Could South Australia be the nation's hydrogen state, too? | RenewEconomy

Could South Australia be the nation’s hydrogen state, too?

SA might soon add a new clean feather to its cap, announcing plans to go heavily into the hydrogen industry.


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South Australia is already tops for solar and wind use in Australia, crossing over its 50 per cent generation goal from these clean renewable sources last year – eight years ahead of schedule.

Soon the state is will be Australia’s (and a world) leader in battery storage, led by its government’s new tender for a 100MW/100MWh battery system for the state’s grid, plus the other private initiatives from the Lyon Group, AGL’s 1,000 battery virtual power plant in Adelaide, and other companies building large storage systems in the state.

It also is likely to become a leader in new large scale pumped hydro storage thanks to Energy Australia’s detailed work now being done on the feasibility of building a 100MW version near Whyalla in the state’s North, thanks to support funding from ARENA.

Finally, the most high-profile and long-fought-for renewable project in the state – the 24/7 despatchable solar thermal plant near Port Augusta – will now hopefully get over the line, thanks to a new $110M low-cost loan that SA Senator Nick Xenophon was able to wrench out of the federal government last month.

However, South Australia might soon have a new clean feather to add to its cap:

Last Friday, the state’s Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis surprised most at a CEDA lunch to announce the state will also now go heavily in to implementing a hydrogen industry, leveraging the state’s increasing supply of clean and low cost- renewable energy to power the creation of this fuel from water.

Hydrogen is well known as a clean way to power transport – from cars to trucks to trains and eventually planes potentially, and for driving power turbines and other equipment needing large amounts of power quickly on demand.  Best of all is that it does it all without the pollution (assuming water vapour from the tailpipe noone considers pollution!).

The Minister presented a set of slides on this new goal, with the “aim to capitalise on our abundance of renewable resources to become the green hydrogen capital of Australia”.

The hydrogen fuel would not just be for local state use, but as a new export industry both to other states and internationally.  The Minister conceded Victoria was currently ahead of South Australia, but said the state will be able to leverage its existing strong engineering expertise in gas processing, pipelines and storage.  He also said Asia, in particular Korea and Japan, are large potential markets for hydrogen. 

He noted that Japan’s next Olympics will be powered by hydrogen, and that there have already been discussions with companies in that country.  In Korea, the Mayor of Seoul has set the goal of having a zero emissions economy, and that hydrogen from South Australia is an option, with us being able to generate it less expensively than many other regions due to the state’s exceptionally high levels of solar irradiation and wind energy along its coastlines.

The focus areas are to be “downstream” – to decarbonise the state’s transport, agriculture and industry, “up stream” – to develop a hydrogen export industry and to stabilize further the state’s electricity grid, and engineering expertise is to be built up in the areas of:

–        Hydrogen storage, compression and dispensing infrastructure

–        Fuel cell buses and trucks

–        Fuel cell applications in defence

–        Electrolysers

–        Stand alone fuel cells

 Luddite-like leaders in other parts of Australia may still want to focus us on old 20th century fuels – exporting polluting fossil-fuel based gas and coal.  In contrast, South Australia’s leaders are now focusing the state on using and exporting a 100% cleaner 21st century gas, with no polluting of the environment plus it is a resource that will never be depleted.

So will the state’s car numberplates soon have this as the new description: “South Australia – the Hydrogen State”?

Valdis Dunis is development manager of the Solar Project.

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  1. George Darroch 4 years ago

    Hydrogen is almost always a dirty fuel, sourced from gas then processed with huge amounts of electricity.

    Why not simply use the clean energy in its electrical form directly? The technology is already here and in wide adoption.

    • Eddie Hughes 4 years ago

      The intent is to use renewables to produce hydrogen and ammonia for both the domestic market and export. Early days. Can it be done commercially at scale?

      • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

        Yes with water safely stores the hydrogen for on demand or 24/7.

      • Steven Gannon 4 years ago

        Hydrogen technology is ARENA’S new focus.

