The federal government has launched a consultation to inform the design of an emissions certification scheme for hydrogen produced in Australia, to help identify whether the hydrogen came from renewables, gas or coal.
The certification scheme was requested by the COAG Energy Council, to allow for the emissions intensity of hydrogen from different sources to be tracked and compared.
The certification of hydrogen was a recommendation of the National Hydrogen Strategy prepared by chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel.
While the COAG Energy Council adopted Finkel’s recommendation for a certification scheme, it stopped short of supporting a proposal from ACT energy minister Shane Rattenbury to secure a commitment from the Federal, State and Territory governments to support hydrogen production using only renewable energy sources.
Finkel has since advocacted for a mixed approach to hydrogen production, including supporting the production of ‘low emissions’ hydrogen produced using gas and coal when paired with carbon capture and storage.
Finkel was challenged by businesswoman and former Sydney Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull on Monday’s ABC Q+A program, saying that Australia would be missing a strong opportunity by not going straight to green hydrogen.
“I think would be a huge opportunity if we didn’t go straight to green hydrogen, Alan. And I know you’re very passionate about it, so I’m a little bit surprised that you’re suddenly saying, “Oh, yes, let’s build coal hydrogen and, you know, gas hydrogen.” You know, you can do it, but how sustainable is it?” Turnbull said.
Finkel responded by saying that there may be circumstances where it makes sense to make early progress in hydrogen production from a range of sources, provided any emissions were captured. According to Finkel, this made a certification regime crucial.
“If they can justify the project on cost, and if they can permanently bury the carbon dioxide and do it in a provable way, then you’re producing clean hydrogen,” Finkel told ABC’s Q+A.
“The hydrogen itself is a molecule. You can’t tell by looking at the hydrogen whether it came from a solar source or from a natural gas source, but you can, through the carbon dioxide accounting, tell whether there was carbon dioxide emitted in the production of that hydrogen, and that’s what’s important.”
The department has proposed the creation of a scheme to track the technology used to produce the hydrogen, as well as any associated scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions released during production.
The department will consider the design of a scheme that can be expanded upon in the future, including to take into account the use of other resources like water consumption.
Under such a labelling regime, hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources will likely come with a tag certifying that it had zero associated emissions, allowing it to be distinguished from hydrogen produced from gas and coal, or using different sources of electricity.
“A hydrogen certification scheme is a standardised process of tracing and certifying where and how we make hydrogen. It provides consumers with transparency around the environmental impacts of the hydrogen they use, for example, greenhouse gas emissions,” the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.
A hydrogen labelling regime has already been designed in Europe, called the ‘CertifHy scheme’, which provides a guarantee of origin certification for low emissions hydrogen.
The CertifHy scheme distinguishes between ‘Green Hydrogen’ which must be produced using renewable energy sources, and ‘Low Carbon Hydrogen’, which can be produced using any sources, but must have a lifecycle emissions intensity of less than 4.4 kg of CO2-e per kilo of hydrogen produced.
The consultation survey released by of the department is seeking information from potential participants in an Australian hydrogen industry about their expected levels of production and use, as well as the role a certification may play in their business.
The department will also consider whether there is a need to operate a domestic certification scheme as well as an internationally consistent regime for hydrogen exports.
The department’s consultation survey will be open until 22 June.
RenewEconomy and its sister sites One Step Off The Grid and The Driven will continue to publish throughout the Covid-19 crisis, posting good news about technology and project development, and holding government, regulators and business to account. But as the conference market evaporates, and some advertisers pull in their budgets, readers can help by making a voluntary donation here to help ensure we can continue to offer the service free of charge and to as wide an audience as possible. Thank you for your support.