Two years ago, Energy Networks Australia launched Gas Vision 2050 – a vision that describes how transformational technologies can be deployed to achieve reliable, secure energy and cost-effective carbon reductions from gaseous fuel use.
Since then, industry has invested in research and development, policy analysis and pilot projects to demonstrate these new technologies, with a focus on the role of hydrogen.
According to a new report released this week by Energy Networks Australia and the Australian Pipelines and Gas Association (APGA), $180m in funding has been committed for hydrogen infrastructure projects since the release of Gas Vision 2050.
Hydrogen Innovation – Delivering on the Vision says the two associations plan is to demonstrate the viability of these technologies by the mid-2020s and then start reducing emissions in individual networks, with the objective of full conversion across the country to zero emissions gas in the longer term.
More than 70% of Australian homes are connected to gas, either through a network connection or from gas in cylinders. In the future, the energy supplied by gas will need to be decarbonised.
There is global momentum to reduce emissions from electricity with renewable generation technologies and there is growing recognition that the energy supplied by gas networks cannot be practically electrified.
Gas businesses are undertaking innovative projects to ensure they are ready to take advantage of current and future decarbonisation opportunities. The innovation includes research and development, hydrogen production and use technologies and studies to demonstrate the full conversion to hydrogen.
“…it is expected that the cost of hydrogen will be competitive with natural gas within the next five to 10 years”
Producing renewable hydrogen is already being demonstrated in Canberra and Perth, and by early-2020, two more projects – in Adelaide and western Sydney – will come online. Across these projects, more than 2MW of hydrogen production capacity will be installed that can deliver renewable hydrogen.
Supporting research and development can produce new technologies to further lower the cost of hydrogen production and accelerate the transition to hydrogen. The technical learning and social engagement from these projects will lead to larger scale projects aimed at injecting renewable gas into networks and delivering cleaner gas to our customers.
Through these activities, it is expected that the cost of hydrogen will be competitive with natural gas within the next five to 10 years.
Hydrogen is not a new substance, it’s the most prominent element in the universe and most materials on earth contain it.
There have been waves of hydrogen development in recent history mainly linked to the price of oil and concern about climate change, the International Energy Agency’s The Future of Hydrogen states.
But this time momentum is different and at a much grander scale. Hydrogen is being pursued by many countries and businesses as an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy and to create new energy businesses. Numerous countries have also established their own hydrogen strategies.
The report says the reason most often cited for pursuing hydrogen is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across many sectors including mobility, industry, electricity and heat.
Like natural gas, hydrogen is an odourless and colourless gas that burns with air to provide heat. This heat can be used in many applications.
Hydrogen can also be reacted in a fuel cell to produce both heat and electricity. A major advantage of hydrogen is that it provides this energy without releasing greenhouse gases.
There are several commercial pathways to produce hydrogen and new avenues also being developed. Electrolysers can act as flexible demand that can be paired with intermittent wind and solar to take advantage of excess renewable generation, providing value to renewable generation as well as hydrogen production and use sectors.
As the renewable generation sector expands, the opportunity for large scale renewable hydrogen production grows with it, the report states.
Equally when natural gas is used to produce hydrogen, the greenhouse gas by-product can be captured and geologically stored, resulting in a similarly clean fuel.
Hydrogen offers an opportunity to reduce emissions from various applications such as industrial use, passenger vehicles, household appliances and can even cultivate a new export sector.
Hydrogen produced via renewables also provides a new source of gaseous fuel that can be used to supplement tightening domestic gas supplies.
The report says, “Realising the potential of hydrogen will require collaboration between industry, government and academia. Hydrogen creates opportunities across many sectors of the economy, although there are also several challenges to be resolved. Innovation will lead to cost reductions in the production and utilisation of hydrogen.”
The full report can be found here.