AGIG boss backs "bipartisan" hydrogen plans

THE Australian Gas Infrastructure Group’s CEO Ben Wilson told Energy News he views hydrogen as a rare bright spot of bipartisan energy policy, with both the Opposition Labor and Coalition government supporting the development of a hydrogen industry in Australia. 
AGIG boss backs "bipartisan" hydrogen plans AGIG boss backs "bipartisan" hydrogen plans AGIG boss backs "bipartisan" hydrogen plans AGIG boss backs "bipartisan" hydrogen plans AGIG boss backs "bipartisan" hydrogen plans

AGIG CEO Ben Wilson welcomes rare bipartisan hydrogen support

Helen Clark

Editor

Wilson welcomed Labor's announcement yesterday of $1.14 billion for development of a broad hydrogen industry, with $1 billion going to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. 
 
"We very much see this as a national strategy and welcome the momentum it brings," he said.
 
"We're very keen on hydrogen as a business, and COAG (the Council of Australian Governments) has been very supportive." 
 
"I really see hydrogen as a candidate for bipartisan support," he said. 
 
Last year the government announced $50 million of funding to a brown coal-to-hydrogen project in Victoria led by Kawasaki Heavy Industries worth an ultimate $498 million that aims to develop hydrogen that can be liquefied and shipped to Japan. 
 
The CO2 left over from the conversion process would then be injected deep underground in a carbon capture and storage process. 
 
Aside from mentions of ‘renewable' and clean industries and some funding for electrolysers Labor hasn't suggested whether its hydrogen will be ‘green' - made from water split into its parts via solar powered electrolysers - or ‘blue' - made from methane or coal and subject to disapproval from some environmentalists. 
 
It also hasn't made a statement on the Victorian La Trobe Valley project. 
 
Echoing the national energy guarantee proposed by then-energy minister Josh Frydenberg Wilson said "a technology neutral approach" to hydrogen was needed. 
"We need emissions targets with affordability and I don't think we should be picking winners.
 
"We're very excited about green hydrogen but if you can produce it with carbon capture and storage then why not, if it's viable and can be successful and supports jobs in the La Trobe Valley."
 
The use of a ‘stranded asset' in brown coal and a workforce left underemployed after the closure of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria in 2017 is one of the main reason for Australia's chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel - appointed by COAG to oversee a Hydrogen committee - gives for his support of the project. 
 
AGIG has its own hydrogen project in South Australia, a $11.4 million demonstration plant at the Tonsley Innovation District to produce the gas for use in gas networks as well as an electrolyser to produce renewable hydrogen from water. 
 
"That's going to run off raw water," he said, noting it didn't have to be "super pure".
 
One of the worries about hydrogen is that as a far smaller molecule - in fact the smallest -it could be more prone to escape when injected into domestic pipelines. 
"If you take plastic pipes, which we use in cities and towns, escape is absolutely minimal, there's no problem putting hydrogen into the gas distribution networks and to blend it into the gas networks." 
 
One proposal in a review by Dr Finkel was to begin by adding 10% hydrogen to the natural gas currently used and if successful later scale that up to 100%, rather than manage a series of gradations over time. 
 
"It's important to remember this is not new, when we had town gas that was actually 50% hydrogen," Wilson said. 
 
There do remain issues on the user end where high hydrogen content can have an effect on appliances and cause corrosion. 
 
"If you think about pipelines for very high gas transmission lines… you can get embrittlement of the steel (but) we think you can put about 3-5% in with minimal impact. 
 
"The Dampier-to—Bunbury pipeline (one of AGIG's and the longest in the country) that could kickstart a hydrogen economy in Western Australia and we could go much higher than that. 
 
"It can take a lot of hydrogen." 
 
Labor's plans centre around Gladstone, Queensland, home of the east coast LNG export industry and chosen in order to harness LNG knowhow but the famous east-west divide on gas and power could be irrelevant with enough political will. 
 
 
 

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