From CSIRO (AU) ECOS : “Hydrogen: Steps towards Australia’s powerhouse plan”


June 21st, 2022
By Westpac IQ with Dr Patrick Hartley

CSIRO Hydrogen Industry Mission Leader Patrick Hartley outlines some of the key moves required for Australia to realise its plans to become a major hydrogen exporter.

CSIRO Hydrogen Industry Mission Lead, Dr Partrick Hartley (left) and Dr Alan Finkel.

Hydrogen is a gas that is colourless, odourless, non-toxic and highly combustible but, most importantly, it stores energy that can be recovered without giving off carbon dioxide gas and contributing to global warming. As such, it is expected to be a key energy commodity as the world transitions from fossil to renewable energy.

With abundant sunlight and wind to turn renewable electricity into hydrogen, and a well-established energy export sector, Australia is well-placed to become a global hydrogen powerhouse.

But first we need to produce enough hydrogen at a competitive price and improve the technology needed to ship it around the world.

Dr Patrick Hartley, Leader of the CSIRO Hydrogen Industry Mission, outlines the opportunities – and challenges – this new fuel source presents.

What are the major applications for hydrogen and how will that drive demand in future?

There are diverse applications for hydrogen across the energy and industrial sectors. They span mobility – using hydrogen as a fuel for powering vehicles – and the use of hydrogen to replace natural gas in gas networks, because it’s a clean gas that burns without emitting greenhouse gases.

You can also use hydrogen to replace fossil fuels in industrial heat production. It is already used as an industrial feedstock for things like chemicals production, ammonia and petrochemicals production.

Hydrogen technologies can also play an important role in electricity systems. Electricity is used to make hydrogen by splitting water in a process called electrolysis, and hydrogen fuel cells effectively reverse this process to turn hydrogen back into electricity. And so you can start thinking about how hydrogen can play a role in the transition of the electricity system to clean energy.

We’re just getting started in many ways with the broader uses of hydrogen now. But as we diversify the uses of hydrogen through those applications just mentioned, the demand will grow. That’s a good thing, because if the demand for hydrogen grows then it will actually drive down the costs of production and make it more competitive with fossil fuels in more and more applications.

What is – and what will – the market be worth?

The federal government expects the future Australian hydrogen industry to directly support more than 16,000 jobs by 2050, plus an additional 13,000 jobs from the construction of related renewable energy infrastructure. Australian hydrogen production for export and domestic use could also generate more than AUD 50 billion in additional GDP by 2050.
What are the major export opportunities?

Moving hydrogen as an export commodity is certainly an attractive way of monetising the huge clean energy resource that we can produce in Australia. There are many countries with quite a number of approaches being adopted to designing markets and developing technologies that enable international hydrogen trade. Japan, in particular, has been doing a lot of work on what the hydrogen import-export trade could look like.

One option is to actually put hydrogen on ships. Now, if you’re shipping things around the world, you want to cram as much of that energy into the smallest possible volume you can. That’s why you need to do something to make hydrogen economic to ship.

One approach being looked at to densify that hydrogen is liquefaction, where you cool down the hydrogen to minus 253 degrees. It’s currently expensive, but the technology is still just getting going, so this should change.

The other way of moving hydrogen is actually to convert it into something else that can be a carrier for it. Ammonia is one of those carriers and the nice thing about ammonia is that it’s a liquid in fairly ambient conditions. There’s always a trade-off, though. That conversion is not cheap either. And the reconversion to recover the hydrogen at the destination requires additional infrastructure.

What are Australia’s advantages as a supplier of hydrogen?

The reason why we’re a global powerhouse in exports of energy is because we’ve got a lot of energy resources, and that includes both fossil fuel resources like natural gas, but we’re also very lucky that we have tremendous potential to produce renewable energy, using things like solar energy and wind energy in different parts of the country.

We also don’t have such a huge domestic population that will use all of that energy. Plus, because of the existing energy export and trade experience that we have, in many ways we have all the ingredients for being able to export that clean energy.

What are some of the major projects underway?

The transport of liquid hydrogen to Japan is being demonstrated in the ‘Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain’ project in Victoria.

This is a pilot project that is producing hydrogen using the brown coal resources there, via a process called gasification, and building this infrastructure to liquefy and transport hydrogen by ship.

In January, the Suiso Frontier sailed out of Hastings in Victoria to take the world’s first liquid hydrogen shipment from Australia to Japan.

However, the process that’s being used to make this hydrogen produces CO2. So, if it goes to commercial scale, then the intent is for those emissions to be mitigated through the use of CO2 capture and storage resources in Victoria.

Renewable hydrogen – also known as green hydrogen – is produced using renewable energy and has no emissions in the production and no emissions at the point of use, and so the ultimate goal is to ramp up production using this technology.

The problem really is that the amount of renewable energy we need to produce – and the scale of hydrogen that we’re talking about for an import-export industry – is really huge. It’s so huge that a build of that scale is going to take time. So the potential to use clean, but not completely green technologies to build supply chains probably makes sense in the near term, particularly from a cost perspective.

What are the impediments to progress?

The key challenge at the moment is getting hydrogen produced at scale cheaply, because right now it’s still a bit more expensive than existing fossil fuel feedstocks in most applications.

If you can increase demand through new applications for hydrogen and scale up those applications, you can drive down the costs of the technology and production down through economies of scale.