    • MrMauricio 4 years ago

      …because the present battery energy content is about 1/4 the same volume of petrol/diesel.Batteries cannot be a solution to heavy transport/air transport.Fortunately Australia has a company called Hazer using a technology developed by UNSW to obtain hydrogen from natural gas with less than 30% of the current emissions-with the bonus of battery grade carbon as a by-product.It uses low grade iron ore(road grade) as a catalyst.Hope S.A is going with this disruptive technology.

      • Ian 4 years ago

        With electric motors are about 3-4 × more efficient than ICE, the energy density in real net terms is nearly the same.

        • MrMauricio 4 years ago

          Its a big “almost”.Have a PHEV with 12kw batteries and 100kg+,its good for 50km at most

          • Mike Dill 4 years ago

            I have one of those cars. Great for in-town travel. We just need to adjust our expectations, and have a plan for renting a long-distance car when necessary.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

            As prices get better, more induction chargers will appear, at traffic lights, car parks and parking spaces, making them, by default longer range, before you hail, the self driving Uber, on your phone app.

          • Richard 4 years ago

            Haven’t you heard of Tesla and Lithium ion batteries! The cost of these batteries is nowhere near bottom and there is a lot of improvement to come in storage density and weight.
            Hydrogen will never compete with it as a battery in vehicles. Maybe in big machines and aircraft
            . Given that the sun is free and shines all over the world. Everyone will produce hydrogen.
            So I doubt this amount to much in the long term.

          • MrMauricio 4 years ago

            Yes-and i have an electric car,and all electric garden tools-mower,blower,chainsaw trimmer and hedge trimmer !!Agree the cost is declining-at about 10% p.a and yes improvements in efficiency will come-Li-ion batteries are already in the ball park and are disrupting ICE engines at every turn.

        • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

          Water safely stores the 100% hydrogen needed for power and transportation.

        • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

          And 10% of the maintenance, wear resale losses. Giving them an increasingly good total cost of ownership equation.

      • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

        Check out for 21st Century Hydrogen Technology.

        • MrMauricio 4 years ago

          enticing prospect-long on hype and short on detail-await developments.In the meantime Australian Company Hazer has developed an intermediate technology extracting H from natural gas at 1/3rd current cost,and producing super high quality battery graphite as a by-product

          • Allan Barr 4 years ago

            While emitting huge amounts of CO2, not a solution just more of the same old same old.

    • Cato 4 years ago

      Not if it is produced from water via electrolysis.

      • Allan Barr 4 years ago

        Its far cheaper to manufacture Hydrogen from natural gas, hence Hydrogen is just another fossil fuel for all intents and purposes.

        • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

          Make hydrogen for less money than natural gas, electrolysis, steam reformation, catalyst. Read up on for a 21st Century Hydrogen on demand technology.

        • Cato 4 years ago

          But not when it is produced by electrolysis

          • Allan Barr 4 years ago

            Its far more expensive to manufacture by electrolysis Cato, please do not be disingenuous. Costs matter reason why 95% of Hydrogen produced is from natural gas aka Methane. I stand by my comment, its a fossil fuel.

          • Cato 3 years ago

            Perhaps, Allan, you have an explanation as to why ARENA (which I informed stands for Australian Renewable Energy Agency ) is providing $5m funding to AquaHydrex to run an electrolyis pilot plant (using excess renewable energy). See also similar work being undertaken by Siemans. Here is a blog reference:

          • Allan Barr 3 years ago

            Hydrogen is a way to store energy, the least viable way to do so.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

            Not as aviation fuel, for light composite aircraft, like the 787 Dreamliner and the A350, as a cryogenic cooled liquid, with lighter fuslages, mean bulkier, but lighter LH2, in the streamlined fuselage, allowing smaller, less drag wings, because the wings, fuselage and fuel weighs less, a virtuous circle.

          • Allan Barr 3 years ago

            Would anyone really want to be onboard such an aircraft in the event of a crash? We are now halfway towards viable battery density to make battery powered flight a true economic reality. Less than ten years I would think. Economically when one looks at the cost of using Hydrogen as a storage medium V batteries there is simply no comparison, batteries are economically far superior, economics wins the debate.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

            Let me get this straight, you’d actually like to be in an aircraft, in the event of a crash, with tens of tons, of fuel, that stays in the area. Doesn’t provide cooling, exclude oxygen, float off into the upper atmosphere. All the liquid hydrogen explosions we’ve seen, have been in the presence of liquid oxygen and rocket flames.

            So you actually want to be in a plane crash, they’re extremely rare, but I wouldn’t want to be in one myself. For composite fuselage aircraft, liquid hydrogen is more viable than hydrocarbon fuels, let alone batteries, at twice the weight to range. I can’t see that large Lithium content batteries, would be that cheap, initial outlays would be high, weight to range very low. They’re great for short haul, but impossible for long haul, from Sydney, to London, 8 landings. Instead of one, for liquid hydrogen.

      • Gnällgubben 4 years ago

        The point is that it usually isn’t produced via electrolysis.

        • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

          New hydrogen breakthrough @

          • Gnällgubben 4 years ago

            Smells like a scam to me. Big words but very little useful info.

          • Craig Allen 4 years ago

            Joi Scientific is some kind of scam promising a ‘magic’ way of producing ‘hydrogen 2.0’. Their website provides no information besides slick promotional guff.

        • Cato 4 years ago

          Except when it is produced by electrolysis

      • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

        With Joi Scientific the self sustaining supply of “green” hydrogen can be supplied 24/7 or on demand. does not require electrolysis, external electricity, catalyst or natural gas. Make hydrogen anywhere on the planet and on demand.

    • Trent Deverell 4 years ago

      Hey Knuckledraggers wake up…

      If you got great heaps of excess and very cheap RE (or a temporary excess of legacy off-peak generation) then you can feed a Hydrogen electrolysis plant with what ever amount will balance with the grid supply.

      An electrolysis plant can more or less slow or speed up depending on the amount of electrical input provided, which then leads to maximising the overall efficiencies of grid-connected generating plant fleet.

      The solar duck-curve can be accommodated and on excessively windy days the Hydrogen electrolysis plant can go flat stick soaking up everything made available and product stored for latter use.

      On the lesser days the hydrogen plant can be put on the go slow and the lesser energy capacity available redirected to general power consumption, but either way the investment in a modestly over-sized RE generation fleet capacity is maximised.

      Win + Win + Win…. you going to win big with Hydrogen

      The electrolysis process whilst not as overall energy efficient as more commonly used “natural gas” methods at present, the technology will obviously improve with R&D. Remember when solar cells had a 1/4 of efficiency 30 years ago and cost a motsa – technology moves fast if it has a market demand!!!

      That said there are also other methods of hydrogen being investigated in field labs to do hydrogen via bacteria and directly from sun-light, thus skipping the electrical state.

      But one final and incredibly strong benefit in Hydrogen is that it is a storable fuel (not unlike LNG) and suitable for both mobile use or fixed plant use.

      Hydrogen if need be can be blended with ethanol or potentially used directly within existing gas-fired thermal plants, as well as GT’s and their cousins that hang under a B787 wings!!

      If one really wants to be optimistic South Australia was once Australia’s rocket port, and who knows Elon Musk having already put bids on bulk battery storage for South Australia might yet have his eyes on an opportunity to use the H2 + O2 based process to provide fuel for his re-usable space rockets. Re-usable space rocket, many said that would never happen at commercially profitable level, but Space-X has done it!!

      So in effect when the petroleum and “un-“natural gas is all gone or no longer economically viable, was Mad Max or WaterWorld actually ugly predictions of a future unprepared for a transition away from fossils +/- climate change… very ugly…

      Yet to save the everyone from from disasterous effects inflicted by the greed and utter stupidity of the climate knuckle-draggers, many aspects of our existing infrastructure and lifestyle need not become stranded – if the Hydrogen transition is well managed and started promptly.

