The federal and Victorian governments have announced $51 million in government support for the Hydrogen Park Murray Valley development in Wodonga, Victoria.
The site will have a wind farm and be able to turn water into hydrogen using a 10MW electrolyser. It will be eight times larger than the biggest electrolyser currently operating in Australia, however not the biggest currently in development.
The hydrogen will then be added to gas pipelines for up to 40,000 homes and 20 industrial sites. It is planned the final mix will be 90% natural gas (70-90% methane) and 10% hydrogen.
Climate experts have suggested that this will do little to help combat climate change, and the money could have been better spent elsewhere.
“Producing green hydrogen from renewables is a good thing,” says Andrew Stock, Councillor at the Climate Council and former Executive General Manager at Origin Energy.
“Using it to supplement fossil gas in the gas networks is a very bad thing.”
Part of the problem is what happens when you blend hydrogen into natural gas – which is mostly methane – in the first place.
Hydrogen can be added into natural gas up to around 10%, although currently most places add closer to 5%. This is because hydrogen is less dense than methane – a higher amount of gas is needed for the same amount of energy; it leaks more than methane; and it’s corrosive to pipes and stoves.
“The only way they can put more hydrogen in is to go around and change every appliance on the whole network,” says Stock.
“The advertising we’re seeing from the fossil gas industry with ‘renewable gas’ is a complete furphy because 90% plus of the gas is still non-renewable. It still leaks and burns to produce greenhouse causing gases.”
Experts suggest that green hydrogen could be better used in the creation of ammonia, green steel and other specific industrial uses.
Although many people believe that gas cooking is more effective than electric stoves, induction has a much higher energy efficiency, and is faster.
ACT has recently passed the first laws in the country to ban the use of gas in new homes, while lobby groups have suggested that this could be implemented nationwide.
“It just makes no sense to put gas into either new households or new high-rise buildings. Governments really should be setting an example here and passing laws that do not allow gas to be put into new housing estates,” says Stock.
“If you’re building new buildings, and the building lifetime will be decades or up to 100 years, why would it make any sense to put gas – a known greenhouse polluting product – into it?”