Australia wants to become a leading hydrogen exporter. Now the country has exported the world’s first shipment of liquefied hydrogen, heralding the start of an important new energy export industry. The Australian-produced hydrogen was shipped from Victoria to Japan as part of the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) pilot project. It was transported on a tanker specially built for this purpose. The “Suiso Frontier” built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries – the name Suiso stands for hydrogen in Japanese – is 116 metres long and has 25 crew members. The tanker has a capacity of 1,250 cubic metres of liquid hydrogen, which is maintained at minus 253 degrees Celsius at 1/800th the volume of hydrogen gas. Alan Finkel, chief scientist for the Australian government, described the transport in the “giant thermos” on the ship as a “feat of engineering”.
Instead of burning coal, the HESC project will gasify it in a controlled environment to produce hydrogen gas and enable the capture and storage of carbon dioxide. Christoph Hein, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s South Asia/Pacific business correspondent, points out in his report on the project that scientists at Stanford University have recently shown that hydrogen produced using coal or gas is more harmful to the environment than burning gas directly. Australian arch-billionaire Andrew Forrest, Hein said, also criticised his government’s path as environmentally damaging. “Both his company Fortescue and Woodside Petroleum, also based in Perth, Western Australia, are investing heavily in extracting hydrogen: Woodside wants to produce around 1,500 tonnes of hydrogen a day from 2027 onwards with its H2Perth factory – making it one of the largest in the world. Further projects are planned for Tasmania and the American state of Oklahoma. By 2030, about 5 billion dollars are to be invested in new energies. Fortescue wants to produce ‘green’ hydrogen in the Australian state of Queensland and in Tasmania.”
The total project, including the liquefaction plant, Hein reports, “has been budgeted at just under half a billion dollars, with the Australian government contributing a tenth of that and the Victorian federal government another. The next stage of expansion is expected to cost just under 200 million Australian dollars.” In its later commercial phase, the HESC project should produce 225,000 tonnes of liquefied hydrogen per year.
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