By Jackson Carr, FCHEA Intern
With significant investments in renewable resource production and a substantial regional market for clean energy, Australia and New Zealand share a potential to greatly develop their hydrogen and fuel cell industries. Both nations source significant portions of their total energy pool from renewable resources and continue to promote national clean energy projects. With Asian countries like Japan and South Korea showing serious interest in transitioning to a hydrogen economy, Australia and New Zealand have the opportunity to benefit from hydrogen as an export as well as a clean energy source.
In Australia, Recently, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have begun to realize the enormous opportunities for domestic hydrogen production and exportation. In August, ARENA published a study by ACIL Allen Consulting which estimates that hydrogen exports could provide 2,800 jobs and add AUD1.7 billion (~$1.2 billion) annually to the economy by 2030. The report identified Japan, China, South Korea, and Singapore as prospective markets for Australia’s domestically-produced hydrogen in coming years.
CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, made significant breakthroughs in hydrogen production in 2018 which may prove to accelerate the future of hydrogen vehicles in the country. CSIRO developed and successfully tested a membrane technology which allows hydrogen to be transported in the form of liquid ammonia, making it possible to handle hydrogen in bulk using existing infrastructure, linking production, distribution, and delivery.
The Australian Federal Parliament is starting to provide significant support for hydrogen and fuel cell innovation. This January, the Labor party announced that they would commit AUD1.1 billion (~$784 million USD) to "supercharge" Australia’s hydrogen industry, with hopes to renew the country’s push in renewable sectors and create thousands of jobs. The proposal would allocate funds from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA and includes proposed regulatory reforms that support the use of existing gas pipelines for hydrogen, the shipping of hydrogen, and the use of hydrogen for carbon storage. In addition, the Labor Party committed an additional AUD90 million from ARENA for research, demonstration, and pre-commercial deployment of hydrogen technologies.
The liberal Morrison government also revealed its support for a hydrogen industry by proposing a national hydrogen strategy in February 2019. Developed alongside Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, the proposed strategy aims to include up to 10% hydrogen in the domestic gas network, to build hydrogen refueling stations in every state and territory, and to replace natural gas with hydrogen to power heavy-duty fuel cell vehicles (FCVs). By harnessing Australia’s significant renewable energy potential and existing infrastructure, this national strategy will integrate hydrogen into the country’s energy mix as a clean power source.
Industry leaders are taking strides to develop Australia’s hydrogen infrastructure for both fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) and stationary applications. This past July, ARENA announced the formation of a new fuel cell and hydrogen association in Australia, which includes FCHEA members Hyundai, Toyota, and the Linde Group-affiliate BOC Australia. Originally announced at the end of 2017, Hydrogen Mobility Australia (HMA) will foster industry and government cooperation for regulations, codes, and standards to support the Australian transition to a hydrogen economy.
Last January, Hyundai announced that it will bring 20 units of its second-generation NEXO vehicles to Australia in early 2019 as a part of the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) AUD23 million (~$16.4 million) renewable fuels test. At this point, there was only one hydrogen refueling station in all of Australia, at Hyundai’s Sydney head office. In October, Hydrogen Motor Company Australia (HMCA) revealed that they are planning to establish a hydrogen refueling network across the country with the help of industry partners, and that the ACT station will likely be the first completed.
In February 2018, Hydrogen Utility (H2U) was approved to begin construction of an AUD117.5 million (~$83.3 million) facility at Port Lincoln, with a 15-megawatt (MW) hydrogen electrolyzer plant and an ammonia production facility for fertilizer production. With AUD12.2 million (~$8.7 million) in grants and loans from the state renewables fund, H2U also plans to build a 10 MW hydrogen turbine and a 5 MW hydrogen fuel cell to supply electricity to the South Australian grid. The project is currently on track to be completed in 2020.
Later that month, Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) announced plans to build an AUD11 million (~$7.9 million) renewable hydrogen production plant in Adelaide, following an AUD4.9 million (~$3.5 million) grant from the state government. The plant will initially provide gas to the Tonsley Innovation District, but the plant could be expanded to supply other residential customers in the area according to AGIG.
In June, Canadian gas company ACTO began to build a micro-grid at its Jandakot, Australia Operations Center which will convert solar power into hydrogen fuel. With plans to install 1,100 solar panels capable of generating 300 kilowatt (kW) of power, ACTO hopes to use hydrogen to complement natural gas and intermittent renewable energy from wind and solar. The micro-grid will be part of the Clean Energy Innovation Hub (CEIH) being developed at the Jandakot Center and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2019. In September, FCHEA member Nel ASA received a purchase order for the first Power-to-Gas (P2G) project in Australia from ATCO that will use a PEM electrolyzer at the CEIH.
