States scramble to grab a part of the $11 trillion hydrogen economy

A global economy fuelled by hydrogen is estimated to be worth $11 trillion and Queensland is fighting with the other states for its share.

Nov 30, 2020, updated Nov 30, 2020
The hydrogen industry is estimated to be worth $11 trillion. (Photo: Reuters)

The hydrogen industry is estimated to be worth $11 trillion. (Photo: Reuters)

The government-owned Stanwell Corporation has thrown its hat into the ring with a joint venture project in Gladstone with Iwatani Corporation. It came just days after Origin Energy announced it was teaming up with Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Townsville.

But Victoria has already moved. It is developing a lignite-based hydrogen project estimated at $500 million. The Victorian Government has thrown $100 million at it. In South Australia, $240 million is being thrown at a green hydrogen plant.

In Western Australia, there is a plan for a 5000 megawatt project powered by wind and solar. It’s being driven by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Hydrogen Renewables Australia. Its capital cost is expected to be somewhere north of $10 billion.

In China, which produces about 25 per cent of the world’s emissions, Sinopec is spending $US13 billion to develop its own hydrogen and analysts estimate that China’s energy transition targets over the next thirty years would cost $US6.5 trillion.

The Tasmanian Government is investing $2.6 million in three large-scale renewable hydrogen feasibility studies as part of its $50 million Renewable Hydrogen Industry Development Funding Program.

Queensland is opting for green hydrogen as opposed to Victoria’s lignite model which has problems in dealing with how to bury its CO2. In Townsville, Origin is planning to use what it calls “sustainable water” along with renewable energy. Sustainable water could be its CSG waste water produced in huge quantities in its Queensland gas operations.

The Queensland strategy is based on the fact that South Korea and Japan are developing their economies to become hydrogen dependent. Both countries already buy huge quantities of coal and gas from Australia.

Both Queensland projects are pursuing green hydrogen, a product that promises emission-free energy but is still uncommercial and likely to stay that way for probably a decade. There is an expectation that hydrogen has to below $2 a kilogram before it is commercial.

Stanwell is talking about evolving its business model, which is heavily concentrated in fossil fuel energy.

Stanwell chief executive Richard Van Breda said the consortium’s goal is to move towards a bankable feasibility study and front end engineering design and has already completed a concept study.

The concept study found that Central Queensland had the natural competitive advantages to be a world leader in exporting hydrogen.

“The region has high-quality renewable energy resources, available land and water, port infrastructure, and is in close proximity to key export markets,” Van Breda said.

“While our concept study showed there is still a way to go for hydrogen to be commercial, collaborating with key partners such as Iwatani will help to drive down the cost of hydrogen technologies, and support the development of the industry.

“There is strong, growing interest in green hydrogen to decarbonise a range of sectors including power generation, transport and industrial processes.

“Demand for imported green hydrogen is particularly strong in Japan, where government policies and action by major companies is driving hydrogen uptake.

“Stanwell is exploring opportunities to evolve in response to a changing energy market including facilitating the development of a Central Queensland hydrogen industry,” Van Breda said.

“Large-scale hydrogen production would introduce new load into the region which would ease pressure on the electricity network and support the growth of renewables in the Central Queensland region.”

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