New research from The Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program has identified serious concerns with hydrogen demand projections, regularly cited by state and federal governments, energy experts and industry figures, which overstate potential export demand by a factor of up to 11.
Due to this supposedly high demand, COAG Ministers last week pledged $370 million to support the development of fossil fuel hydrogen projects, which rely heavily on controversial and as yet unsuccessful carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
Hytrojan: Is hydrogen the next “clean coal”?
According to the report, ‘Hytrojan’, CCS continues to be a costly and concerning failure in Australia and across the world, falling far behind nearly every target set for it.
Australia’s flagship CCS project at Gorgon LNG was obliged to sequester carbon from 2016, only started ramping up in August 2019, to levels that remain uncertain, and yet has faced no penalties. It enjoys Commonwealth government subsidy and complete indemnity from carbon leakage liabilities. Gorgon’s CCS failures have been responsible for half the increase in Australia’s annual CO2 emissions.
“Exporting hydrogen to the world is a big opportunity for Australia in the future but it needs to be done right, not rushed, and our efforts must be based on facts, not fiction” says Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at The Australia Institute.
“Prematurely establishing a hydrogen export industry based on highly inflated demand figures may lock out the cleanest form of hydrogen, using renewable energy and electrolysis, because the technology isn’t cost competitive at this stage.
“If hydrogen development is rushed in Australia it could see fossil fuels locked in as a global energy source for decades to come. The emissions will make it impossible to comply with Australia’s obligations under the Paris Agreement.
“A decade ago the fossil fuel industry promoted clean coal using CCS and now it is promoting hydrogen using the same unsuccessful technology. CCS projects have repeatedly failed to live up to promises, both domestically and globally, and missed their targets by a very large margin time and time again.
“The only way to make hydrogen truly sustainable is to produce it using water and powered by renewable energy sources. Australia has time to establish and lead a global renewable hydrogen industry and should focus research and development efforts in that area exclusively.”
• The full report, written by Moeno Kaitsu, Tom Swann and Audrey Quicke, is available here: