Renewable hydrogen could fuel Australia’s next export boom after CSIRO breakthrough
Australia’s next big export industry could be its sunlight and wind, as game-changing technology makes it easier to transport and deliver their energy as hydrogen.
Industry players are even talking up renewable hydrogen as the next liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry, which could supply hydrogen to power cars, buses, trucks and trains in Japan, South Korea and even Europe.
Their plans have been given a boost by a CSIRO-developed metal membrane, which allows the high-purity hydrogen, needed for hydrogen-powered cars, to be separated from ammonia.
What is renewable hydrogen?
- Hydrogen is a carrier of energy
- Renewable hydrogen is produced by purifying seawater, then separating the hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis
- The process of separation is powered by solar or wind energy
- The hydrogen becomes a vehicle for storing renewable energy such as solar or wind
- It is converted into transportable forms for export
CSIRO principal research scientist Michael Dolan said the technology, now being trialled on an industrial scale in Australia, was “the missing link” that allowed hydrogen to be transported and used as an energy source.
“One of the great problems with hydrogen is that it’s difficult to transport over long distances because it has such a low density,” he told ABC News.
“Ammonia is a very nice way of transporting hydrogen from point A to point B — be it from Australia to Japan, for example — because it actually has a higher hydrogen density than liquid hydrogen.”
The technology the CSIRO has developed can then be applied at the point of use, converting ammonia back into hydrogen for use in transport fleets.
Dr Dolan said the technology had the potential to turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower.
“Hydrogen is the ultimate clean fuel. The only emission arising in the use of hydrogen is water. You can also manufacturer hydrogen completely renewably,” he said.
While there are only four hydrogen cars in Australia — produced by Hyundai and Toyota — South Korea already has hydrogen-powered taxis on its streets.