New research has found that a project using Victorian lignite to make hydrogen is unlikely to achieve claimed emissions reductions.
- Environmental claims by consortium trying to produce hydrogen from coal for export are misleading, new study from Australia Institute
- The institute says its calculations show the hydrogen energy supply chain project is likely to increase carbon emissions rather than reduce them
- Companies behind the hydrogen project say they are confident they can keep emissions low
The Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain project aims to test whether it is possible to produce hydrogen from coal for export.
The first shipment of liquefied hydrogen created from coal mined at the Loy Yang lignite mine in the Latrobe Valley was shipped to Japan This year.
A consortium of Japanese and Australian companiesincluding Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Japanese energy giant J-Power and AGL, owner of Loy Yang, are behind the rider.
But to reach the commercialization stage, the consortium will rely on carbon capture storage to reduce emissions and make it carbon neutral.
The consortium plans to use the Victorian Government Carbon Netwhich is still in the development phase.
The Federal and Victorian governments have provided over $50 million for the supply chain pilot project.
Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor and the consortium said the project would reduce emissions by 1.8 million tonnes a year if it reached commercialization.
They said that would be equivalent to the emissions of 350,000 gasoline-powered cars.
Think tank says emissions claims are misleading
The independent public policy think tank, the Australia Institute, said it had obtained freedom of information documents which revealed that this show claim was misleading because it compared the project to other projects of hydrogen gas, which did not use carbon capture storage.
The director of the Australia Institute’s emerging climate and energy program, Richie Merzian, said the supply chain project would add between 2.9 and 3.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. it was compared to the production of renewable hydrogen, without carbon capture storage.
He said that was equivalent to adding 550,000 to 735,000 gas-powered cars on the road.
“These numbers make comparisons incorrectly (so) it looks like this project will reduce emissions when we know they will actually increase,” he said.
However, a spokesman for the coalition government said the estimate of the reduction in hydrogen emissions from coal, including carbon capture storage technology, was obtained using figures from the International Energy Agency and CSIRO.
“Both the International Energy Agency and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have recognized that carbon capture and storage technologies are essential to meeting global emission reduction targets” , said the spokesperson for the Coalition’s campaign headquarters.
Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain consortium spokesman Jeremy Stone said the Australia Institute’s analysis was “factually incorrect” because they assumed carbon capture storage would not be part of the project.
“Our calculations on carbon reductions … relate to what will happen when the hydrogen energy supply chain proceeds to carbon capture and storage,” he said.
“We have now produced pure hydrogen through the gasification of a mixture of biomass and coal, which gives us the potential to commercially produce carbon-neutral and possibly carbon-negative hydrogen (when it is combined with carbon capture storage).”
Carbon Capture Storage Debate
Mr Merzian said the supply chain trial should not be called “clean hydrogen” because the carbon capture storage had been a “colossal failure”.
Carbon capture storage involves capture carbon dioxide at the production site and then pumping it deep underground where it can migrate into a porous substrate, such as sandstone, and become trapped.
“The reason we’re still talking about carbon capture and storage is because the fossil fuel companies wanted it as a marketing tool to claim they can clean up their act and continue to expand their footprint,” Merzian said. .
The coalition government spokesman said there were 29 commercial carbon capture storage facilities operating around the world and more than 100 projects were in various stages of development.
Esso Australia, which has oil and gas operations off the coast of Victoria, recently received around $40 million in federal government grants for its South East Australia Carbon Capture and Storage Hubs project.
Esso has been contacted for comment.
“The only way to bring these technologies to maturity is to make wise investments in their development and deployment,” the Coalition spokesperson said.
Australians baffled by ‘clean hydrogen’
The Australia Institute also released a poll revealing that many people were confused by the term “clean hydrogen”.
Only a fifth of 1,007 people polled knew its correct definition, which was set by the federal government and used hydrogen made from fossil fuels and carbon capture storage or renewable energy.
The poll showed that 42% of respondents thought “clean hydrogen” was limited to hydrogen using renewable energy, a zero-emission process.
“The poll shows that people don’t know what clean hydrogen is, so (we) have to drop that term and call it what it is,” Merzian said.
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