The Philippines is a 7,000-island archipelago with a population of more than 108 million people. However, there are only three key zones in the country that are inhabited and becoming increasingly overcrowded. This has created an urgent need to decentralise how the population lives, including how it consumes energy and the type available on its islands.
Currently, coal is the dominant fuel source powering the country. Intermittent electricity supply and unreliable power infrastructure have caused longstanding issues, compounded by a heavy reliance on diesel powered generators, mainly used by households on the country’s remote islands to generate electricity for domestic and commercial use.
The country however has recognised the need to reduce its CO2 emissions and invest in renewable, sustainable energy. Late in 2020, the House of Representatives adopted resolutions to support the call to declare a climate emergency.  Additionally, a moratorium was placed on new coal power proposals, signalling a desire to increase the amount of renewable energy in the energy mix.
The Republic of the Philippines has a vision for energy independence bolstered by a zero-emission manufacturing industry that provides sustainable jobs into the future. Investing in the technology and critical infrastructure to secure the country’s energy future became an obvious course of action.
Using a unique Australian innovation – the Hydrogen Energy Release Optimizer, or HERO® – Star Scientific Ltd is now working with the Department of Energy of the Republic of the Philippines under a first-of-a-kind Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to help drive the country’s energy self-sufficiency using green hydrogen as a fuel source. This is a critical step in achieving energy independence while reducing the country’s emissions.
The S&P Platts award-winning HERO® technology is a true catalyst that converts hydrogen and oxygen into heat and water, without degrading the catalyst. The catalyst is usually applied to a metal substrate in the form of a coating. When introduced to hydrogen and oxygen in a closed environment the catalyst acts quickly to generate industrial scale heat without combustion – over 700 degrees Celsius in just over three minutes. The only other output is pure water, which can be re-used in the process of hydrogen generation.
HERO® can be run continuously without any detriment to the catalyst itself turning hydrogen into continuous industrial heat. This ranges from the heaviest of industry such as coal-fired power stations and steel mills, through to scaled-down local assets for specific locations such as district heating and desalination.
For the Philippines, which is largely reliant on imported fossil fuels, HERO® heralds the hydrogen revolution and provides an opportunity for energy as well as water security and self-sufficiency in an environmentally sustainable and responsible way.
This is the first major project to lead the transition of an entire nation from fossil fuels to a hydrogen-powered economy. This is no mean feat. Star Scientific and its partner Arup will begin by investigating the existing infrastructure and sources of green hydrogen, particularly from offshore wind power. Wind generated electricity can be used to power electrolysis to produce clean hydrogen that can be stored and used for clean manufacturing, electricity generation and more.
The bigger picture
The opportunity for developing nations should not be understated. Countries such as the Philippines and regions such as Africa can transition entire energy systems to more sustainable sources of energy, helping them ensure energy independence and security. Imagine also, being able to offer global companies zero emissions manufacturing capabilities.
The MoU with the Department of Energy of the Republic of the Philippines represents a significant milestone in the development of the global hydrogen economy. We believe it will usher in a new industrial age that will make cheap, safe, reliable clean energy available to everyone. This will impact a variety of communities from developing countries, such as the Philippines, which do not have access to reliable power right through to larger economies that want to accelerate the energy transition.
Germany for instance has advanced plans to transition to a hydrogen economy. It has several recently de-commissioned coal-fired power stations which we believe have significant useful life if they are retrofitted to run on green hydrogen using the HERO® technology.
There may still be debates around the world on the role of hydrogen in the future energy mix but thanks to a bold and visionary step by the Philippines, we can begin to see the reality of whole economies turning over to hydrogen and a rapid acceleration to sustainable energy on a global scale.
This is just the start; hydrogen is now.
Andrew Horvath is Global Group Chairman of Star Scientific, where he oversees the business strategy and development behind the company’s breakthrough and award-winning technology, HERO®.