In July, AFC Energy received its first Australian commercial order for a hydrogen power generation unit, which will use the surplus hydrogen from refinery operations to produce power. Having successfully completed a two-year pilot in a German industrial plant owned by FCHEA member Air Products, this pilot will generate hydrogen for Northern Oil’s Advanced Biofuels Refinery near Gladstone, Australia.
In October, the Australian government announced that they would provide half of the funding for a trial program to produce hydrogen using solar and wind energy. Gas pipeline company Jemena, owned by State Grid Corp of China and Singapore Power, will be running the AUD15 million (~$10.7 million) project to build a 500 kW electrolyzer in Sydney. While most of the hydrogen will be used to back up gas supplies, some of the hydrogen will also be used to generate power for the grid as well as a FCV refueling station.
In November, Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) deployed Toyota's first hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts outside of Japan through trials at Toyota Motor Corporation Australia's parts center, located in Altona, Victoria. According to TMHA, the zero-emission forklift demonstration is an extension of Toyota's simultaneous trial for its Mirai FCV in Melbourne, Victoria. The Toyota hydrogen fuel cell forklifts will also be featured in the official opening of the new Toyota Parts Center in Western Australia.
Australia’s first hydrogen test station was launched at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) Fyshwick in December. The facility tests clean hydrogen on existing materials and equipment in order to prepare for the diffusion of hydrogen into the existing gas distribution network. Partnered with gas distributor Evoenergy, the facility will also work to train plumbing students to work with hydrogen.
This March, Toyota was granted AUD3.1 million (~$2.2 million) by ARENA to build the Toyota Australia Hydrogen Centre at its decommissioned car manufacturing plant in Victoria. The AUD7.4 million (~$5.3 million) project will be an end-to-end process for the hydrogen production chain and will allow utilization by both mobile and stationary sources. The facility will also be home to Victoria’s first commercial-scale hydrogen refueling station infrastructure. Toyota hopes that their Hydrogen Centre, which will feature an education center to detail the benefits of hydrogen, will demonstrate the viability of hydrogen as a potential fuel and raise the demand for commercial FCVs.
In New Zealand, ambitious decarbonization targets and ample renewable resources will make hydrogen and fuel cell technology especially important in the country’s energy transition. The government has set national targets of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, 100% renewable electricity by 2035, and net zero emissions by 2050.
In September of last year, the New Zealand Hydrogen Association was established in order to promote the use of hydrogen energy as a low emission fuel source and a key export industry for the country. With seed funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE), the partnership includes Hyundai and Toyota and supports goals to transition the country’s national fleet to zero-emission vehicles.
This March, New Zealand’s Taranaki region presented a hydrogen roadmap to address the nation’s decarbonization goals and shifting energy ecosystem. Taking advantage of the region’s strengths in renewable resources, pipeline integrity, high pressure test facilities, and hydrogen infrastructure, combined with government support, Taranaki is positioning itself to become a global leader in hydrogen production.
In April, FCHEA member Hydrogenics entered into an agreement with Halcyon Power, a joint venture between New Zealand-based Tuaropaki Trust and Obayashi Corporation of Japan, to deliver a 1.5 MW carbon-free hydrogen production facility in New Zealand. The facility, which is scheduled to be in operation by 2020, will make it easier for New Zealand to export its ample natural resources in the form of hydrogen, and will support initiatives by Halcyon Power to implement a hydrogen supply chain between New Zealand and Japan.
If Australia and New Zealand wish to fully maximize their hydrogen export potential, the Japanese market will continue to be of primary importance. The Japanese Government has spent more than $16 billion on hydrogen research and development since the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The country also plans to operate at least 6,000 light duty FCVs and 100 fuel cell buses during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Last October, New Zealand’s Energy and Resources Minister signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister to cooperate on further development of hydrogen energy technologies and deployment in both countries. This MoU is the first of its kind in the world to focus on advancing the use of hydrogen energy, and both countries view hydrogen as a key piece of the transition of their economies away from reliance on carbon-intensive fossil fuels.
The Japanese Government is also contributing to an AUD496 million (~$353 million) project to develop the technology to produce hydrogen from Australia’s abundant coal reserves of the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. The demonstration plant, receiving AUD100 million (~$71 million) in funding from the Federal and Victorian governments, is expected to create 400 jobs; it will also feature carbon capture and storage measures to limit carbon emissions. The project was officially approved by the Environmental Protection Authority this February, and will begin operation in mid-2020.
This March, Queensland University of Technology successfully delivered its first shipment of solar-produced hydrogen, exported by JXTG, Japan’s largest petroleum conglomerate. On the same day, Queensland announced that AUD250,000 (~$178,000) in funding would be put towards the construction of a renewable hydrogen pilot plant at the government-owned Redlands Research Facility.
As Australia and New Zealand continue to decarbonize their energy sectors and work to realize the full potential of their domestic resources, the role of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies will only continue to increase. With government support, international export markets, and innovation from industry leaders, these two countries will greatly benefit from the development of hydrogen economies in coming years.