CSIRO’s renewable hydrogen initiative

CSIRO has launched a $5 million program to boost international collaboration on clean hydrogen research. The program will be run by the CSIRO’s new Hydrogen Industry Mission.

“We need to connect and learn what’s going on globally,” says Dr Patrick Hartley, leader of the Hydrogen Industry Mission.

According to Hartley, the project will “connect our research community to skills and expertise overseas to help our researchers support the development of Australia’s  hydrogen industry.”

The Hydrogen Industry Mission, which launched in May this year, aims to harness research and development to bring Australia’s hydrogen price down to $2 per kilogram, making it competitive with fossil fuels. This will be achieved with partners from government, industry and research.

According to Hartley, cost is a major barrier to the widescale uptake of renewable hydrogen.

“For exporting hydrogen, the biggest simple barrier is cost. Producing hydrogen is economic in some applications, but the additional costs of actually moving it around the world are pretty huge.”

Domestic use of hydrogen also faces a cost barrier, but this varies depending on the use.

“If you’re looking to displace different fossil fuels in different applications, then there are a a range of different hydrogen prices you have to consider.”

“For instance, in the area of transport, you’re talking about expensive fuels like petrol or diesel, and consequently hydrogen can be quite competitive already in that space from a cost perspective.

“But there’s a real problem, which is that the infrastructure doesn’t exist. Things like building fuelling stations, sourcing hydrogen vehicles and making hydrogen vehicles potentially here in Australia are all challenges that need to be met. R&D can help establish some of those industries.”

CSIRO is interested in a variety of research avenues, including examining both ammonia and liquid hydrogen for export, green steelmaking, and hydrogen in transport.

Interest in hydrogen is rapidly increasing, with demonstration projects beginning now to produce, move and use renewable hydrogen, but it won’t become a major part of our energy infrastructure overnight.

“Most people who work in this area recognise that it’s going to take a while to get it to scale,” says Hartley.

“We talk about 2030 as really the start of the industry at scale.”

In the meantime, plenty of work will be done to figure out where hydrogen can become competitive with other energy sources. Much of this research will be shared through the HyResource website, which CSIRO has developed with its partners to showcase Australia’s hydrogen industry developments.

“The hydrogen industry is a real opportunity for Australia, and we’re trying to help it along here at the CSIRO,” says Hartley.

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