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Turnbull’s brown coal hydrogen horror show: $500m for 3 tonnes

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Australia’s Victoria and federal governments have promised to pump $50 million each into a near $496 million project to gassify brown coal in Victoria and produce just three tonnes of hydrogen, in what is being dubbed a world-first pilot project.

Yes, that’s right: $500 million to build a pilot plant that will operate for just 12 months and produce a grand total “up to” three tonnes of hydrogen over the whole year. I had to read that 10 times and get on the phone twice to check.

World-first perhaps, because it is hard to imagine another country that would think of turning brown coal into hydrogen, and at such an outrageous cost – least of all one with such rich wind and solar resources, and which already has some cheaper renewables-fuelled hydrogen projects of its own.

But this is Australia.

And just three days after former prime minister Tony Abbott had cycled through the Latrobe Valley, pushing the case for a new government-funded brown coal generator, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was there trying to outdo him.

“It is amazing to think that brown coal here in Victoria will be keeping the lights on in Japan,” Turnbull said during the project’s official launch on Thursday. Horrifying, actually.

“Our strategic support for this fuel of the future, hydrogen, opens up new possibilities for innovation and energy. It will see brown coal from here in the Latrobe Valley converted to hydrogen, liquefied, and then exported to Japan.”

It’s great to be surrounded by chimney stacks. Is Tony still around? Credit: AAP Image

You will note, of course, that Turnbull was nowhere to be seen when the wind and solar-fuelled hydrogen projects – which will create significantly more hydrogen at a fraction of the cost from wind and solar – were unveiled by the ACT and South Australian governments.

You can find more of what Turnbull had to say, including his predictions of an $8 billion brown coal export industry, in this press release.

The Victorian Labor government is right on board. “Hydrogen is a fuel of the future and we want to capitalise on that right here in the Latrobe Valley,” said Victoria’s Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford.

Hydrogen is seen by many as a critical component of shifting the world to a low-carbon economy, mostly for its ability to replace fossil fuels (green LNG for instance), and provide long-term (seasonal) energy storage for grids increasingly dependent on wind and solar, particularly in Europe.

There is also the prospect of using hydrogen for a variety of industrial uses, as well as in fuel cells, competing with batteries for the new generation of cars, trucks, ships and other forms of bulk transport.

Most of the world, however, is looking at renewable fuels such as wind and solar when thinking of hydrogen, and so are some progressive Australian governments.

The ACT was first to go, including some hydrogen projects being built by Siemens and Hyundai as part of the winning tenders for wind farms that will help meet its 100 per cent renewable energy target for 2020.

The South Australian Labor government also announced a few hydrogen projects before it lost the recent state election.

The biggest of those, a 50MW wind and solar-fuelled electrolyser at the new Hydrogen Hub to be built by Neoen near Crystal Brook, would deliver 20 tonnes of hydrogen a day, at a fraction of the cost of the brown coal scheme.

The entire complex, including 150MW of solar, about 150MW of wind, the 50MW hydrogen plant along with up to 400MWh of battery storage, would cost around $600 million.

There is another wind-solar fuelled hydrogen electrolyser announced for Port Lincoln, that will produce 10 tonnes a day from a plant that will cost just $35 million.

Making hydrogen from brown coal, however, is a different matter altogether.

“Converting brown coal through high temperature processes does generate a lot of CO2, I don’t think anyone would deny that,” says Brian Davey of Coal Innovation Australia, according to an ABC report.

Davey and one of the key Japanese partners, Kawasaki Industries, said that developing a carbon capture and storage system for the emissions was critical to the commercialisation of the technology.

The Carbon Capture Institute reckons it is a done deal, claiming that CCS was a proven and low cost technology that could guarantee zero emissions. It pointed us to this article, posted on its website last December, claiming low costs for the brown coal hydrogen technology.

It is perhaps forgetting, for a moment, that this technology has not actually been developed yet, and that the CCS industry has form on over-promising and under-delivering. As was highlighted in last year’s Auditor General’s report, $450 million has already been wasted on CCS in recent years with nothing to show for it.

Others in the hydrogen community in Australia are gobsmacked. “They what!?” cried out one when informed of the announcement by RenewEconomy.

They noted that the project partners had been working on this for nearly 10 years, as the official press release also confirmed, and clearly wanted to access the bulk of the funding which had been promised for years by the Japanese government.

“When this project was instigated 10 years ago, the economics of renewable hydrogen did not stack up. With the cost of solar PV plummeting, together with that of improved Li-ion batteries, the situation is changing rapidly,” said one.

The brown coal hydrogen project is located at the Loy Yang brown coal mine complex, the site of the huge brown coal generator that AGL Energy has said it will keep in operation until 2048, although energy minister Josh Frydenberg wants plants such as Loy Yang A and B to run until 2070.

AGL boss Andy Vesey was excited. “As we transition to cleaner technologies this project may spark a reinvigoration of Latrobe Valley’s energy industry by generating a competitive edge in a new market,” he said in a statement. AGL is providing up to 160 tonnes of its coal for the project.

The media material says the project will involve the production of gas using gasification technologies adapted specifically for Victorian brown coal.

“The hydrogen gas will then be transported via truck to a liquefaction and loading terminal at the Port of Hastings. The hydrogen gas will be liquefied then shipped to Kobe in Japan by a ship carrier specifically developed for the task.”

It won’t need to be a big ship.

According to the project documents, the decision to proceed to commercial phase will be made in the 2020s with operations targeted in the 2030s, “depending on the successful completion of the pilot phase, regulatory approvals, social licence to operate and hydrogen demand.”

The whole thing has horrified environmental groups, who see it as yet another brown coal boondoggle, and yet another attempt to “gassify” the brown coal reserves. And they noted there had been no environmental or planning approvals.

“This boondoggle is just another example of companies pretending that the Latrobe Valley can’t produce anything other than coal,” said Nicholas Aberle, from Environment Victoria. “It distracts from the real task of planning a truly diverse economy.”

“Why is the government promoting a project which is at odds with its own policy?” asked Cam Walker, from the Friends of the Earth.

“Governments have squandered over $1.3 billion on carbon capture projects with no return on investment. This is money that could have been invested in healthcare, education, infrastructure, and climate action.”

Not to mention technologies, renewables, energy efficiency and retrofitting of houses, energy storage, high tech research and developing a business case for the geothermal resource that exists under the Latrobe Valley.  

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  • George Takacs

    Surely once the CCS cost is factored in this will turn out to be the most expensive way to produce hydrogen. I presume the hydrogen is coming from naturally occurring hydrocarbons in the coal. Once you mine the coal then you would have to take the fraction which contains the hydrocarbons, use energy to split the hydrogen off, then capture and sequester the CO2. How can this not be more expensive than splitting hydrogen off water – abundant resource, cheap to access, nothing to sequester.

    • John Saint-Smith

      Google ‘Syngas’ – its nothing new, but it generates lots of CO2 – about as dirty a process as you’re likely to find.

      • Marcus Hicks

        Unless you use high density algae to sequester the CO2.

        • Barri Mundee

          AGL Loy Yang sponsored a project using algae. It went nowhere as far as I know. Do you know more about the viability of this process?

