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Hydrogen Forum Churchill - Overview

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

Dan Caffrey recently attended the Hydrogen Forum - A pathway to environmental and regional prosperity - where to for Gippsland, which was hosted by Federation University and Australian Carbon Innovation (formerly Brown Coal Innovation Australia). Here is his comprehensive report on behalf of Latrobe Valley Sustainability Group.

Hydrogen from coal has been a concern for some environmental groups because it requires carbon capture and storage and increased export facilities. For more information


The day began at 8:30 am and consisted of 10 sessions with a panel Q & A at the end.

View of the ACI presented by Gerry Morvell, Chair of ACI who MC’d the day

The day was organised by Australian Carbon innovation (ACI) which used to be Brown Coal Innovation Australia.

ACI now concedes that the use of brown coal for electricity generation, is not possible in todays carbon constrained environment.

It is now concentrating on alternative uses for brown coal, the most promising of which is the Coal to Hydrogen initiative. (C2H)

ACI says the Latrobe Valley is the ideal place for development of coal to hydrogen because of the following factors

  • Abundance of resource

  • Skilled industrial workforce

  • Hydrogen is the perfect energy source because it emits no carbon dioxide when used

  • Nearby to a geological formation which can sequester carbon dioxide i.e. Bass Strait

Issued a warning for the region to grab this as an opportunity before someone, somewhere else does.

Speaker 1: Graeme Middelmiss, Mayor of Latrobe City

Spoke on be half of Latrobe City Council

  • Has met representatives from KHI and J power and is committed to seeing the hydrogen industry developed in the Latrobe Valley

  • He sees hydrogen is the way of the future for the valley.

Speaker 2: professor Chris Hutchinson Debbie Vice Chancellor, deputy vice chancellor at Fed Uni

  • Chris is also research and innovation director at Fed Uni

  • Fed Uni is a regional research provider, assisting the development of lignite resources, especially in the field of environmental science and mathematics

  • Interested in stabilising mines, reusing old mines for industry and recreation

  • Also interested in remodelling our farming system, noting that the Netherlands produce as much agricultural wealth as Australia does from an area about the size of Central Gippsland

  • Incidentally he supports the school children strike and is a keen supporter of hydrogen as a limitless supply of zero emissions energy

Speaker 3: Steve Demopoulos, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer of Victoria

Steve was happy to supply figures which show the Andrews government has been doing a good job for the Latrobe Valley, such as the $266 million package for the Hazelwood transition. $100 million dollars for plantation investment and another $100 million dollars for industry start-ups.

  • Government estimates 1.8 to 2.5 trillion-dollar hydrogen market by 2050.

  • The State Labor Government is supporting the development of a hydrogen facility at Hastings and the progressing of CarbonNet to sequester CO2 under Bass Strait

  • $50 million was given by the state government to KHI and JPower to develop the pilot plant for Coal to Hydrogen on top of another fifty million from the Federal Government

  • This will be the largest hydrogen pilot project in the world.

Speaker 4: Dr Alan Finkel, Chief Scientist for Australia

His talk gave no comfort to either side of the debate about coal to hydrogen. He seemed to be saying that his modelling was based on Green hydrogen and seemed to infer that this was the preferred option, however that hydrogen sourced from renewables would not be able to supply the estimated demand by 2050. Hence the need to consider C2H.

  • Talk was titled Scale and Diversity = Opportunity

  • Says the biggest threat to the world is climate change

  • Gave some interesting figures resources of world-wide emissions

  1. Energy 72%

  2. Bunker Fuels 6 %

  3. Industrial Processes 6%

  4. Agriculture 11%

  5. Others 7%

  • Of the zero-emissions tool kit, only wind and solar are cheap enough, socially acceptable and scalable

Also that in the global energy mix to 2018, (not just electricity) wind and solar only made up 1.2 %. Fossil fuels made up 80%. Biomass was 9 %, Hydro 4 % and nuclear 6 %.

Electricity meets most needs, but we need a high density, transportable fuel, which is why hydrogen is needed.

The 2 problems are scale and diversity


To provide a hydrogen supply equal to the export volume of present day Australian LNG exports – 70 megatonnes (Mt), we need to produce 30 Mt of hydrogen. Producing hydrogen from solar or wind, we would need 8 times the present generation capacity of Australia per year to do this.

This amounts to 1,980 terawatt hours (TWh) of solar or wind. This would be equivalent to 18,000 km2 of solar panels or about ¾ of an average Northern Territory cattle station.

This will not happen overnight.


Hydrogen from coal or natural gas is the third form of Primary energy production of hydrogen

  • Must have access to CCS and up to 95% of the CO2 needs to be captured.

  • Of the coal available, only soft brown coal would be suitable and combined with the saline substrate of Pelican Formation off Golden Beach as a sequestration site, makes C2H in the LV a proposition to be looked at.

