Why is hydrogen export important?
In short, it’s about opportunity.
International studies acknowledge Australia has the renewable energy resources and capacity to become a clean hydrogen export powerhouse. And a study by the Federal Government found that Australia has the potential to export up to 500,000 tonnes of hydrogen by 2030.
Establishing a hydrogen export industry would create thousands of new jobs and add billions of dollars to GDP as we transition away from exporting fossil fuels.
Our climate and resources make Australia the perfect place to produce green hydrogen. In fact, Geoscience Australia estimates that ~11% of Australia is highly suitable for renewable hydrogen production.
There’s ample sunshine and good coastal and inland winds to drive renewable energy production in areas that are relatively close to our coasts and cities and, therefore, relatively easy to transport.
Not all countries have the same advantage. While all will have at least some wind and solar, not all have high-quality renewables or enough space to meet their energy needs. Certainly not compared to a future renewables powerhouse like Australia.
We asked UNSW Professor Iain MacGill, who leads the Australian project on an Australia-Germany partnership called HySupply, which is tasked with exploring the feasibility of green hydrogen exports from Australia to Germany.
"Germany is a great example. When it comes to hydrogen, it’s a forward-thinking and ambitious nation. In its detailed and well-established hydrogen strategy, it lays out plans to build more electrolysers and double the demand for hydrogen. But the country faces a significant shortfall between the amount of hydrogen it can produce and what it needs. In other words, it will have to find more hydrogen from somewhere.
We know from the European hydrogen strategy that the shortfall can’t be generated within the European Union itself. As a result, the German Government has invested $2 billion into looking at the feasibility of international partnerships, and one of the countries they are looking at is Australia."
"The reason they’ve developed these plans is that the potential uses for green hydrogen are so broad."
"The more progressive countries—those championing clean energy transition—are acutely aware of hydrogen’s potential and the key role it needs to play in the transition.
Already, 26 have a hydrogen strategy and there’s an expectation that a further 22 will follow this year."
"Based on what we expect to happen from these strategies, by the early 2030s, the potential demand for green hydrogen (and, by extension, green ammonia) could require electrolysis capacity in excess of 3000MW.
A study by the Australian Government found that Australia has the potential to export up to 500,000 tonnes of hydrogen by 2030. That represents a major economic opportunity for us. Establishing a hydrogen export industry would create thousands of new jobs and add billions of dollars to GDP as we transition away from exporting fossil fuels.
But it’s an opportunity that will not exist forever; there’s plenty of competition. If Australia waits too long to act, it risks losing market share to other potential hydrogen export countries in North Africa, the Middle East and South America.
We are also targeting our traditional coal and LNG export markets. Australian governments and industry are actively exploring export-oriented projects with Asian partners who are looking for clean energy fuels to achieve their decarbonisation targets.
It makes sense for both hydrogen importing and exporting countries to support the development of international hydrogen trade with a diverse range of buyers and sellers.
At our end, this is something being looked at by the ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for the Global Hydrogen Economy (GlobH2E)."
We posed this question to Professor Sami Kara, the founder and academic-in-charge of the Sustainable Manufacturing and Life Cycle Engineering Research Group at UNSW. He is Joint Director of the Joint German-Australian Research Group and a Chief Investigator for GlobH2E and the HySupply Initiative.
“As the world shifts to renewables, our traditional fossil-fuel exports will dry up. No matter how much renewable energy we produce, we are very unlikely to export it as electricity.
The Sun Cable project aims to do exactly that, by taking electricity from Darwin to Singapore through 5,000 km of undersea cable—but it’s a capital-intensive undertaking.
If we use hydrogen as an energy carrier, it has the potential to fill the void our fossil fuel exports will leave behind and become the flagship of our future export economy.
However, this will depend on the timely scaling-up of renewable energy supply and the accelerated development of hydrogen technologies in key industry sectors.”