For nearly two decades, Sydney-based Star Scientific has been working on how humanity can transition to a new energy economy, independent of fossil fuels that damage the environment and pose a threat to sustainable future growth.
Backed by philanthropists and scientists who share the company’s passion for solving this problem, Star Scientific has invested $85m in Australian research and development (R&D) to deliver on this ambitious but achievable goal.
Star Scientific’s major breakthrough is the Hydrogen Energy Release Optimiser (HERO®). It produces unlimited, affordable, safe and reliable energy – with zero emissions.
According to the company, this truly innovative source of dispatchable power and heat can propel Australia and the world to overcome the most difficult energy challenges.
H2 View sat down with Andrew Horvath, Star Scientific’s Global Group Chairman, to find out more about the HERO technology and talk about the increased momentum towards hydrogen and its applications in Australia.
Q. What activities related to hydrogen is Star Scientific currently pursuing?
Star Scientific is currently focused on scaling and commercialising our breakthrough technology, the Hydrogen Energy Release Optimiser (HERO®). This green hydrogen-fuelled technology can rapidly produce a clean, zero-emission source of heat, reaching over 700 degrees Celsius in minutes.
The larger the surface area of the catalyst and the more hydrogen is introduced into the system, the more heat is generated. The only byproduct is pure water.
We are also pursuing a research project in conjunction with the University of Newcastle that is investigating the possibility of producing hydrogen from a special catalytic paint. This continues research already begun by RMIT University.
We are undertaking a feasibility study with a major power provider in New South Wales to further refine HERO to suit power plant applications – where we expect it to replace coal boilers as the heat-generator that turns the steam turbines, creating the reliable baseload power needed to keep our grid stable and our economy running as our energy system transitions.
“The major shift has been the increasing recognition of hydrogen’s potential, both by individual states, such as Queensland and Western Australia, and by the federal government. They’ve implemented hydrogen strategies…”
Q. What changes have you seen within the hydrogen ecosystem and community in Australia in the past year?
There’s been a significant increase in momentum towards the creation of a hydrogen economy in Australia. We’ve seen a rapid acceleration of conversations about hydrogen and its applications entering the mainstream media, for example.
This is in line with the International Energy Agency declaring 2019 a critical year for hydrogen, in which it may well fulfil its longstanding potential as a clean energy solution.
The major shift has been the increasing recognition of hydrogen’s potential, both by individual states, such as Queensland and Western Australia, and by the federal government. They’ve implemented hydrogen strategies and put money behind major hydrogen projects designed to either produce hydrogen or test its various applications, or both.
You’ve also got companies like Australian Gas Infrastructure Group, pipeliner Jemena, LNG exporter Woodside Petroleum, France’s Engie and Norway’s Yara involved in early-stage projects in various parts of the supply chain for hydrogen.
Despite this progress, Australia is still a long way from realising its potential to transform wide-ranging parts of our economy, from power generation to transport, industrial heating and more.
We’re looking forward to hearing about more technologies being explored and backed which would ensure Australia makes use of hydrogen’s transformative potential not just as an export, but domestically, as a clean energy source.
Q. What hydrogen-related innovation, application or technology makes you most excited for the future?
Obviously we’re incredibly excited about HERO’s potential. Given the need to transition away from coal-fired power, and with countries like Germany choosing to shut down their coal power stations, we see its most immediate application as replacing coal boilers in existing power plants.
In this way, it can help address one of the several most challenging issues facing the world today.
First, the oppositional relationship/zero-sum game between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ energy economies, where one fears being put out of business by the other, rather than complimenting and relying on one another.
Second, countries can continue to produce the critical baseload energy needed to fill the netload generation gap when renewables like solar and wind can’t meet demand.
Third, by using existing infrastructure, HERO can reduce the overall cost of our energy transition and increase the speed with which we can get there. It would help keep these facilities, many of which have yet to reach the end of their useful lives, and allow us to maintain grid stability – which has come under significant pressure as renewables flood the market. We’re really excited to be getting ever closer to this reality.
Lastly, the demand that HERO creates for green hydrogen will accelerate the realisation of a broader hydrogen economy, encouraging the inevitable realisation of the economies of scale needed to produce clean hydrogen at a feasible cost – with knock-on beneficial impacts across a broad range of industries.
Another innovation/technology Star Scientific is excited about is the super-critical carbon dioxide turbine (sCO₂). While not directly hydrogen related, we believe that in conjunction with HERO’s clean heat generation these tiny, super-efficient turbines will completely transform energy production in the future.
Q. Are there any recent or upcoming hydrogen-related milestones in your company that you are especially proud of?
We recently attended and opened the American Renewable Energy Institute’s AREDAY conference and were awarded the Global Innovation Award by its founder, Chip Comins, for HERO.
This came after I presented on HERO’s role in substituting into coal power stations and accelerating the hydrogen economy, as well as its potential as a heat source for heating buildings, heat-intensive industrial processes and off-grid power.