  • Shipping hydrogen has been problematic, but now containment vessels made from carbon fibre are being produced to withstand extremely high pressures. As well, the hydrogen could be converted to ammonia and shipped as a liquid at more or less normal temperatures.

The HESC – (Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain) has been set up primarily to test the transport of hydrogen across the sea.

In the short term, it has been hypothesised that H2C is the cheapest form of hydrogen production.

Why the HESC pilot is likely to succeed

  • Japan, California, Sth Korea as well to a lesser extent, China have said that they want to transition their transport economies to run on hydrogen

  • It is now cheaper to produce than it used to be

  • CCS for hydrogen is likely to be cost competitive

  • Fuel cell transport enables truck, trains, ferries to use hydrogen as fuel and prototypes are starting to appear all over the place now

  • Another use being trialled by Jemema in NSW and also in SA is to blend 10% hydrogen into the natural gas network

  • There is recognition that the abundance of resource for making hydrogen exists world wide in solar, wind, natural gas and coal.

  • Norway, Russia, Qatar and some North African countries including Algeria and Morocco are starting to develop hydrogen

The National Hydrogen Strategy to be released in December 2019 lists the following reasons for developing hydrogen in Australia.

  1. To export

  2. To supply gas networks

  3. Transport

  4. Industry

  5. Energy Storage and response loading (hydrogen balancing in the grid)

Speaker 5: Dr Patrick Hartley CSIRO

He is working on the CSIRO’s National Hydrogen Roadmap for Australia

Main points:

  • By 2050, CSIRO estimates that to keep the temperature rise to under 2 °C

  1. Renewable Energy will be 32 % of the solution

  2. Energy Efficiency 32%

  3. Fuel switching 10%

  4. Nuclear 11%

  5. CCS 15%

  • The current value of hydrogen produced worldwide is US$ 199.1 billion of which 54% is for ammonia production

  • Hydrogen export possibility due to market emerging after 2024

  • Australia has a comparative advantage for hydrogen

  1. Strong technologically

  2. Geographically close to main markets

  3. Has the resources

  4. Already many demonstration pilot schemes are up and running or being planned

  5. The technology for making hydrogen from steam/methane reforming is strong and adapting it to use the same reaction for brown coal is not all that more difficult

  • Cost projections:

  1. The projected cost of C2H using LV coal is about $3.50 – $3.80/ kg, reducing to about $3 with scale, but is not expected to get much cheaper than this.

  2. The present cost of producing hydrogen from electrolysis is about $5.70/kg. This is expected to reduce to $2.50/kg by 2030.

  3. Already it would be economical to run cars, buses and trucks on hydrogen

  4. Remote area power systems could use it economically by 2025.

  • Main stopper at the moment is that more work needs to be done on transporting it.

Speaker 6: Richard Bolt, founder of BCIA, now ACI and co-founder of the HESC

What does this mean for the region?

Richard believes that this industry will elevate Gippsland to “almost paradise”.

He is of the opinion that the C2H operation will be sustainable for another 200 years from now.

Our comparative advantages in Gippsland are

  • Massive coal resource

  • Transmission capacity

  • Existing pipeline capacity

  • Port of Hastings upgrade

  • Barry Beach industrial facility and port

  • 2000 MW pf off-shore wind

  • CCS with Pelican Formation and with the empty gas wells once all the gas and oil has been extracted from them

He is also Director of Strategy and Innovation at Swinburne Uni and would like to see carbon fibre from coal and enhanced agriculture similar to the Netherlands.

Speaker 7: Gabrielle Henry – DELWP and is also Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer in Victoria

In contrast to the previous speakers, DELWP has been concentrating on Green Hydrogen

There are two ways of producing Green hydrogen

  • Alkaline electrolyser to enhance the electrolysis of water

  • Use a PEM fuel cell (PEM = proton exchange membrane)

The alkyliser is the more mature technology and requires high temperatures, but the water does not have to be pure. The PEM technology works at lower temperatures, but the water has to be deionised or distilled first to attain the purity required and the PEM is not as robust and needs to be replaced regularly.

The state Govt is developing a pathway of development involving strategic policies, investment, leveraging private players as well and also working to develop a National strategy through COAG.

The tone was set by the Victorian Govt Climate Change Act 2017

  • 4 pillars – Zero emissions by 2050, Clean energy development, Electrify as much of industry and transport as possible and finally, carbon storage

  • Renewable Energy Targets

  1. 25% by 2020

  2. 40 % by 2025

  3. 50% by 2030

There are 1500 MW of wind projects approved and 3000 MW of solar after 2020 and this has translated into 900 new jobs and 600 of these are on-going.

The Victorian Hydrogen Investment Program (VHIP)has been created to enhance the roll out of clean hydrogen.

