In view of the UK ban of new fossil fuel-reliant internal combustion engine cars by 2035, electric and hydrogen cars will begin to dominate the roads. Technologies are currently of particular interest, but more needs to be done to establish hydrogen into international industries and communities. We share some of the developments being made, such as the Victorian Hydrogen Hub in Australia, for a hydrogen-accessible and sustainable tomorrow.
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To realize sustainable ambitions, hydrogen will be a key technology helping to decarbonize industries heavily dependent on fossil fuels. It is an important source of clean fuel and a key feedstock that provides raw materials for industrial processes.
Australia is a promising place to establish hydrogen and to build an economically sustainable domestic hydrogen industry and an export industry for hydrogen, according to a project by Swinburne and CSIRO. Swinburne’s partner CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) supports scientific research for the development of industries in Australia. CSIRO published a hydrogen roadmap that lays out the groundwork for how hydrogen is to be developed in Australia.
Victorian Hydrogen Hub
The Victorian Hydrogen Hub was launched in February 2021 through the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund to drive hydrogen advancement. The project is led by Swinburne University of Technology, working in partnership with CSIRO and Germany’s ARENA 2036 - an innovative research campus.
The team says that it “will build on existing knowledge and joint strengths in digitalisation and Industry 4.0. Through the Victorian Hydrogen Hub we will lead the way, furthering research and development of the hydrogen sector, working closely with industry to enhance understanding of what hydrogen can deliver.”
The hub will unite research scientists, partners, and businesses to test and trial the latest cutting-edge hydrogen technologies. For the purpose of achieving a sustainable future, it will support sustainable manufacturing practices and in particular, clean energy storage from renewables.
The Victorian Hydrogen Hub will be a uniquely cross-disciplinary collaboration to develop a domestic hydrogen industry in Australia. This will require the expertise of varied scientific fields, industries, workforces, and communities. The aim is to create an environment where questions are asked about who and what will be required to incorporate hydrogen in the economy. Like a think tank, they will be exploring business models, obtaining community research about hydrogen applications, understanding regulations and safety requirements, and training future workforces. Crucially, new technologies, services and products will be explored that can generate jobs and boost industries in Australia.
Communicating the Usefulness of Hydrogen to Society
Dissemination will be an integral part of the project. With hydrogen production and storage facilities, the Victorian Hydrogen Hub will be built to house a Technology Demonstration Centre and Demonstration Hydrogen Refuelling Station. Here, it will be possible to illustrate the usefulness of hydrogen by demonstrating the technologies and widening the understanding of hydrogen as industrial fuel for industry, business, and the community.
Public engagement will be a focus, with staff from Swinburne’s Social Innovation Research Institute and Design Factory Melbourne collectively supporting the uptake of hydrogen as a green energy alternative in society.
Storage Integral to a Sustainable System
Storage facilities demonstrated will be vital to the system, as storage allows renewable energy to be stored and used later when needed, rather than only when the energy is generated. This is more efficient, economic, and efficient, allowing renewable energy to be tapped into during periods of high demand, which may not always be at the exact time when wind or solar generates enough energy.
Sufficient storage is a particular issue for those in developing countries or remote locations. To respond to this need, the organization REMOTE created an innovative hybrid storage system based on batteries and green hydrogen to provide the energy needs of renewable-powered remote communities.
The goal is to design, apply and demonstrate the concept in three remote sites of Europe for a total installed power output of 250 kW. This will require collaborations with 14 partners, including industrial providers, users, research centers, and academic institutions to show how useful and reliable it can be.
Sweeping Away the Carbon Footprint of Hydrogen
There is also the problem of the carbon footprint created during hydrogen production, but there are sustainable solutions out there. Ideally, the process should decarbonize to become more sustainable. Hydrogen has usually been extracted from fossil fuels, but can also derive from water, biomass, or a mixture.
Natural gas is the common source of hydrogen production, making up around three-quarters of the annual global dedicated hydrogen production of about 70 million tons, accounting for around 6% of global natural gas.
Only 0.1% comes from water electrolysis, derived by renewable energy such as solar and wind. This is a sustainable method for hydrogen production due to its green process. Currently, with declining costs for renewable electricity, particularly from solar and wind, there is growing interest in electrolytic hydrogen at present.
Bringing Hydrogen to the World
Taking a global perspective, according to the 2019 Future of Hydrogen technology report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), there is a demand to scale technologies and reduce costs so that hydrogen can become more widely accessible and commonly used on an international scale. It includes recommendations made to governments, authorities, and industries to make it possible to harness the potential of hydrogen, showing that the number of countries with policies supporting hydrogen technology investments is increasing.
References and Further Reading
Victorian Hydrogen Hub [Online]. Swinburne website. Available at: https://www.swinburne.edu.au/research/platforms-initiatives/victorian-hydrogen-hub/
ARENA 2036 Homepage. [Online] Available at: https://www.arena2036.de/en/
Strategy initiatives - Industry 4-0 [Online]. Swinburne website. Available at: https://www.swinburne.edu.au/about/strategy-initiatives/industry-4-0
Design Factory Melbourne [Online]. Swinburne website. Available at: https://www.swinburne.edu.au/research/facilities-equipment/design-factory-melbourne
Social innovation [Online]. Swinburne website. Available at: https://www.swinburne.edu.au/research/institutes/social-innovation/
The future of hydrogen report. [Online] International Energy Agency. Available at: https://www.iea.org/reports/the-future-of-hydrogen
Storage vital for hydrogen to solve renewable energy challenges [Online]. Open access government. Available at: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/storage-vital-for-hydrogen-to-solve-renewable-energy-challenges/117942/
Hydrogen roadmap – report [Online]. CSIRO. Available at: https://www.csiro.au/en/work-with-us/services/consultancy-strategic-advice-services/csiro-futures/futures-reports/hydrogen-roadmap