydrolytics, Dean Smith – AGL Energy, and Alberto Litta – ENGIE (France) on a panel discussion covering the key issues that need to be overcome to make hydrogen production a strategic priority for energy generators.

This partner content is provided by Australian Hydrogen Forum. For more information visit https://www.hydrogenforum.com.au/

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