In Australia, industry and government interest in hydrogen is building, as a future major export and pathway to decarbonisation of the global economy. Hydrogen is the most common chemical in the world and has many uses such as fuel for transport or heating, a way to store electricity, or as a raw material in industrial processes. Hydrogen energy can be stored as a gas and delivered through existing natural gas pipelines and when converted to a liquid or another suitable material, can be transported on trucks and in ships. This means hydrogen can also be exported overseas, effectively making it a tradeable energy commodity. A number of road maps for the future of hydrogen have been developed at federal and state level such as the CSIRO National Hydrogen Roadmap . The reports find global demand for hydrogen exported from Australia could be over three million tonnes each year by 2040, which could be worth up to $10 billion each year to the economy by that time. Potential export markets for Australia’s hydrogen include Japan, South Korea and China, collectively known as ‘East Asia’, as well as Singapore and Germany. Japan, in particular, is actively engaged with becoming the world’s first “Hydrogen Society”. Australia and Germany have also just agreed to a study into the feasibility of developing a hydrogen supply chain between them. Producing hydrogen as an export commodity is not without its challenges. Producing, storing and distributing low cost hydrogen at scale and informing and understanding export value chains and market requirements are just some of the issues to be managed.
The Colour of Hydrogen Hydrogen, while colourless, can be produced at least through so-called brown or grey, green or blue methods.
BROWN OR GREY HYDROGEN
Produced through steam reforming of natural gas (methane) or coal gasification.
Produced through steam reforming of natural gas, or coal, with carbon capture and storage to address carbon dioxide produced by the reforming and gasification processes.
Produced using renewable resources, for example through electrolysis of water with power provided from a renewable resource such as solar energy. Green hydrogen methods do not produce carbon dioxide in the hydrogen production process.
The Cost of Hydrogen Hydrogen production technologies and costs have been estimated in the National Hydrogen Roadmap, representing a base case and 2025 a best case for the net present value of the unit cost of hydrogen over the lifetime of a hydrogen production asset. There is a current cost advantage for blue hydrogen though the best cases for Proton exchange membrane (PEM) and alkaline electrolysis powered by renewable energy (green hydrogen) overlap the blue hydrogen costs by 2025. Technology 2018 (A$/kg H2) 2025 (A$/kg H2) Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis 6.08-7.43 2.29-2.79 Alkaline electrolysis 4.78-5.84 2.54-3.10 Steam methane reforming with carbon capture and storage (CCS) 2.27-2.77 1.88-2.30 Black coal gasification with CCS 2.57-3.14 2.02-2.47 Brown coal gasification with CCS - 2.14-2.62