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Will Australia’s ‘hydrogen road’ to Japan cut emissions?

By November 20, 2020January 4th, 2022No Comments

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Will Australia’s ‘hydrogen road’ to Japan cut emissions?

Nov 20, 2020 • Financial Times

A joint Canberra-Tokyo effort is designed to create a cost-effective supply chain for an elusive source of clean energy

A Japanese-Australian consortium is set to begin producing hydrogen from brown coal in a A$500m ($370m) pilot project seen by its architects as the first step in creating one of the world’s first zero emission energy supply chains.

The project, which is co-funded by both governments, includes the development of the world’s first liquid hydrogen transport ship. Tokyo hopes it can provide Japan, a nation that according to World Bank, imports 90% of its energy, a viable path towards decarbonisation.

The companies leading the Latrobe project believe it can become a catalyst towards establishing a global hydrogen economy, which is forecast to be worth up to $11tn by 2050, according to Bank of America. The Latrobe plant is just one of several hydrogen megaprojects in the planning or development phase in nations ranging from Saudi Arabia to China and Spain.

The potential market for Australian hydrogen can be found at the base of Tokyo Tower, where the industrial gases company Iwatani has built a filling station for fuel cell cars. It is one of 135 such stations spread across Japan — symbolic of the decades-long bet the country has placed on hydrogen.

For reasons of energy security and industrial strategy, Japan has long regarded hydrogen as the most attractive potential alternative to fossil fuels, and it has an ambitious strategy to build up use of the fuel. Its plans involve mixing hydrogen with natural gas to burn in power stations and having 800,000 hydrogen vehicles on the road by 2030 — a major advance on the 3,757 sold in Japan to the end of 2019.

Australia’s ruling Liberal party — a staunch supporter of coal and gas — has already begun preparing for an energy transition. In October Canberra awarded “major project” status to a $36bn renewable energy project, which aims to build the world’s biggest power station and export green hydrogen and ammonia from a remote desert in the outback to Asia.

Called the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, it is backed by Vestas, the wind turbine group, Intercontinental Energy, Macquarie Group and CWP Renewables. It involves building a massive solar and wind farm on a 6,500 sq km site in the Pilbara, a region in Western Australia better known as a source of LNG.

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