        • John Saint-Smith

          Noting your further comments re use with coal (toxic flue gases), I wonder whether this would be viable on the brown coal feed stock in this case?

          • Marcus Hicks

            Nope, the heavy metals, particulates, sulfur oxides & Radon would almost certainly kill the algae, or at the very least make the resultant algae very dangerous to use. Flue gases generated from the burning of gas are much, much cleaner

          • John Saint-Smith

            Thanks. I thought as much. Nasty stuff. I wonder if the H2 generated would be pure?.

            Cleaning up the CO2 fraction for sequestration – for efficient compression of pure CO2 – seems unlikely then. Who knows what would happen to it after years underground.

          • Hettie

            How could anything from such a complex and filthy source be pure?
            The new wind/electrolytic hydrogen production would cost $7,500 for 3 tonnes of H2.
            Compared to that, this brainfart proposal would cost 66,666 times as much, plus the CCS costs, which are infinite, as it has never been made to work.
            $500 mill + $infinite to produce $7,500 worth of gas.
            Not one of your better ideas, Malcolm.

          • John Saint-Smith

            That is the entire cost of the pilot project, whose initial ‘proof of concept’ goal is to produce a 3 tonne sample, it isn’t a measure of the cost of ROM production of H2 by this technique. Surely you don’t believe that Turnbull or even the More-ash Morons could be that stupid?

            On that basis, it would be cheaper to put the displaced coal and power station workers and their families up at the Hilton, all expenses paid for the rest of their lives.

          • Hettie

            When it comes to the level of stupidity of our inglorious leaders, I have reached the point where disbelief is suspended.
            And when cheap, clean production of hydrogen is already well under way, what is the point of this monstrosity?

      • Hettie

        How things change in a single lifetime.
        In 1959 (when I learned about coal gas production), CO2 + water was regarded as clean waste product.

        • John Saint-Smith

          And good for plants!

        • Marcus Hicks

          CO2 & water are “clean” if its produced as part of a cyclical process (as we see in the relationship between respiration & photosynthesis).

          Of course, coal’s waste products aren’t just CO2 & Water-even if used in a process like this one. You still have all the heavy metals, compounds of Sulphur & Nitrogen….& Radon….that would be produced by this project.

          • rob

            Yeah some one you listened in school year 8 Science!

          • Marcus Hicks

            I am a scientist by profession, so more than just year 8 science for me. I’ve got an honours degree & going on 18 years in the profession.

          • Hettie

            It was the NZ equivalent of year 7, in fact. 1958, not 1959. I can see the teacher, the classroom, and we had that science teacher only 1 year.
            4 years before Silent Spring was published.
            I don’t think that heavy metals had crossed the toxicity consciousness threshold then.
            And of course, for 13 year olds, the science was very short on detail.

          • rob

            Hettie are you still with me……I see your posts but no response….please clarify?

          • rob

            Good on you Marcus……me now retired……Me thinks I did so way to early! Me Phd in Chem ……reckon I’ve wasted a few years since I turned 50…….actually more than a few. I’m 58 now!

          • rob

            Sorry Marcus if I sounded demeaning……certainly not my intent……It is just frustration at reading some of the ill informed comments here …..which as I said they should have learnt in year 8…forgive me please!

          • Marcus Hicks

            How did you sound demeaning, Rob? I understood your intent, & didn’t take it as being remotely demeaning. My background, just FYI, is in biological science, so I definitely acknowledge that you’d have much greater understanding of chemistry than me……but I have long known about all the crap that Coal contains, outside of carbon & hydrogen….Cadmium & Mercury….just for starters.

          • rob

            I’m so glad , thank you….. but more than occasionally people especially here take me the wrong way….I often sound as though I know everything……which of course I don’t…..I’m often blunt…..str8 to the point and thus forget peoples emotions! By the way I studied a double Master in both Chem and biol…….respect you for staying in the field……at 50 I’d had enough of working 90 hours a week…..thinking I would enjoy it. Instead It just brought back vile childhood memories….so now I’m a bit of a but job. whose mind never stops!

          • rob

            I was a Teacher for 8 years and had the misfortune to teach another Hicks……quite famous for all the wrong reasons……..Hope you take that in jest also…(david)
            However it seems you and I have much more in common ….lol

    • Michael Murray
  • Joe

    Not sure why but I was laughing at the start of reading this story, it had to be a joke right? The Brown Coal needs to stay where it is, DEEP, in the ground. In Germany ‘Lignite’ / Brown Coal is a major fuel source because it is ‘cheap’ but it is a horribly nasty business that keeps the environmental defenders fully focused on shutting it down. Here we are in Australia and we want to go the opposite way.There are no words but to say….only in Australia.

  • John Mitchell

    Why on earth does a progressive ALP Govt get into bed with a bunch of Red NECK BUFFOONS? What a debacle! Everything that Turnbull touches ends up in a mess. What’s going on with the Victorian ALP Govt.?

    • wideEyedPupil

      Unions wanted it what’s the bet. Hush money.

    • George Darroch

      Things are pretty depressed in the Latrobe Valley. That’s why.

      There are much better ways of spending $500m (paying people with spades to fill the Hazelwood hole would have a better BCR), but there are real issues out there.

      • Brian Tehan

        Building a pumped hydro plant using the Hazlewood mine and the cooling ponds would be a great project but I think it would cost a lot less than $500m.

      • Allan Hunter

        Can some one with an account at
        https://www.boc.com.au/shop/en/au/gases/hydrogen-gas
        please price three tonnes of (retail) hydrogen please. How does it compare to $550m ?

        • Ren Stimpy

          They could just shout me tacos and I’ll produce that much hydrogen in the following 24 hours.

        • velocite

          BOC site says ‘price not available’ against all H2 options. ‘Add to Cart’ button didn’t work. However, it looks like the retail price is about $2/kg, so that 3 tonnes would be worth all of $6,000. Clearly a worthwhile project!

      • Geoff James

        I agree with you George, twice over. Firstly, Victoria and the Latrobe Valley can’t quite believe that an asset they thought they had under the ground is no longer worth anything, just the same problem that Queensland has with the Galilee Basin. Secondly, and a much worse oversight, no-one had the guts to prepare the Latrobe Valley workforce for the end of coal, despite at least 20 years warning. I guess it would reduce shareholder value.

      • Mike Shackleton

        George – I’m working on the Hazelwood pit closure and we were talking about this pilot yesterday at lunch. It was greeted with great skepticism by the people I spoke with at lunch time. Someone very pointedly said, “It’s almost as though everyone thinks the only thing the Latrobe Valley has going for it is brown coal.”

        These guys have seen all sorts of schemes been thrown about to keep the industry going. From CCS pilot plants, use of brown coal as fertiliser, to a research facility looking into how brown coal can been shipped safely for export. (Hint, it can’t – it either liquefies easily or it catches on fire in the cargo hold as it has a very low ignition point).

        This is another perpetual motion machine. How much energy will be needed to extract the hydrogen from the coal? How much CO2 will need to be sequestered? The frustrating thing is the area seems to have a great wind resource. I’ve been heading down there for about 4 weeks now and every day it has been windy, particularly at the end of the day – there must be a thermal wind effect/venturi that the valley generates.

    • Brian Tehan

      My guess is that someone, possibly wearing white shoes, has sold this concept at upper management level, where mathematical ability isn’t a necessary qualification. Hopefully, someone with some basic knowledge of science and/or engineering will be asked to do a sanity check, soon. It will turn out that you can produce 3 tonnes of hydrogen for less than $10k, if you have your own solar next door to the PEM electrolysis plant. Of course, you’ll have to build the solar and PEM plants, although both are off the shelf nowadays. Did some research and calculations for BZE on this.
      Amongst the many renewable projects in the pipeline producing hydrogen is a pilot being set up in the Pilbara by Yara, a large Norwegian company, to produce zero carbon ammonia from hydrogen from electrolysis, powered by the plentiful solar up there.

    • Ken Dyer

      It’s called letting the LNP COALition roll out their pork barrel in the full knowledge the thing will not get off the ground – election inside 12 months.

    • George Davidson

      Why? Fossil fuel donors like AGL perhaps? ‘Progressive’ ? ALP are corporate poodles like LNP.

  • Stephen Gloor

    FFS – Just what skeleton does the coal industry have over this government??? It must be big to precipitate this sort of utter and rank stupidity.

    • Thucydides

      More light will be shone on that when we get to see the secret Coalition agreement between the National and Liberal parties. But this article from 2013 about the gala dinner for the 70th anniversary of the IPA also tells part of the story: http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/posts.aspx?postid=c7071d8c-b6f8-42a2-83ef-8ad6f7f74567

      • riley222

        That scenario certainly played and is playing out to a tee, although even I was surprised at Abbott’s level of ratbaggery. I guess it was there, hiding in plain sight. Thanks for the link, interesting. Hopefully the broader electorate has absorbed a lesson in how an IPA influenced future would look, and it ain’t too marvellous for the vast majority.

    • remoteone

      You had me at FFS.

  • Alastair Leith

    The remarkable thing about the two stories i’ve read on this is that in spite of assurances working engineering drawings have already been drawn for the pilot plant, nobody is talking about how they are producing the hydrogen. Are they burning coal power the splitting of water and liquification of the resultant H2 gas? Some kind of other process analogous to the Haber-Bosch process that produces ammonia from coal but resulting in hydrogen? Ammonia to hydrogen bolted onto the Haber-process.

    The only detail we get is that CO2 is a product that needs to be (affordably) separated and stored, the separated suggests they just intend to burn coal to generate electricity to split water.

    Wait with baited breath for this industry to take off, not. When free and negatively priced wind and solar energy become available under higher RE penetration scenarios how can CCS possibly compete on price alone, let alone the added risk of keeping it underground for thousands of years without even a tiny slow leak?

    • John Boyd

      It’s ‘bated’ breath…

      • Hettie

        Gave you an up tick, but don’t go there or you’ll go crazy.

  • Bruce

    I did a very quick search and came up with a value for Hydrogen at around $2.50 per kg. So 3 tonnes has a value of $7,500. Doesn’t seem to add up to $500m?

    • stucrmnx120fshwf

      They’re caught between a rock and a hard place, electricity prices are about to go down, due to falling renewables prices per kWh, even with subsidies like 99.5%, they can’t compete. The hydrogen shipping, will just further show, that renewable energy, can be stored, ignite thoughts of batteries, concentrated solar thermal, liquid salt heat storage. They’re up against concentrated, cooled photovoltaic, combined high and low frequency systems; hydro storage, here in Tasmania we have plenty of dams, if we recycled the water, with pumping. The dams would be fuller and we could expand our energy sales, to the mainland, at the times it’s needed. It’s bad for them, outpriced, they need Monash forum gangsters, to set up a protection racket, on the public purse. As the Monash family have said, he’d be turning in his grave, to be associated with such ludite garbage disposal, of worthless coal stranded assets.

      A weaker NBN, less social justice, less NDIS, less Gonski; for them, it’s more coal subsidies and lead acid battery submarines, the COALition have tripled the deficit, maybe they can bring it up, to US levels (unpayable, without clean disruption.)

  • George Darroch

    “I had to read that 10 times and get on the phone twice to check.”

    To be fair, this is my reaction to any Coal-ition energy policy.

  • George Darroch

    It’s only $167,000,0000 per tonne.

    For comparison, gold is approximately $43,000,000 per tonne.

  • Andy

    This idea has been kicking around for at least 6 years. Would require sequestration of about 20 tonnes CO2 per tonne of hydrogen production, if it ever goes to full-scale. Some out-dated economics in the first attached, which shows what was being though about 6 years ago:

    http://www.jcoal.or.jp/coaldb/shiryo/material/Kawasaki_Mr.%20Harada.pdf

    and amazing that economics relative to other options were not updated 4 years later:

    https://www.cslforum.org/cslf/sites/default/files/documents/tokyo2016/Chishiro-CO2FreeHydrogenSupplyChain-Workshop-Session3-Tokyo1016.pdf

    One wonders what assumptions are being used now, but seem Shell is also on board with liquid hydrogen carriers:

    https://www.busworld.org/articles/detail/2772/kawasaki-heavy-and-shell-to-partner-on-transporting-liquefied-hydrogen-by-sea

  • sunNwind

    400 direct and indirect jobs for $500 million for a futile CO2 producing project with no idea how to store the emission safely and economically. May be better simply giving each person $1 million dollars…….and keeping the renewable energy driven hydrogen projects going (which by the way also create jobs!)

  • Hettie

    Gob smacked doesn’t begin to describe it.

    • rob

      Hettie please read my reply comment to Andy directly above! Cheers rob

  • Andy Saunders

    Liquefied? Nah. Compressed, maybe. Adsorbed into metal hydrides, maybe, but liquefied, no way.

    • Hettie

      Yes way, I think, as ammonia.

      • Andy Saunders

        Then it’s not hydrogen!…

        • rob

          Hettie is correct! Hydrogen dissolved with ammonia has a greater storage capacity than Hydrogen alone and also makes it safer for transport anywhere in the world. The process is easily reversed at it location of use. Rob Dip T. B ed M.Sc. In case that makes no sense to you it means I have 3 Degrees in Chemistry.

          • Andy Saunders

            Hmmm, not sure it makes bulk transport much easier. Liquid ammonia has to be either pressurised or cooled, and it’s toxic. And it would have to be carted back to the origin assuming it wasn’t sold or disposed of near the point of use or conversion. And there would be a decent amount of energy loss as well.

            Andy (who rarely says how many degrees he has)

          • rob

            Well maybe you should! I didn’t mention my doctorate in medicine

  • Glen Ryan

    April fools day is on April 1. Maybe April 12 is now fossil fools days!

  • john

    As soon as I seen $500 million I realized this has to be a joke.
    No it is not.
    Can some one explain why this will work and help us you know the little people?

    • Don’t be too harsh. remember, they spent $450 million without sequestering a single tonne of co2, so spending a little more for three tonnes is progress of sorts – although the emissions (equivalent to the output of 20 cars) won’t be sequestered in the pilot stage.

