The case for hydrogen vehicles in Australia is set to receive a boost with news that car maker Hyundai has secured a supply of green hydrogen from gas utility Jemena.
The deal will see hydrogen produced using wind and solar supplied to one of Australia’s only permanent hydrogen refuelling stations, with green hydrogen to be produced at Jemena’s Western Sydney Green Gas project.
The green hydrogen will be delivered to Hyundai’s Macquarie Park headquarters from early 2021, and allow Hyundai’s refuelling station to supply zero emissions hydrogen fuel for its vehicles. As hydrogen vehicles require much more energy than electric vehicles, it is critically important that the fuel supply is zero emissions.
The dearth of refuelling facilities across Australia has been one of the largest barriers to the adoption of the zero emissions vehicles, and has required vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to overcome some challenging technical and regulatory obstacles.
“A lack of critical refuelling infrastructure is regularly cited as a hand-brake to hydrogen vehicle sales,” Jemena managing director Frank Tudor said in a statement.
“Our agreement with Hyundai and Coregas releases some of that pressure and is an opportunity to demonstrate that renewably generated hydrogen gas can be made directly available to the vehicle and transport sectors.
“The MOU also signals the wider community benefits of our Western Sydney Green Gas project and demonstrates the value of renewable gas to Australia’s transport industry.”
“We are demonstrating that electrolysers not only produce safe and green hydrogen gas to blend with natural gas for home appliances but that they also enable hydrogen to be made available for zero-emission transportation.”
While Jemena will supply the hydrogen to the Hyundai facility, the deal includes an agreement with equipment supplier Coregas to supply the necessary compressor, pipework and connectors for filling and discharging hydrogen.
Coregas hopes that the establishment of permanent hydrogen refuelling facility will be the first step in a much wider expansion of Australia’s hydrogen transport sector.
“This is the first of many small steps needed to accelerate the use of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for transportation in Australia. Coregas looks forward to contributing to the future of clean energy and green transportation in Australia,” Coregas executive general manager Alan Watkins said.
Jemena will install an electrolyser at its Western Sydney facility, with a spokesperson telling The Driven that its expects to have it installed in other September or October, with hydrogen subsequently transported to Hyundai’s headquarters in the Northern Sydney suburb of Macquarie Park.
The announcement follows the ACT government revealing that it has encountered difficulties in establishing a hydrogen refuelling station within the national capital, as Covid-19 related travel restrictions had prevented necessary personnel from travelling.
ACT climate change and sustainability minister Shane Rattenbury told a Smart Energy Council forum last week that the ACT government’s deployment of a 20-strong fleet of Hyundai hydrogen vehicles had been frustrated by the delays, but reaffirmed that the ACT government remained committed to the trial of the Hyundai NEXO vehicles.
The ACT is likely to be the second Australian city with a hydrogen refuelling station, with further refuelling infrastructure planned for Melbourne and Brisbane.
Jemena’s $15 million Western Sydney Green Gas project received $7.5 million in grant funding support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), and in addition to supporting the supply of green hydrogen for transport use, will also explore the blending of green hydrogen in the mains gas network.
Gas companies have looked to green hydrogen as a way of reducing emissions from gas use, without the potential loss of gas customers by replacing part of the fossil gas supply, with hydrogen produced using wind and solar electricity.
However, due to technical limitations, only a small proportion of the mains natural gas supply can be replaced by a green hydrogen alternative, and according to planning documents lodged by Jemena, the Western Sydney Green Gas project will aim for just a 2 per cent hydrogen blending mix.
Hydrogen has significantly different flame characteristics than methane (the main component of natural gas), and the mixing of more than around 10 per cent into the mains gas network may require existing gas appliances to undergo modification to perform.
Unlike the direct replacement that can be achieved with electricity, unless there is a wide scale replacement of gas appliances like cooktops and heating systems, renewable hydrogen is unlikely to provide a like-for-like replacement to fossil fuel gas.