Renewables  |  04/04/2019

All You Need to Know About Hydrogen

You may have come across hydrogen in the news recently. Maybe something about how it could be used in vehicles and for cooking on barbeques and stovetops, or how Australia plans to send it to Japan. But what is hydrogen, how does it work as a source of fuel and, more importantly, what does that all mean to you?

Didn’t take chemistry in high school? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Like natural gas, hydrogen can be used to heat or cool buildings and as a source of electricity. It even has the potential to power cars and spacecraft!

Hydrogen is a gas and is the most abundant element in the universe and is completely renewable, however, it’s only ever found on earth when combined with other elements like water (H20). That means it must be separated from other compounds before use.

While it’s not a source of energy itself, it can store and deliver energy like that produced by natural gas. The CSIRO says there are two major ways we can produce hydrogen, which both involve splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen and storing the hydrogen, in a process called electrolysis.

The first involves using renewable energy to create hydrogen (green hydrogen). To create hydrogen at scale for export purposes, we would need new dedicated solar and wind farms in order to reliably carry out the process. Australian renewables simply don’t have capacity for this at present, but it could be an option for later on down the track.

The second process involves using natural gas (blue hydrogen), which can be done cleanly by capturing and storing the CO2 emissions underground. At present, this is our most viable solution to rapidly building our hydrogen export market and getting an early advantage in what will soon become a big part of the global economy.

For use in Australia, hydrogen can be transported to homes and businesses around the country using the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure. For export, the hydrogen is liquefied (yes, turned into a liquid – sort of like the way we do with natural gas) and put onto ships for transport to the destination country. Again, this relies heavily on the technology and infrastructure already in place thanks to natural gas.

But what does that all mean to you?

Well, firstly it means that Australian science and technology has rarely been this exciting. Companies like Woodside Energy and organisations like CSIRO are leading the charge in this area, so considering a job in the field is well worth it. Secondly, through a partnership with natural gas, it can mean investment in Australian businesses and communities.Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, says the Australian hydrogen market could be worth $1.7 billion and 2, 800 jobs by 2030. Australia’s existing resources of natural gas and other fuels can be used to produce hydrogen, while technological breakthroughs last year by the CSIRO make hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles look more realistic than ever before.

Investment in the technology is already underway and it’s only going to increase, so keep your eyes peeled for hydrogen news as this fantastic resource begins to boom.

 


We all want to do our part in taking care of the planet. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are helping us to do that more effectively. But what happens when energy from renewables isn’t enough? That’s where natural gas comes in. Natural gas provides a low carbon alternative to traditional fossil fuels and is the best solution we have to lowering household emissions in a cost-effective way.