      • john

        Yes Giles sorry

    • Hettie

      Coalition definition of something working is not “helping the little people,” its “deceiving the little people into voting for them.” And screwing the little people to help their rich mates get even richer.

      Two observations. Parliament is over until the budget session in May.
      2 sitting weeks.
      Nobody will rock the boat until then, because they hope for a bounce from the budget.
      Fat chance. But, it would be possible to call an election May 28th, for August 4.
      Who knows what the buggers will do? They are certifyably insane,and therefore totally unpredictable.

      • Barri Mundee

        As a resident who had a lng career in the power industry I suspect this will be another one of those jobs carrots dangled in front of Latrobe Valley residents before State and Federal elections.

        There have been all many grandiose announcements over the years to “make the Latrobe Valley great again” using the so-called fabulous brown coal resource. Fxck all has been delivered. And just as well.

        Its delusion in my view but there are still many people who believe brown coal has a future people believe the BS.

  • John Saint-Smith

    This is another of Turnbull’s desperate distractors, the first being Snowy 2 – an idea which like this one has been floating around for ages, originally promoted by the Snowy Hydro people struggling to finish an add-on to the original Snowy scheme from the 1950s. Along comes a once agile and innovative Prime Minister who has been forced to reject everything he believes about renewables = solar and wind, but who wants to show that he is still the progressive leader. Snowy 2 looks likes renewables, but where are the actual renewable generators? As the real cost of building the ‘very, very, big 2000MW PHES battery in the Snowy Mountains has ballooned out past $8 billion before they’ve factored in the cost of the long high voltage transmission lines, or the inherent losses in the transmission and pumping phases, we can see it for what it really is, a ‘snow-job’.

    Now we’re going to do something really radical and hi-techy (it’s got Hydrogen in it!) to help the coal miners in Victoria, except that the technology involved, thanks Andy, (sans the CCS = massive extra cost) has been around for at least a century! It was used by the Germans to make synthetic liquid fuels in WWII.

    Like Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Stephen Horvath’s perpetual motion hydrogen engine, this is just another a loony idea in search of a sucker.

    • john

      I so remember the Joe Bjelke-Petersen period what a down ward period that was

    • riley222

      Well, John Saint -Smith as a fan of both the new Snowy scheme and hydrogen, I ask , how are we going to get to 100% renewables. No question Snowy will cost heaps , but what are the alternatives, cost efficiency wise for storage, of which we will need plenty. It may be that things change with the uptake of batteries , especially with transport, but we’re dealing with the now.
      As far as hydrogen goes, the present proposal is part of a sick dance happening within the LNP and my opinion is , if it keeps the ratbags distracted till the next election, let it run.
      As I see it the main problem if Labor is victorious next election, where do the unions stand on the slow removal of coal from the equation. I tend to think they’ll have a plan, at least I hope so, otherwise they will pay.

      • John Saint-Smith

        I have to disagree with one point you make in relation to Snowy 2. It is not ‘now’. We aren’t going to see it built and operating for 5-10 years, and by then the already dodgy case for this huge remote white elephant will be even worse. Linked distributed batteries and local PHES where the renewable energy is generated and used are the logical choice already, and they will become cheaper, Snowy 2 will just get more and more expensive. There are other advantages in FCAS with the batteries, as seen with the Tesla battery in SA, which will become very important in the stability of electricity supply and cost in the East Coast grid in future.

        Turnbull’s ever more desperate actions in relation to his government’s supposed responsibility to provide stability and reliability for the grid in a cost effective manner make me very nervous. Australians are already being ripped off in many areas of services apart from electricity, and this government has actively resisted any attempt to attack the real problems as they have been extensively and expertly discussed on this and other sites. His plans are seriously expensive and inefficient because they are driven by Lazy Negative ideology, not ‘best practice technology’.

        The fact that Turnbull is now absolutely contradicting everything he said before he became the puppet Prime Minister ought to be a powerful indicator that something is deeply wrong. But don’t take my word for it, do your own independent research. Check up on Renew Economy, prove them wrong if you can.

        I have nothing against PHES or hydrogen, but the energy they store must be derived from cheap, clean renewable sources and there is nothing in Turnbull’s desperate plans which includes any mention of renewables. This is what I object to.

        And one final point. You didn’t mention climate change. No one who is seriously engaged in this debate about renewables does so simply because renewables are cheaper or sexier or more socially just. It is all about global emissions reduction.

        As far as the unions are concerned, you’ll find that like any special interest group, they will defend their existing jobs. Trouble is, I have no respect for anyone who will defend his right to kill his own children for the sake of a bucket of dirty money!

        • riley222

          Agreed, agreed, and agreed John Saint- Smith. Especially re climate change.
          I envisage hydrogen coming 100% from renewables, it WILL happen, and not too far away. This abomination at present will only raise hydrogens profile, there is a compelling case, and as they say any publicity is good publicity. Maybe there will be a realisation of the potential from this.
          I have no doubt that Snowy 2 will prove to be a big positive, and I do congratulate Turnbull for what he has been able to do. It’s Ok to talk about what might be down the track, but it can all disappear into the ether, we need SOME certainty, and Snowy 2 injects some certainty into the mix.
          In the scheme of things at the moment, it is an achievment, and needs to proceed.

  • john

    Hydrogen once again is the lowest possible energy storage.
    Which idiot decided this was a good Idea ???+

  • Radbug

    This is desperation politics talking. This is the nonsense you spout when you lose 30 Newspolls in a row. “I don’t take any notice of opinion polls!” said Turnbull. Are you kidding, are you really trying to insult our intelligence? You only know someone when they’re under stress, and now we’re seeing the real Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm Turnbull, will say ANYTHING, and do ANYTHING, to stay in the top job. This is why the Turnbull government goes from mess to mess, Turnbull is a weakling, he can be pushed around. Everybody in the Federal government knows it, and takes advantage. Just counting the days, just counting the days, until this rotten government is thrown out.

  • RobertO

    R & D is often a better tax deduction and this maybe reason for this, not that I agree with it, but our Gov has had times when they have allowed better than 100% deducibility. You need to ask the accountants what their up too

    • Hettie

      Peak stupid is what they’re up to.

  • Cooma Doug

    The problem with wind and solar to hydrogen systems has been really poor efficiency.
    But just this werk there have been major developments in the process. A totally new concept has been called a game changer, just this past week. We will soon hear more about it.

    • RobertO

      Hi Cooma Doug, lots of people get mixed up with efficiency over profit. No company will invest is any long term process where there is no profit. It does not matter what the efficiency is or how low it is, or how high it is, if there no profit in it it will not get up.
      This project is an R &D exercise, not a process. NEL industries (started about 1927) have off the shelf, RE to Hydrogen equipment for sale today.
      http://nelhydrogen.com/about/

      • Hettie

        You keep saying that, but it really is not so.

