Hydrogen industry to ‘future-proof coal’: Chief Scientist Alan Finkel
Summary: Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will deliver a series of recommendations to federal and state governments today on developing a hydrogen energy industry, telling Council of Australian Governments energy ministers that Australia is now in a global race for hydrogen production as a future energy source that could rival LNG.....
In what could also future-proof the coal industry, Dr Finkel plans to tell the energy ministers that brown coal with carbon capture is still the cheapest way to produce hydrogen and could underpin a major new export market for Australia.
Dr Finkel’s hydrogen strategy has received the backing of the mining industry as well as the renewable energy sector.
Dr Finkel told The Australian the cheapest way at present to produce hydrogen was through a process called the gasification of brown coal.
However, the only way it was viable as a renewable energy source was with carbon capture and storage as the process using brown coal produced CO2 emissions.
There was also potential for renewable energy in the future to be used to produce hydrogen.
Dr Finkel said he would be presenting recommendations to the energy ministers meeting today on how to develop what would become a significant export industry for Australia, with Japan seeking to import large quantities for use in powering electric cars.
Japan was establishing a national strategy to create an emissions-free “hydrogen society” by 2030 but other countries were now in a race to develop hydrogen industries.
Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel and is used in industrial processes.
It can also be used in combustion engines as well as providing electricity for electric cars and battery storage.
Dr Finkel said hydrogen as an energy source had been recognised almost 50 years ago and it’s potential as an energy “carrier” could transform sectors such as transport.
Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said a hydrogen industry posed the potential for a replacement industry in coal regions such as the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, which has been suffering since the closure of the Hazelwood power station.
“The use of Victoria’s world-class brown coal reserves and potentially black coal in other states to produce hydrogen enabled by carbon capture and storage has exciting potential,” Ms Constable said.
“The conversion of brown coal to hydrogen including CCS offers great promise for major investment and new jobs in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley and other major Australian coal regions over time.”