Let’s go hydrogen, let’s go: top scientist

Rebecca Gredley
(Australian Associated Press)


Australia’s chief scientist wants you to get excited about hydrogen.

But Alan Finkel is aware that’s unlikely to happen unless the public knows how safe the emerging energy resource is.

Dr Finkel is creating a national hydrogen strategy, with the federal government flagging its export potential and use as a clean energy source.

“Every effort must be made to protect public health and safety and to provide straightforward answers to any legitimate concerns about producing hydrogen at scale,” he told a forum in Adelaide on Tuesday.

“We must, in short, pay attention to every aspect of hydrogen safety – from down in the weeds, right up to the tree tops – and encourage everyone to get involved in this endeavour.”

South Australian premier Steven Marshall also addressed the International Conference on Hydrogen Safety, announcing the state’s own $1 million action plan.

Hydrogen produces water vapour and heat when burned.

It’s close to a zero-emissions fuel when produced from water using renewable electricity, or from coal or methane combined with carbon capture and storage.

Once produced, it can be exported as liquefied hydrogen – similar to the way liquefied natural gas is – or turned into another form such as ammonia.

Dr Finkel told the crowd how the Australian Antarctic Division had switched from diesel fuel to hydrogen in 2005.

Using energy from wind turbines to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, the Antarctic team created renewable hydrogen and transported it in cylinders on a quad bike.

It fuelled cooking stoves and created electricity for heaters, lights, computers and a bread-maker.

“Proving that even in the coldest, darkest, most-hostile continent on Earth, where special materials and construction techniques are often required, hydrogen energy can be safely and effectively harnessed for human benefit,” Dr Finkel said.

“The principle is that we can have our cake and eat it too.”

The national strategy is slated for release by year’s end and considers five main areas.

They include using hydrogen as a transport fuel, its potential for electricity and introducing it to existing gas networks.

Meanwhile, Resources Minister Matt Canavan has been spruiking hydrogen’s future as an Australian export in Asia.

Senator Canavan has inked a letter of intent with South Korea, indicating the two countries will create a hydrogen action plan by the end of this year.

A new Geoscience Australia report shows the nation’s potential for hydrogen, which he will use when addressing energy ministers in Japan.


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