        • RobertO

          Hi Hettie, are you referring to the profit over efficiency because it the law in this country for companies. Directors are not allowed to run a company beyond it means to be able to pay it’s bills. The bigger the company (more shareholders) the bigger the ability to run a project at a loss but over time they will cut their losses (otherwise the courts are starting to jail people). Take Telstra as a company, it has bought companies that have lost them money but they have always cut their losses ($1.2 Billion loss was one, and yes they have bough some that made them money). The exception to this rule is boards run as part of a Gov enterprise Snowy and Tas Hydro are both Gov run so tax payers can be called apon to pay their debts. Because of this we may see both Snowy 2 and BassLink 2 (as part of Battery of the Nation idea) sign off by 2 toungs (our enlighten prime minister spend our taxpayer money). In terms of both of these projects I am more for that against but only just (say 55% for, 45% against).

          • Hettie

            I can’t make sense of what you are saying here, but I was speaking of your repeated assertion that boards will not authorise expenditure on efficiency measures, or measures to save money.
            Properly presented and clearly reasoned proposals will get a hearing from sensible directors.
            Savings from overhead or production costs can be added to the profit line, and/or invested in other activity. Rejecting proposals that can be proven to save on operating costs is just stupid, and successful businesses don’t stay successful by being stupid.

          • RobertO

            Hi Hettie, the point that I am trying to make is that if a company is losing money on it’s sales there is no chance that they will invest more money on improving the efficiency of the sales cycle or product (They may spend a few $ (often R & D budget) to try something but in general the answer is a reason “NO”) When people argue that the efficiency of hydrogen is the reason not to sell hydrogen by a company they have completely missed the point that the company board has already made the decision to sell Hydrogen and will will be sold at a profit (note that the profit may include transfer pricing arrangements but it is still at profit somehow). The first discussion about the sale of H2 is “Can we make a profit”. To discuss the efficiency of H2 is stupidity befor asking the question “Can we make a profit on this sale or sales. If the company is making profit then and only then will somebody ask the question “Can we improve the efficiency of the sales cycle or the product?

          • Hettie

            This is the first time that you have qualified your assertion to a company that is losing money.
            Having worked for some years in sales and marketing for a pharmaceutical company, an industry that you may be aware is heavily involved in transfer pricing, I can tell you from direct experience that the first thing manageneNT will do if sales of a particular product are faltering is look for a reason. If a new competitor is sweeping all before it, and the losing product is mature, they may bow to the inevitable and cease all promotional activity *for that product* rather than throw good money after bad.
            If at the same time some capital equipment is due for renewal (almost certainly budgeted for), and a proposal is received for a replacement item that can do the job better faster cheaper, it is highly likely that proposal will be accepted.
            Or sack a rep. Or change the planned overseas venue of the sales conference to an onshore location.
            However, when ongoing losses are not at issue, and a proposal is made that will clearly reduce costs without reducing efficiency, purchasing managers, company secretaries, MD, CEOs and boards may indeed ask if the proposal will make money. It would be a very silly advocate who would just say “no.” It is so easy to say “not directly, but it will save you $x,000 a month, and doesn’t that amount to an increase in profits?”
            Again, I reject your assertion.

    • riley222

      Thats interesting Cooma, what you point out about inefficiency is true.
      However RE to hydrogen is 100% clean, and using solar thermal we could produce hydrogen (usable energy)for millions of years with no adverse effects to the environment.
      Surely worth a gander. Lets hope the new discoveries add to the prospect of it becoming reality.

  • James Wright

    Thats why they call it the COALalition because the miners own them.
    It seems that they want to get our debt up to 1000 billion dollars which is quite possible the way they are going before they leave office.
    They want to make it hard for Labour to pay off the debt so they can blame Labour for not paying it off and say they are not good money managers.
    This of course will be fully supported by the other and top major political party in Australia which is Murdock.

  • Peter F

    There are two elements to this technical requirements and politics.
    As most of you who read my long posts know I am definitely a pro renewables person however there are arguments for the hydrogen cycle as well. It is really the only practical solution for shipping and probably long distance air transport. Its heat value is almost 3 times that of aviation fuel.
    It is excellent for process heating and even in long distance ground transport applications, the lighter weight, and longer duration, faster refuelling compared to batteries still have significant advantages.

    I believe that we should not be putting all our eggs in the one basket so this is not the worst way of spending mostly someone else’s money.

    There are a number of ways of generating Hydrogen, electrolysis is the obvious but expensive because of relatively low efficiency and highish maintenance costs.
    The most common way is steam reforming of natural gas because it is cheaper than electrolysis.

    I don’t know the details of this project but I think it uses heat and pressure to break down the hydro carbons in the coal into syngas (used to be called town gas I think) which is a mix of CO and H2. The CO is easily separated from the H2 and then it can be burnt to provide the process heat and provide a pure stream of CO2 as opposed to the 8% CO2 in a furnace exhaust stream.

    Because Victorian brown coal uses very little energy to mine and is very clean, as in very low ash, heavy metals, sulphur etc it is a very cheap feedstock both in terms of energy used and dollars and requires far less maintenance than many other hydrocarbon fuels

    While CCS on a coal plant is a rubbish idea, most of the cost is in the CO2 separation. In this case that step is free, so it is much cheaper. Further, other studies have shown that the rock beneath the Latrobe Valley is one of the best potential repositories of CO2 in the world, so the whole CO2 sequestration step is quite possibly workable.

    Then this plant is using a fuel that has little other use, it allows natural gas to be either preserved as chemical feedstock or not mined at all, reducing fugitive methane which is far worse than CO2

    So if electrolysis is too expensive this might be the least worst way of making hydrogen. I also understand (here I might be completely wrong) that much of the plant can still be used if there are breakthroughs in electrolysis technology.
    In summary it is not as bad as you might think.

    Then there is the politics: If the Victorian Government is seen to be supporting the Valley and not demonising coal it can take a much harder line on the NEG, it also helps it keep the Liberals out at the next State election

    • Richard Wilson

      Hydrolysers are coming down in cost and going up in efficiency.
      If the electricity supplying them is renewable (and it may well be surplus to the immediate needs of the grid) then the energy cost is effectively zero.
      Note the the link given to the plans of Neon – a plan that will produce 20 Tonnes of Hydrogen a DAY.
      Hydrolysers are fast becoming VERY practical

    • Alexander Hromas

      You have forgotten that to burn the CO we would use air about 16% oxygen and as normal practice we would burn with excess oxygen so the exhaust would contain about 14% carbon dioxide. We are back at the old carbon capture problem and we have not even begun to examine the sequestration part.
      This is utter folly. The brown coal is a climate dangerous fuel and should stay where it is. If we are to avoid runaway climate change we cannot afford to burn it . Relative costs are irrelevant. Even if hydrogen by electrolysis were several times more expensive than this process, its much cheaper, we must not go down this path. Turnbull is as usual all bull

      • Peter F

        You are correct. Then you have to determine whether it is worth building an oxygen separation plant to simplify the CO2 separation. If you have suitable substrata , which we do, sequestration it is not a big technical problem see the project http://earthresources.vic.gov.au/earth-resources/victorias-earth-resources/carbon-storage/co2crc-otway-project.
        Perhaps we could have a 50/50 reformation/hydrolysis plant. The O2 released from the hydrolysis could be used to combust the CO from the reformation plant (joke).
        Personally I see this project as having about an 80% chance of failure but the Japanese are pretty determined to have a large hydrogen economy sector and I would rather that they did the job here with our lignite than over there with our LNG.