      Clean burning hydrogen emitting pure water is about as good as it gets, especially if the method of production uses solar or wind powered electrolysis.

    • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

      New technology called produces a hydrogen on demand technology that can provide the lowest cost electricity on board any electric or fuel cell vehicle. Water safely stores “green” hydrogen on board the vehicle. No need to charge the electric car or fill the compressed hydrogen tanks. No fossil fuels, electrolysis, catalyst or external electricity needed. Hydrogen on demand using ocean, brackish, polluted, toxic or swimming pool water is far superior that having to rely of antiquated battery storage devices.

      • Craig Allen 4 years ago

        Joi Scientific appears to be some kind of scam.

    • Robin Kelly 4 years ago

      That article did say water was to be used NOT hydrocarbons. It is easier and more efficient to use H20 as the only by product will be water – from which the hydrogen is sourced in the first place. As to why not use electricity in storage – as any contractor knows – there are just processes that require more torque than can easily be accessed by battery WITHOUT destroying the battery.

      • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

        Oxygen pollution, raising the O2 levels in cities, by pipeline, by 10%, is a problem, I want to have, instead of sucking out the oxygen, in carbon dioxide emissions based transportation. Aircraft and shipping, could make water vapor, at a distance, whilst the cities get the O2, they’ve craved, since both industrial revolutions.

  2. Tim Forcey 4 years ago

    An item from a couple of years ago.

    “Meeting the future needs of Australia’s energy customers with renewable energy chemicals”.

    Hydrogen and ammonia from renewable energy…

    • Mike Dill 4 years ago

      The US army did some work using ammonia as a primary fuel for trucks. It worked, but was still more expensive than diesel at the time.

  3. Eb 4 years ago

    The SA ‘Green Hydrogen Study’ is due to be completed in June. The first hydrogen test for the SA Govt will arise then and we’ll see how long it takes for a version of the study to be published and how many recommendations are implemented. Perth’s trial of hydrogen buses was a success from passengers’ perspective but was not continued in 2007, due to the costs. I expect the 2017 SA study will also highlight the economic challenges for renewable fuels.

    • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

      Breakthrough hydrogen on demand or 24/7 with lower than natural gas, coal, oil or nuclear energy. Zero pollution hydrogen supply. Safely stored in any type of water on board the vehicle.

  4. Allan Barr 4 years ago

    almost all Hydrogen is manufactured using Natural gas via Fracking. Natural gas aka CH4 is a very dirty means of energy production. Hope that is fully understood.

    • Craig Allen 4 years ago

      As South Australia pushes toward enough solar and wind to account for 100% of electricity demand throughout the year, it’s inevitable that there will be an increasing proportion of time when generation exceeds demand. This electricity will then be available at low cost to any industry that can make use of it. It may be that in that circumstance hydrogen production through electrolysis becomes economically competitive with hydrogen produced from gas. Other industries may also find uses for cheap electricity at variable availability. As renewables relentlessly drop in cost hopefully they are drawn to South Australia. I hope so, the South Australians deserve a dividend for their global leadership and we all need them to succeed to prove once and for all to the World that a renewables based advanced industrial economy can succeed.

      • Ian 4 years ago

        There are a number of industries that can use cheap electricity. When it comes to exporting excessive electrical energy it’s not necessary for this to be in the form of an energy product. When the aim is stated to be exporting hydrogen to Japan. What they really should be asking is ‘how can we sell a product to Japan or elsewhere, that will be useful to them and generate income for us? ‘ Historically aluminium smelting has been just such a product. Could aluminium smelting technology be developed to use intermittent energy?

        • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

          Any type of water can supply a self sustaining source of hydrogen on demand or 24/7.

          • Ian 4 years ago

            Did you know Leroy, that there is a far easier way to make money. Certain weather conditions cause sunlight to be split into its component parts, creating a massive arch in sky. At the point where this arch intersects the ground gold can be found in little round receptacles. I have found some and am willing to share this with you. Post your bank details below and maybe a little deposit can be made.

