Hydrogen station opens but is it the future?

Port Kembla’s Australian-first industrial hydrogen refuelling station is open for business for the region’s 7000 heavy road vehicles, although they shouldn’t all turn up at once.

The performance of the H2Station at the Coregas Port Kembla industrial gas facility is likely to become a focus of national attention as the nation struggles to come to grips with alternative transport fuels.

“The H2 Station will be the first practical piece of enabling infrastructure towards de-carbonising the region’s 7000 heavy vehicles,” Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty said at the opening.

The station will be stocked with hydrogen produced at Port Kembla.

But the viability of hydrogen as a transportation fuel remains to be proven.

It’s very light. It’s especially energy dense. It’s also a volatile gas that also takes up a lot of storage space.

Cosmos hydrogen: Big decisions for heavy vehicle fuel

The German state of Lower Saxony found these hurdles were sufficient to abandon plans for a hydrogen fuel-cell rail network after several years of evaluation. Instead, it will power the 102 new trains it plans to purchase by 2029 with batteries.

The reason? Battery trains are “cheaper to run”, the state-owned transport company LNVG ruled.

The 14 hydrogen fuel-cell trains in operation since 2018 could run 1,000km on a full hydrogen tank. But refuelling them was a complex and potentially dangerous process.

Electric trains, it found, could be recharged at “charging islands” distributed widely around the existing rail network. And this involved little of the infrastructure and handling expense associated with both hydrogen and diesel types.

The $2 million H2Station at Port Kembla, which received $500,000 in state government assistance, has the advantage of being part of an existing hydrogen facility within a regional economy being geared towards the fuel.

Coregas Executive General Manager Alan Watkins says the station can pump 400kg of hydrogen daily – roughly enough for 10 heavy vehicles.

“We believe this project is a game changer for Australia that will lead the clean mobility revolution by demonstrating the suitability of hydrogen-powered vehicles as a commercially ready solution,” he said.

The Greenlight Project is a year-long look at how regional Australia is preparing for and adapting to climate change.

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