        Returning to the politics. If we can use $450 m of Japanese government money as well as $100 m of our own, to head off the Coal Ash Forum and distract from the pressure to do anything rash about Liddell, I think it is money well spent. Otherwise known as using a sprat to catch a mackerel

        • Alexander Hromas

          You still don’t get it. The world’s carbon balance has been calculated by a number of organisations and is: to keep to the 2degC, max under Paris, we cannot burn more than 40% of our DEVELOPED coal reserves and 60% of our DEVELOPED hydrocarbon reserves. At 2degC we have a 50% chance of avoiding runaway climate change with all the disasters that it entails. To keep to 1.5degC we must stop burning coal now and use about 40% of DEVELOPED hydrocarbon reserves. Our chances of avoiding runaway climate change is 75%.
          We must leave coal in the ground and look at quickly reducing hydrocarbon use probably only to air transport. Our major political parties are wandering along as if we have all the time in the world to de-carbonize we don’t.
          Your oxygen generating plant to burn CO produced from the hydrogenation project is starting to look like a perpetual motion machine have you checked the thermodynamics.

          • Peter F

            I get it Alexander, I spend half my life on this stuff, but I have also been around long enough to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good

          • Alexander Hromas

            I fear that you don’t there is on good in this hare brained scheme. Putting a oxygen generating plant on this mouse designed by a committee will negatively impact profits guess what will happen?
            We excellent solar and wind resources for electricity generation and well developed electrolysis plants. Why bother with this doggy nonsence

    • Hettie

      I’m confused. Way back in the 60s, in NZ high school chemistry I learned about the making of town gas, and its by product, coke. There was a catalyst involved, and steam.
      The details I have long forgotten, but not the insistence that the coal used must be high quality black coal. Anthracite. This was not a problem in NZ, because anthracite was in plentiful supply, and a very high proportion of power generation was, and remains, hydro.
      But the Victorian brown coal is not anthracite, it’s lignite.
      I have read that the best sustainable use for it is to grind it up and use it as fertilizer in broad acre agriculture, where the soils are catastrophically carbon depleted. That makes sense to me. Making hydrogen from it in tiny quantities at vast expense does not make sense. At all.

      • Peter F

        Victoria used to have gas reticulated to all the major towns and it was made by the same process from the same coal proposed for the hydrogen plant

        • Hettie

          Did that process also produce coke? My parents used coke in preference to coal in our open fires because it burned so much cleaner and hotter than coal, and was in plentiful supply.
          Dad also devised a double skinned steel insert for the fireplace, with fresh air drawn from under the house heated between the two layers of steel and release into the room. A precursor to the jet master fireplace. The silly bugger didn’t patent it. If he had, my sister and I would be rolling in money.
          And we are so not.
          That was innovative. Turnbull can’t come up with a *sensible* new idea about anything.

        • Mike Shackleton

          Peter, until Victoria opened up the brown coal fields for electricity, there was a black coal mine in Wonthaggi which was used for coal gasification, along with coal brought in from NSW for electricity generation

          • Brian

            Nope, you’re wrong. It was brown coal and the plant was located close to Morwell.

      • Marcus Hicks

        If we wanted to go back to the equivalent of Town Gas, the best approach would be to anaerobically digest organic waste, then subject the resultant methane gas to low energy solar (the kind we use for solar hot-water systems). This would give the methane the ability to releaae 20% more energy per ton, when burned, than regular methane (hence less CO2 per MJ).

    • Robert Bethune

      Once again this Government could not run a business,they only think it’s only money and there’s more coming and we have to spend it on something even if it loses money

  • Jon

    I find this ridiculous on so many levels.
    To me the most obvious is that there is roughly 1kg of hydrogen in 7.5kg of coal (would be less in Latrobe brown coal), to make hydrogen from water as a comparison takes roughly 12litres.
    **** numbers grabbed from here; https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/42773.pdf

    Surely it’s easier to pump 12 litres of sea water (or even 20) than it is to mine 7.5kg of coal.
    From the water you release roughly 11kgs of Oxygen and from the coal you release 6.5kg of mainly carbons.

    I’m sure this announcement is 11 days late as others have pointed out

  • Chris Jones

    People are asking if this project is a baffling boondoggle?

  • Robert Comerford

    I am lost for words. Turning that brown coal crap into a tiny bit of hydrogen while once again releasing all that filthy carbon into the air? Really !!

  • RobertO

    Hi All Have you read the press release by 2 toungs.

    To quote “It a 4 year pilot project” so it may be cancelled shortly after we change Gov (I hope we change). It may take 2 years to get just the paper work done before they can even start. It is our Fed Gov + State Gov + Japan Gov + Industries in both countries. This has all the hall marks of furphy to keep the Jaack mob (coal ash group) happy.

  • phred01

    co2 sequestration described by Michael Bloomberg as BS This no more than Social security for the big end of town

  • The proposal may help get rid of the coal and natural gas industries faster than otherwise.

    Australia will eventually have solar and wind generation electricity capacity that exceeds daily needs on all but the few hottest days of the year. The excess capacity for most of the year can then be used to produce hydrogen for export to Japan and elsewhere.

    While Australia’s renewable generation capacity is ramping up, Japan will be building hydrogen transport ships and replacing coal, LNG and petrol with hydrogen fuel for energy and transport.

    The faster Japan switches to hydrogen fuel – even if it uses gasified brown coal to make the switch as quickly as possible – the faster Australia’s renewable energy sector can begin supplying hydrogen to this new export market to replace with coal, LNG and oil.

  • Ken Dyer

    I smell an election in the wind within the next 12 months, and more likely by the end of 2018.
    Yep. The pork barrel got rolled down the to the Latrobe Valley today. Yesterday it was rolled out up in Queensland for the M1, and then the Tullamarine Rail link.
    Rail link you say? The only rail link the LNP COALition wants is the unwanted inland rail. The whole smelly bunch are on the election trail.

    • Hettie

      And just this morning I see that Shorten has advised all electorate to have preselection completed by June at the latest.
      Working backwards from
      August 4, the earliest feasible Polling day, no more than 31 days from close of nominations,
      July 4, no more than 27 days from issuance of writs for the election,
      June 6, no more than 10 days from dissolution of Parliament,
      May 28, Parliament dissolved, election called.
      Parliament sits May 8 to 10 with budget May 8, and again May 21 to 24, a Thursday.
      28th is a public holiday, but 29 to 31 Parliament sits again.
      So, just before the end of the Budget session, with the party holding off from rolling him, because of the electoral damage that would do, Turnbull rocks up to Yarralumla and tells Cosgrove to dissolve Parliamenton perhaps June 1, as by then it would have risen anyway.
      Total chaos, because the Budget is announced but no bills passed. Party flatfooted because – he wouldn’t!
      But of course he would, rather than be rolled.

      • Ken Dyer

        A sweet dream, indeed!

        The Victorian election is in November.

        The M1 upgrade pork barrel makes sense in Queensland to keep the Queensland conservative knuckle draggers quiet.

        And let us not forget the corrosive effect of Abbott and his Jaaack cronies.

        I live in hope (not that town in Arkansas).

        • Ken Dyer

          Let us not forget the seat re-distributions taking place in South Australia and recently in Victoria.

          • mick

            yep how warped is that lose butler keep pyne

          • rob

            There is no Pollie I hate more than Hissy Pine…… and I have had to put up with him as my rep for the last 26 years….Grrrrrrr

        • Hettie

          I do love Jack Reacher. That was one of the best. Just checked.
          “Nothing to lose.”

          • Ken Dyer

            Let us hope that the Federal COALition soon becomes the latest Reacher, “Past Tense” to be released 11/18
            After that we should “Never go Back”, and that Bill Shorten becomes “A Wanted Man”. However, should Turnbull get back in, it will be nothing but “Bad Luck and Trouble”, and the Parliament will remain “A Killing Floor”, and Australia will do it “The Hard Way”
            I am a Reacher fan too.

          • Hettie

            Very good. You’ve got to love a man who never killed a man that didn’t need killing. I can think of many that he could practice on.
            Too much to hope that the lifespan of this sorry excuse for a Gov’t could be limited to “61 Hours.”

          • Hettie

            On a brighter note, the banks and friends appear to be learning to their cost that “You do not mess with the Special Investigators.”

          • Hettie

            There’s a new one out.
            The midnight line.
            Thanks for reminding me of him. I was just getting cross because of the horrible writing of a Kindle Unlimited book I had downloaded. Now I’ll have something beautifully written to keep me happy.
            🤗

          • Ken Dyer

            Read it. It is sitting on my shelf. I found the title a bit dark ;~)
            Yes I think many of the Kindle “specials” are worthy of the Bulwer-Lytton contest (It was a dark and stormy night…)
            http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/

          • Hettie

            Obviously this is not the right forum for a literary discussion, but thanks for that link. How delicious.
            My beef is with authors of historical fiction (I am an addict) who refuse to acknowledge that mediaeval English is now a foreign language, and all dialogue should therefore be rendered in modern English, free of gadzookery, on the morrow, and t’woulding.
            Fair enough to reflect the formality of the times.
            Ann Swinfen, Hilary Mantel, Philippa Gregory, Lindsey Davis and a few others do it well. Most of the rest need to be beaten severely about the head and body.

      • Jolly Roger

        I reckon this scenario or somethin close to it is possible if as you say Turnbull believes that he has to go to the polls sooner rather than later or risk getting replaced as PM. Normally i would say no the LNP wont give up power so easily and will have the election on the last available date. But with so many MP’s refusing to rule out any leadership ambitions this week Turnbull could well be worried and be willing to gamble in a double or nothing scenario.

        • Hettie

          There could also be an element of spite.
          “I’ll show you, you bastards. Pushed me around, made a fool of me, well take this!”
          A bit like KR.

  • Brendon Pywell

    “There is another wind-solar fuelled hydrogen electrolyser announced for Port Lincoln, that will produce 10 tonnes a day from a plant that will cost just $35 million.”

    Where does the 35 Million come from?

  • Tony Magrathea

    The bribes work well in the liebral party

  • MFX

    The big problem with Hydrogen is that it requires a lot more energy to produce and liquefy for easy storage/transportation than it ultimately produces when burnt. Gaseous hydrogen is relatively easy and cheap to produce (although you won’t get more energy out than you put in to produce it in the first place) but expensive to transport. Liquid or high pressure hydrogen is expensive to produce. It could be useful if you had a large excess of renewable energy you needed to store (unlikely) and could take the large efficiency loss in storing it via hydrogen. So bottom line is that Turnbull like many politicians is a fucking moron.

  • solarguy

    Uh, this is just another stupid dream I’m having, soon I’ll wake up and have a laugh……..come on alarm, come on.

  • Ria Young

    You can’t fix stupid. Waste of time to try. Just put him and his deceiving party (LNP) last on the voting slip at the next election.

  • DevMac

    The only reason I can think of for anyone doing this, is to heavily inflate the “cost” of hydrogen production if and when hydrogen comes into the argument against fossil fuels.

    $165 million / tonne

  • Jolly Roger

    It’s probably all about the kick backs we will never know about as the rent seekers and con artists get in while the going is good.

  • Mark Roest

    It’s easy: it appears that he’s methodically, carefully directing wealth to his allies, on a grand scale! And that means colonizing his own country. An article or comment in the last few days mentioned the deal between the Liberals and the Nationals, in which he was put in charge in return for his solemn oath of loyalty to the coal barons. As in, just a minor variation of feudalism and mercantilism.

    • Hettie

      You could call it treason.
      He is supposed to serve the interests of the Australian people, not foreign corporations.

  • David Hill

    It is a not so cunning plan to convert taxpayers money into coal industry profits which then in turn converts to donations to the Liberal Party , the circle jerk continues !

  • TheWay

    Hydrogen is pretty useless and not competitive other than a few niche applications.

    But for reference sake of how much 3 tons of hydrogen is. If you were to put it in a hydrogen car, it will drive you about 250,000 km. That is about 33,000 AUD worth of fuel.

    So paying 500 million for 33k… brilliant!

    • John Saint-Smith

      To be fair, this is the cost of the pilot plant. Once the model is proven, the cost will fall. There remains, however, the fact that this power source would have limited application in Australia, and could be made in its primary target market, Japan, by the gasification of Chinese or even Indonesian coal or the mining of methane bearing ice clathrates from the depths of the Northern Pacific ocean floor.

      Each of these alternatives assumes that the capture of CO2 and its permanent sequestration is both economic and safe. We won’t know until the pilot plant has been operating for at least 10 years, and that’s at least 15 years from now. By then, we will have missed our pathetic Paris targets which everyone knows are not sufficient to halt global warming.

      It begs the question, what unique global market does this half-baked proposal tap that couldn’t be more efficiently serviced by solar powered electrolysis in Northern Australia, where the solar energy flux is twice what it is in Southern Australia or Japan?

      • Mike Westerman

        True John, but as we saw with Snowy 2, the intention of these initiatives is merely to deflect, like circus acts.

      • Marcus Hicks

        Are you sure the cost will fall? This underlying method for generating hydrogen is grossly inefficient, even without including the cost of geo-sequestration. Over 15 years of trials, & we still don’t have a commercially viable “clean coal” operation, anywhere in the world. This is a desperate “hail Mary Pass” by the coal industry.

        • John Saint-Smith

          Whatever the ROM costs are, they won’t be anything like the silly figures being bandied about in the original article or comments here. My remarks are just offering a bit of rational perspective, and definitely not intended to imply that this latest Turnbull distraction is a ‘good’ idea.

    • Hettie

      And others on this page have said that the proposed wind/electrolytic production of H2 would produce 3 tonnes for $7,500.
      So if $7,500 of H2 could replace $33,000 of petrol, it’s not so useless.
      And Turnbull’s idiot scheme says 3 tonnes of H2 would cost $5 million. Plus CCS costs (infinite, because nobody has been able to make it work).
      Even our innumerate treasurer should be able to spot the problem there.