Making improvements to things like manufacturing processes for hydrogen technologies much more efficient will also contribute to us achieving the goal that’s been stated by our government of ‘H2 Under 2’, which is hydrogen at AUD 2 a kilo.

The production costs – not including the supply chain costs – at the moment are probably around about AUD 5, depending on who you ask. So that AUD 2 goal is achievable, but it’s a goal we’re going to have to work towards and we are focusing CSIRO’s research and development partnerships through our CSIRO Hydrogen Industry Mission to do this.

The cost of building renewable power projects has been estimated at AUD 500 billion. How will this impact the development of a hydrogen industry?

To replace the current energy sources in all the possible places where hydrogen could do that is a huge ask. It’s the same for electricity, actually. The scale of the build to get renewable energy into a much greater portion of the energy system is massive. And it’s going to take time.

Will we be able to repurpose other infrastructure, such as the existing pipelines which have been built to convey natural gas?

There are challenges associated with moving to 100 per cent hydrogen in gas pipelines. And those relate to things like the material properties of the pipeline, because hydrogen has some unique properties when it comes into contact with steel.

It also burns differently, so things like appliances need to change. At the moment, the gas pipeline industry in Australia in particular is focused very much on getting 10 per cent hydrogen into its gas pipelines. That’s seen as a level that they can tolerate with the existing infrastructure.

What about the need for desalination plants?

The amount of water needed to produce hydrogen is going to be significant – but we know it can be done from experience in the mining industry. In some places, desalination will be needed, but the cost of desalination of water is actually not that huge as a fraction of the hydrogen production cost.

What’s the cost of switching from coal in steelmaking to hydrogen?

That’s very a big question and the technology is still pretty immature, but it can be done. We think more generically around heavy industrial uses of hydrogen. And, of course, anything to do with heavy industry is a big capital investment.

Ultimately, as a fuel source, is hydrogen as efficient as electricity?

It’s all about how many transitions you go through when you’re converting energy into one form or another. There are losses in producing hydrogen from renewable sources, which typically convert electricity into hydrogen. And then, if you’re using it in things like cars, you convert it back into electricity to drive the vehicles. Each one of those steps has an amount of loss associated with it.

The key question is not around efficiency. You don’t necessarily think about efficiency when you’re driving a car. You think about how much it’s costing you and that’s a very different question to an efficiency question. Existing internal combustion engines are only about 30 per cent efficient, believe it or not.

So, what are the key government reports or roadmaps for this sector?

The National Hydrogen Strategy is always a good place to start.

See the full article here.


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CSIRO -Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (AU) , is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

CSIRO works with leading organisations around the world. From its headquarters in Canberra, CSIRO maintains more than 50 sites across Australia and in France, Chile and the United States, employing about 5,500 people.

Federally funded scientific research began in Australia 104 years ago. The Advisory Council of Science and Industry was established in 1916 but was hampered by insufficient available finance. In 1926 the research effort was reinvigorated by establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which strengthened national science leadership and increased research funding. CSIR grew rapidly and achieved significant early successes. In 1949 further legislated changes included renaming the organisation as CSIRO.

Notable developments by CSIRO have included the invention of atomic absorption spectroscopy; essential components of Wi-Fi technology; development of the first commercially successful polymer banknote; the invention of the insect repellent in Aerogard and the introduction of a series of biological controls into Australia, such as the introduction of myxomatosis and rabbit calicivirus for the control of rabbit populations.

Research and focus areas

Research Business Units

As at 2019, CSIRO’s research areas are identified as “Impact science” and organised into the following Business Units:

Agriculture and Food
Health and Biosecurity
Data 61
Land and Water
Mineral Resources
Oceans and Atmosphere

National Facilities

CSIRO manages national research facilities and scientific infrastructure on behalf of the nation to assist with the delivery of research. The national facilities and specialized laboratories are available to both international and Australian users from industry and research. As at 2019, the following National Facilities are listed:

Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)
Australia Telescope National Facility – radio telescopes included in the Facility include the Australia Telescope Compact Array, the Parkes Observatory, Mopra Radio Telescope Observatory and the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder.

STCA CSIRO Australia Compact Array (AU), six radio telescopes at the Paul Wild Observatory, is an array of six 22-m antennas located about twenty five kilometres (16 mi) west of the town of Narrabri in Australia.

CSIRO-Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (AU) Parkes Observatory [Murriyang, the traditional Indigenous name], located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia, 414.80m above sea level.

NASA Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, AU, Deep Space Network. Credit: NASA.

CSIRO Canberra campus.

ESA DSA 1, hosts a 35-metre deep-space antenna with transmission and reception in both S- and X-band and is located 140 kilometres north of Perth, Western Australia, near the town of New Norcia.

CSIRO-Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (AU)CSIRO R/V Investigator.

UK Space NovaSAR-1 satellite (UK) synthetic aperture radar satellite.

CSIRO Pawsey Supercomputing Centre AU)

Magnus Cray XC40 supercomputer at Pawsey Supercomputer Centre Perth Australia.

Galaxy Cray XC30 Series Supercomputer at at Pawsey Supercomputer Centre Perth Australia.

Pausey Supercomputer CSIRO Zeus SGI Linux cluster.

Others not shown


SKA- Square Kilometer Array.

SKA Square Kilometre Array low frequency at Murchison Widefield Array, Boolardy station in outback Western Australia on the traditional lands of the Wajarri peoples.

EDGES telescope in a radio quiet zone at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia, on the traditional lands of the Wajarri peoples.