Why the interest in hydrogen?


John Söderbaum

ACIL Allen has a long history of work on hydrogen. In 2003 we prepared a report entitled the National Hydrogen Study. This report marked the period when hydrogen last enjoyed some attention in Australia.  However, Australia’s interest in hydrogen waned considerably in the years that followed.  But this all changed again in 2018 when COAG agreed to the Chief Scientist’s proposal that Australia should prepare a National Hydrogen Strategy.

We believe that increased strategic long-term thinking about our energy supplies (and how we use them) is essential to help ensure that the community and industry have access to technologies that can help them reduce their emissions as the Australian economy decarbonises. Indeed, developing a National Hydrogen Strategy was one of the recommendations of the National Hydrogen Study in 2003.

So why, after so many years, has there been a renewed upsurge in interest in hydrogen? There are several developments that have combined to cause governments to again focus their attention on hydrogen. These include:

All the above is occurring at a time when new technologies are being developed and deployed that can put downwards pressure on the cost of producing, storing, transporting and using hydrogen. This will in turn help to increase the commercial viability of hydrogen.

The emergence of the potential for Australia to export hydrogen has also been a significant development. Many of the countries that have announced plans to increase their use of hydrogen do not have the capacity to produce the volumes of zero emissions (green) hydrogen that they will need. Countries such as Japan, South Korea and Germany have identified Australia as a potential source of green hydrogen.

Our 2018 report for ARENA (Opportunities for Australia from Hydrogen Exports) highlighted the opportunities for Australia to export hydrogen to many of the countries that currently import fossil fuels from us. Importantly, such exports could help to offset any decline in our conventional energy exports that may emerge as the world increasingly seeks to decarbonise energy production and use. Another report, the South Australian Green Hydrogen Study, concluded that not only were there opportunities to export niche products now, but that demand for hydrogen from our existing energy trading partners could help create a significant new industry in South Australia. An industry that could leverage existing manufacturing, engineering, and project delivery capabilities.

ACIL Allen also prepared several of the reports and papers commissioned by the National Hydrogen Strategy Taskforce. As the National Hydrogen Strategy is implemented it is likely to drive the emergence of a new group of industries. At the same time, other industries may see their markets decline. New and existing firms would obviously prefer to be included in the first group. Those in the second group should be planning for how they will manage the transition to a lower carbon economy. We stand ready to assist our clients in either of these tasks.