Fuel Cell Power Generation Facility of Noel Green Energy in Seoul, South Korea.
The image from Monthly H2 Economy(월간수소경제)
Hydrogen makes up about 75% of the mass in the universe and is the most common element amongst all known elements. Hydrogen is the lightest chemical element, with one proton and one electron. However, hydrogen itself is not freely available; hydrogen is usually bonded to other elements. A good example of this is water, which is the combination of hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen itself is not an energy source and can be considered as an energy carrier rather than a source of energy. It needs to be produced from a primary energy source such as solar energy, wind energy, biomass, natural gas or even nuclear power.
Gyeongdong Hydrogen Charging Station in Ulsan, South Korea
The image from Monthly H2 Economy(월간수소경제 )
Why Develop Hydrogen
Hydrogen has many advantages when we consider its characteristics but importantly it is a clean fuel source,. generating no harmful or toxic emissions and produces only water when it is used as a fuel. In other words’ it emits no pollutants.
A versatile source of energy
Hydrogen is a versatile source of energy and it can be utilised in many ways. It is used primarily in industry but it is also used as rocket fuel, welding, the reduction of metallic ores, the hydrogenation of fats & oils and increasingly, hydrogen fuel cell motor vehicles. Hydrogen can easily be transformed and can be stored as gas or in liquid form and since Hydrogen does not existing in a single state, it combines with other elements like water and hydrocarbons. This means Hydrogen can be transported globally although the technology that will enable the bulk movement and shipping of Hydrogen for export is still developing. This demand for Hydrogen as an energy source is increasing world-wide, with many countries, particularly Europe and SE Asia seeking a cleaner, renewable source of fuel. Hydrogen is emerging as one of the preferred candidates.
Electrolysis is a process that uses electricity to split water (molecules) into hydrogen and oxygen
Electrolysis is the well-known process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen by using electricity. This technology is quite well developed and is currently available in commercial applications. The electrolysis process can also be conducted using renewable energies such as solar power and wind.
Thermochemical processes use heat and chemical reactions to release hydrogen from organic materials such as fossil fuels and biomass
Thermochemical processes use heat and chemical reactions to produce hydrogen from organic materials such as fossil fuels and biomass. This process incorporates: Natural gas reforming, Coal gasification and Biomass gasification, with the Natural gas process which makes use of natural gas to produce hydrogen being the most cost effective and common method at this time.
Direct Solar Water Splitting Processes
The ‘Direct Solar Water Splitting’ process is also known as “Photolytic” which uses radiation to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and is conducted via a Photoelectrochemical and Photobiological process. ‘Direct Solar Water Splitting’ processes are still under development but its future potential is deemed significant.
Biological reactions could be another process to generate hydrogen as microbes such as bacteria and microalgae can generate hydrogen. This process is also in its development phase and is likely to be further advanced in the next decade.
Future Hydrogen Business Prospects in WA
Market Opportunities in Korea, Japan and what this means for WA
East Asian countries are developing their hydrogen infrastructure at a more rapid pace than Australia. National energy policy is focusing upon hydrogen power and it is viewed and favoured by many as the next energy source, the fourth industrial revolution. In particular, Korea and Japan have enacted legislation to enable and encourage Hydrogen infrastructure development. This commitment and roll-out is mainly focused on the hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, with Government incentives available for hydrogen fuel vehicles and subsidies for the construction of hydrogen refuelling stations.
These developments can create market opportunities for Australia with ARENA (2018) reporting the potential that exists to export hydrogen to Korea and Japan. The growing energy demand of these countries, their reliance on imported energy and their inability to supply their own hydrogen as well as their willingness to support and subsidise the hydrogen industry are all favourable factors for Australia. Hydrogen Research & Development also bodes well as does the existing trading relationships established with these Asian countries.
Locational advantage, abundance of available land & renewable energy resources
To produce hydrogen, there are several methods available. The primary process is electrolysis, which separates oxygen and hydrogen from water using electricity. This requires a lot of electricity and when renewable energies are used to generate the electricity such as solar or wind energy we refer to this as green hydrogen. Hydrogen production in Western Australia has significant potential due to the vast amount of land and sunshine hours allowing for the development of solar farms. Add to this the construction of hydrogen processing plants and Western Australia has the potential to acquire a competitive advantage in the production of hydrogen, generated from renewable energy sources on a global scale. There is also the geographical advantage with the proximity of Asian markets which makes Western Australia an ideal location.
Green Hydrogen Stations
Green hydrogen refers to the hydrogen produced from electricity generated from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power and so green hydrogen station is a fuelling station that used renewable energy. This electricity can be generated a remotely from a solar/wind farm or on-site from a commercial sized solar system and hydrogen production facility.
As an emerging, alternative fuel there will be a transition period which will see people migrate away from petrol and diesel vehicles. Hydrogen filling and fuelling infrastructure will increase and the adoption of this zero-carbon emissions fuel will accelerate as the economics makes it feasible. Globally, hydrogen is on the move, there is a Hydrogen highway in Italy and Germany, with dedicated hydrogen fuelling stations installed. And in Australia, Hyundai has only recently unveiled the first of many Hydrogen filling stations as it and Toyota make that push into Hydrogen vehicles.
While the scale may be small the growth in green hydrogen production, hydrogen transport infrastructure and hydrogen vehicles, will combine to drive the transition toward this fuel use. Feasibility studies are being conducted at-a-pace and in Korea Hydrogen buses are being manufactured with plans to have 20% of buses fuelled by hydrogen in the short to medium term.