        • Steven Gannon 4 years ago

          Ammoniam nitrate has been banned for good reason. When combined with diesel it becomes a potent bomb. It’s called ANFO, very easy to make and not hard to detonate.

      • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

        Australia should partner with for a self sustaining supply of “green” hydrogen on demand. Available 24/7 or driving down the street. Using ocean, brackish, sewage water will be distilled while the lowest cost energy will be produced compared to coal, natural gas, oil or nuclear energy. Joi Scientific has been funded by the co-founder of GoPro Camera and is located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

        • George Darroch 4 years ago

          Stop spamming, Leroy Essek.

        • Craig Allen 4 years ago


    • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

      Not with for “green” hydrogen on demand or 24/7 without using natural gas, electrolysis of water, external electricity or catalyst. The production of hydrogen will be less than the cost of natural gas, oil, coal, nuclear energy etc etc

  5. Ian 4 years ago

    Just curious, what is the projected round trip cost of producing 1 KWH worth of motive work from electricity via the storage and transport medium of hydrogen? Also what is the round trip efficiency of taking electricity to electrolyse water into hydrogen etc then burning this to produce electricity?

    • Leroy Essek 4 years ago

      New hydrogen breakthrough for a self sustaining hydrogen on demand technology. Check out that will revolutionize green energy on demand or 24/7.

    • juxx0r 4 years ago

      The cost is 3-4kWh.

      • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

        In economy of scale, 2 kwh, still 100% losses it’d be as bad, as fossil fuels efficiency, (maybe not, fossil fuels, are notoriously inefficient,) but with 0% pollution, when made, with renewable energy.

  6. Leroy Essek 4 years ago

    There is a major breakthrough for a self sustaining supply of “green” hydrogen on demand or 24/7 that will provide the lowest cost energy compared to natural gas, oil, coal or nuclear energy. Any type of ocean, brackish, sewage, toxic, fracking or swimming pool water safely stores gaseous hydrogen and oxygen fuel. Over at the Kennedy Space Center a revolutionary-green hydrogen technology company called Joi Scientific can produce electricity on demand and purify any source of water as 100% fuel. Check out that the co-founder of GoPro Camera invested $5.5 million dollars and now sits on the board of directors along with other highly credible business advisers.

    • Craig Allen 4 years ago

      Ha, I looked at your website and learned two things
      – you want as to believe that “Hydrogen is magic”.
      – you want us to believe that your company have a miraculous new way to make it cheaply from sea water, but you can’t/won’t share even a hint about how.
      Sounds like a scam to me.

      • Ian 4 years ago

        He’s got some sort of perpetual motion machine, what a laugh. Such a nice little cartoon video, so well presented. How could it possibly be bullshit. 😉 😉

        Making energy or complexity out of nothing. He must be an evolutionist.

        • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

          Your right, LoL, renewables, have to be 100% efficient, only fossil fuels can be mostly energy loss through combustion, or explosive combustion, translated through a heavy piston and crankshaft. Listen to that engine roar, with inefficiency, thank goodness it’s not quiet, like those electric vehicles, we don’t want people, having a quiet life after all, or missing out on cancerous tumors. Getting left over oxygen, in their lungs, much better for them to have asthma or emphysema.

  7. Ian 4 years ago

    Existing pipelines are susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement, especially at their welds. There is a CRC originating out of Universtity Wollongong that has been trying to work on these issues.

    The second main issue is the combustion of hydrogen in turbines. Complete combustion is ok for the turbine blades, however the flame speed is too high for a stable flame in traditional gas turbines. Siemens is the only company that I’m aware of that has partnered with a R&D firm to develop a supersonic combustor for gas turbines. Their work has been progressing over the past 10 years.

    An old Aluminium smelter would be a good target for any hydrogen export development. There happens to be one on the ropes in a windy little place called Portland.

  8. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    H2 sparks interest as a portable fuel for EVs. An EV can’t be at home charging when we’re actually driving it …Determinants could be energy density in the H2 solution, efficiency in charging, safety, and whether the ‘fuel’ could be lifted out of a garage cupboard and loaded safely onboard.

    • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

      The cupboard is a gas pipeline, as a hybrid range enhancement, possible, but is the weight penalty of having 2 power storage mediums, in one vehicle worth the bother.

  9. Robert Comerford 4 years ago

    I’ll believe the joi claims when I see it. Takes a lot of energy to break the bond with oxygen. Currently only viable when that energy would be wasted.
    One thing they do get right… the downside of H2 as an energy storage medium!

    • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

      Actually very few energy transport and storage options are 100% efficient, most fossil fuel systems lose on average 45%, worst in transport propulsion.

  10. solarguy 4 years ago

    Methane, countless tonnes of this potent greenhouse gas goes into the atmosphere every day around the world from many sources, animal and human waste, green waste.
    From just these 2 we can produce many millions of tonnes of renewable fuel and with that we can use solar thermal technology to add H2 by it by reacting it with water at high temperatures to produce a fuel called bio syngas which has 25% extra calorific value than the methane feed stock.
    A hell of a lot of uses, including electricity production, fuel for heavy transport and the list goes on. Sure it will produce CO2, but that becomes part of the natural carbon cycle unlike F/Fuels and reduces methane in our atmosphere.
    A win,win situation!

  11. nakedChimp 4 years ago

    Battery technology is still in it’s infancy, but we already got BEVs out-competing anything that has come from the FCEV camp so far – after decades of R&D spending in that area.
    They got lab experiments running with ten fold capacity of today, while H2 already has peaked.. the last bastion of defense being ‘fast’ recharge.

    I’m sure they love centralized manufacturing and distribution of ‘perishable’ goods, that Joe and Mary Average are relying on to live their life’s, but the ship in this case has truly sailed.

    • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

      Personally I’d have to agree, hydrogen isn’t in my view, appropriate, for non economy of scale transportation, compression, gas piping, involves too much chicken and egg rebuilding of the cities, where real estate prices are gigantic. Electricity cables can be thickened far more easily, induction chargers laid out, on existing areas for car facilitation, traffic lights, car parks, parking spots, garages, convenience stores. In bulk though, it comes into it’s own, cryogenic cooled liquification, means no compression is needed, ships can have large tanks of the stuff, it’s ideally suitable for aircraft. Light composite jetliners, would benefit hugely from a fuel, that is the lightest of them all, it didn’t work in the early experiments, because at the time, aircraft were were heavy metal, expanding the width of the fuslage, greatly increased the weight of the aircraft. Negating the energy to weight ratio advantage, essentially, we take the carbon out of the fuel, make the airframe out of it, increase the streamlined part of the aircraft, decrease the wing drag, because the fuel is lighter, the wings can be smaller, as we’ve thrown away the heavy metal airframe. This means more budget airfares, Airbnb, Uber, immigration, work visas, student visas, so higher rent, mortgages and lower wages, yippee less disposable income, wages down, expenses up.

      Just being realistic, sustainable energy and transportation, doesn’t mean sustainable migration, or the environment, would be better off, already and the minorities would have jobs and accommodation instead of homelessness, underemployment and part time, casualised working poverty, without a wage rise in the US, for example for 45 years.

  12. Michel Syna 4 years ago

    So cool!

    • stucrmnx120fshwf 3 years ago

      I’ll tell you what’s cool, cryogenic liquid hydrogen, for jetliners, -255°C, or something, cooler than Starsky and Hutch.

  13. Marc Stanton 4 years ago

    CPSL-Group in the UK already manufacture the worlds only small-scale Hydrogen refuelling station. The station is self-contained in a 20 foot shipping container and can be deliver to site as plug and fill system. Renewable energy at one end Hydrogen at the other. The system is ideal for sites that want to have Hydrogen but don’t have the demand for a full size Hydrogen plant. [email protected]

  14. Radbug 4 years ago

    The late, lamented, nobel-laureate, Professor George Olah, looked at hydrogen and looked at methanol … and opted for methanol. The SA government should as well.

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