      • Mike Westerman

        Besides which, H2 produced here could obviate the $35B of imported fuel, and overcome the security risk of only having 49 days of reserves.

        • Hettie

          Just when you think the cred of our so-called Gov’t could not sink any lower, this!
          Produce H2 with zero emissions in one state, and in another, that has an election due in Nov,
          do it for 66,666.66 times the cost. Plus CCS costs. And hideous emissions.
          Treasury will be so pleased.

  • Robert Comerford

    What is the Victorian Govt smoking to come to this deal?

    • Hettie

      Is it very toxic?

    • Mike Westerman

      Why does Palaszczuk duck and weave on Adani? The Labor party sadly has not had an adult conversation with the CFMEU and their members on looking after communities after the transition from coal or in attracting new members in the RE sector. Leaders confusing “internationalism” with “globalisation”, confusing capital accumulation with investment and so being confused about the lack of jobs and wages growth.

      • Hettie

        I think that Palaszczuk has been as definite as her powers allow.
        Shorten has said, “If the Adani project doesn’t stack up economically and environmentally, I won’t support it.”
        The contracts apparently have provisions that allow cancellation if environment conditions are breached, and that gets him clear off the “Sovereign risk” hook.
        But until he has been able to reassure the CFMEU that he has plans that are far better for their members than Adani’s, he can’t come right out and say he *will* cancel. It’s a very big union, not noted for calm negotiation, and it doesn’t make any sense to antagonise them when he should be able to show them good plans for their future. Those plans may not yet be ready for publication. Probably being saved for the election campaign.

  • Stoj

    Is this just an inherently inefficient process, or does this come down to it being a small scale pilot program? Could it be commercialised at not much higher cost, but vastly increased production? From what the article is suggesting, the tech for carbon capture is being developed as part of this pilot. I don’t know why developing new tech is such a bad idea, particularly for only $500 million, which is a relatively small sum when it comes to industrial r&d.

    • Hettie

      Read on through the comments. But,

      1. Hydrogen can be produced using excess renewable electricity to split water for $7,500 per tonne. With no pollution at all. Oxygen as a by product, Hydrogen the product.
      That is 66,666.66 times cheaper than this brainfart.
      2. CCS has been tried. Billions of dollars have been spent in 2 or 3 projects, but all have been abandoned after several years because there was no way to make it commercially viable.
      3. The pollution from using brown coal, any coal, is far more than CO2. Sulphur, nitrous oxide, radon, heavy metals including mercury and cadmium.
      4. It’s blatant pork barreling for the Latrobe valley, with a Vic election due in November. There are far better ways to retrain, reskill the Hazelwood workforce. Ways that would clean up the woefully degraded environment there, while this would just make it worse.

      Is that enough to go on with?

  • velocite

    This article makes it sound beyond stupid that Australian governments should be contributing $2 to this project, let alone $100m. So who is contributing $400m? They either know something we don’t or they’re even stupider. I did read the article at globalccsinstitute.com and regret it.

    • Hettie

      Re reading the article this time with more care, rather than the gobsmacked disbelief of my first reading, I see that the partners are Japanese. What they are likely to do and say when they learn of the existing, totally clean, far cheaper production of H2 from water and sun or wind, is unlikely to be pretty. I would love to be a Japanese speaking fly on the wall.
      Since our not at all esteemed government has well established form, I would say that beyond stupid is a serious understatement, but the likely truth.

      • velocite

        Upon reflection, Hettie, if this investment is indeed commercial then it’s about the development of CCS technology, not about the production of hydrogen gas. Although progress with CCS has been slow, maybe Kawasaki Industries thinks it will pay off for them in the long term.

        Certainly results in retarded politics here.

        • Hettie

          1. American companies in 2016 walked away from CCS after investing over US $7billion, because they couldn’t make it work.
          2. There is a Vic State election in November. Roll out the pork barrel.
          3. The locals are not impressed, to judge from at least one of the comments here.
          ” Why do they think the Latrobe Valley is only about coal? ” They want clean industry, not more dirty coal.
          4. There will be a Frderal election and a change of Gov’t within 12 months.
          May 18 is the latest legal day, but a caretaker Gov’t can’t bring out a Budget, and the Budget by long tradition is announced on the second Tuesday in May. The sheer bastardry of having polling day any later than mid April, leaving the new Gov’t with no time to get all the figures from treasury would not go down well, and you may be sure that ALP and Greens would beat that drum hard.
          5. The Coalition can’t get out of their own way. How far towards contracts do you think they could get before an election is called – probably early in February. There are environmental impact statements and approvals, all sortsof issues to be sorted .
          It ain’t gonna happen.

          • velocite

            I’m on your page, Hettie. But I’m still curious about the $400m. I gather that CCS hasn’t gone anywhere yet, and I know nothing about it. And I have no idea how you would capture the carbon from a process where coal was burnt. But I gather the process to get H out of coal does not involve burning, maybe produces its carbon in a form more easily isolated. Ignorant conjecture on my part, but someone is thinking of putting in $400m.

          • Hettie

            I’m reaching back 60 years to high school chemistry, but I think it involves blowing steam through coal that is not crushed small, but in maybe apricot sized lumps, in the presence of a catalyst. I have Googled in many directions but can’t find much, certainly not the catalyst, although I i keep thinking mercury, but I also think that’s not right. You are right though. The coal is not burned, but it gives odd all sorts of nasties just the same. It was the way the old town gas was made, the one that many people used to suicide.
            The implication in the article is that the Japanese are expected to cough up the $400 mill.
            More fool them if they do.

          • Steve

            This article is interesting in the “easy” ccs argument

            http://www.afr.com/business/energy/gas/technical-hitches-delay-gorgon-carbon-disposal-project-20171220-h07t0w

            CCS would be a wonderful technology, just like unicorns would be wonderful animals.

          • Mike Westerman

            So true! But as we are finding in the recycling debacle, a better strategy is always to avoid the mess in the first place, rather than anguish about mopping it up afterwards.

  • Jason Van Der Velden

    Before mocking this, most of you have no idea how economically depressed the latrobe valley is. When you on one hand want no coal but dont give a fuk about people losing their jobs, crazy political promises and pork barreling mean votes for coal huggers and lots of hope, if not false hope. Left leaning groups are partly responsible for the lack of opportunities in the valley, the greens walked away from any attempts to transition the valley after the carbon tax was legislated and basically the place has been left to rot. The people are used to huge announcements that dont go anywhere but throwing money around at least makes it look like someone is trying to help.

    • Hettie

      Jason, please realise that we are not mocking the plight of the people in the laTrobe valley. You deserve far better than what has happened there. 6 months warning was nowhere near long enough for alternative employment to be organised.
      However, this announcement is just a monumentally stupid brainfart. Even without the $400 mill that the Japanese might put in, and as soon as they realise how daft the whole proposal is they will disappear very fast, $100 mill could do a lot to make things better for you for the long term. Retraining, programs to rehabilitate the mine site to parkland and a recreational area- I don’t know, it’s not an area that I know about, but there IS a life after coal, and you deserve help to find it.
      I wish you well.