Photo: Illustration purposes; Courtesy of ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency)

Australia’s green hydrogen outlook

With the goal of clean energy in mind, Australia’s natural gas networks are testing blending hydrogen with gas and producing green methane to replace fossil fuel.

Australia's green hydrogen outlook
Illustration purposes; Courtesy of ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency)

Reuters reports that Australia’s gas pipeline and network owners have already invested A$180 million in projects that involve green hydrogen, in line with Australia’s national and state governments’ support for hydrogen.

This is done in order to help cut carbon emissions and achieve the net-zero goal by 2050.

The companies are working on a shorter time frame than 2050, as some states are pushing to have 10 per cent hydrogen in gas pipelines by 2030, according to Reuters. The companies are thus seeking government funding for hydrogen projects and aim to show how their infrastructure can be used to deliver hydrogen in blends with gas and store hydrogen as a form of renewable energy storage.

A study sanctioned by the government has shown that to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, building a hydrogen distribution network would cost half as much as expanding power networks to serve businesses and industries that currently rely on gas. This would save Australia around A$13 billion.

Ben Wilson, chief executive of Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG), told Reuters: “It’s a business risk we all need to manage. What started out as defensive has become an opportunity, particularly given our renewable energy sources. We can become the world’s largest exporter of green hydrogen.”

A seperate study found that hydrogen can be safely added to gas supplies at up to 10 per cent by volume without having to modify pipelines or appliances.

AGIG is set to start injecting a 5 per cent blend of green hydrogen by volume in gas next month, as the first test of hydrogen into a distribution network in Australia. Jemena is working on a similar government-backed project in Sydney, blending up to 2 per cent hydrogen into the local gas network later this year.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency said to Reuters that more projects are in the works, with pipeline companies shortlisted for A$70 million in hydrogen funding from the government.

The industry is reportedly considering Europe’s energy grid operator E.ON for the future. E.ON is converting a gas pipeline in Germany to deliver pure hydrogen.

The best replacement for natural gas, beyond hydrogen, is considered to be green methane. Possible to producecommercially, methane is chemically the same as natural gas, the fossil fuel.

Australia’s biggest pipeline company APA Group is building a demonstration plant in Queensland that would use solar energy to power an electrolyser to split water, produce hydrogen, and combine that with carbon dioxide extracted from the air to produce methane.

If the project turns out to be successful, it would be compatible with existing LNG infrastructure and there would be no need to retrofit, APA’s head of transformation Hannah McCaughey explained to Reuters. It could help all companies around the world, like APA, that have billions of dollars invested in pipelines serving LNG plants.