This includes supporting CarbonNet.

DELWP will release a discussion paper for Green Hydrogen in September this year on the website

She sees opportunities for Victoria with clean hydrogen

  • Abundant renewable energy

  • The existence of the natural gas pipeline network

  • Good incubator of trials to develop innovation

Opportunities for Gippsland

  • Strong transmission and pipeline infrastructure

  • RE resources plentiful

  • Centre of electricity expertise

  • Skilled work force

  • Hydrogen pipeline pathway has been started

Speaker 8: Two engineers from JPower, Seiji Honzo and Kojii Immata

  1. Emphasised that the C2H project would not go ahead unless there was CCS

  2. a. Will produce and collect gas at Loy Yang, then transport it to the Port of Hastings

  3. It will then be liquefied and transported to Japan by special tanker

  4. The cost of LV hydrogen is estimated to be 29.7 Yen/ Nm3 in 2030 ~ US3.00/kg

  5. But they hope to have it down to about US$1.30 / kg as a target after that

  6. The process of making the hydrogen gas is extremely energy intensive

  7. Gasifier temperature of 1200° – 1600 °C

  8. 3 MPa (about 30 atmosphere) pressure for the water shift reaction

  9. Speaking to them afterwards, I asked them about the ratio of energy IN to energy OUT and they told me that it is about 68 % efficient overall. This contrasts well with our coal fired power stations which only manage to convert about 30-35 % of the energy burnt to electricity.

  10. Their figure is supported by DR Finkel when I asked him the same question and he said “basically for every MWh you put in, you get 0.7 MWh out ie. ~70%.

When I asked him if this included liquefication of the hydrogen as well, he said it certainly did not. This requires an enormous amount of extra energy to cool and pressurise the hydrogen to the equivalent of – 259 ° C (at normal pressure) which is extra to the hydrogen production itself. When this is added to the overall energy balance the efficiency is greatly reduced.

Speaker 9: Bradley Page, CEO of the CCS Institute. He has also chaired the CSIRO Energy and Transport Council

The mission of the CCS Institute is to accelerate CCS technology worldwide. There are offices in Washington, London, Beijing, Brussels and Tokyo. There are 62 member organisations and is self-funded.

  • They see themselves into the future as being more for CDR – carbon dioxide removal and are looking at taking CO2 directly out of the atmosphere.

  • Every technology is required to fight climate change incl. CCS

Projected comparative costs for H2 by 2030

  • Electrolysis using Renewables - $2.80

  • Natural gas using CCS $ 3.00

  • C2H Using CCS $ a little more than $3

He mentioned several places using CCS now – several in Canada and The USA, the Quest project being one to look at.

None of these is being used to sequester power station CO2 . It is only used so far for enhanced oil recovery (to inject into oil and gas wells to chase out more oil and gas.) (Creating more greenhouse gases).

CCS could be used with C2H as the CO2 is concentrated and not mixed with a lot of other gases.

He asserted that Climate Change mitigation does not mean ‘no fossil fuels’, but does mean dealing with the CO2.

Unions are now supporting CCS, such as the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers

Competing Projects around the world

  • Qatar is now seriously looking at H from natural gas and they have the best CCS potential in the world, so if the LV wants to compete, we better get going now

  • He cited other successful CCS projects around the world

  1. Sleipner off Norway where CO2 which has been pumped up with the oil and gas is separated injected back down the gas wells.

  2. Gorgon project off WA, which has just started injecting CO2 back down the gas wells

  3. QUEST in Alberta

  • Most of these projects are only possible because of a carbon tax.

Speaker 9: Prof Peta Ashworth, Chair of the Sustainable Energy Futures (Chemical Engineering Dept Fed Uni)

She is a researcher looking into social licence

Her main contention was that most LV residents want 100% Renewable Energy and have a certain scepticism about C2H.

There is distrust of larger corporations coming into an area and proposing projects like this

They must look at Procedural and Distributive fairness to gain Social Licence

The critical points are

  • Who benefits?

  • Is the process fair?

  • Will locals have a say?

  • Will anyone listen to our concerns as locals?

  • Who can I call?

Most of all, meaningful and trusting relationships need to be built between locals and operators to manage environmental and health risks.

Speaker 10: David Brear, Director Melbourne Energy Institute, University of Melbourne


  2. Can be measured in dollar terms

  3. In perspective, James Hansen (NASA) estimates that 70,000 to 80,000 lives are saved annually by nuclear energy, due to the reduction in air pollution. So is nuclear not better from a risk perspective?

  4. Is H2 safer than other fuels? It is more flammable than petrol or diesel – lower fuel to air ratio needed for flammability.

  5. However, it is very much lighter than air and quickly goes straight up into the atmosphere rather than spreading out as methane or LPG would.

  6. Hydrogen is commonly used already in industry and the risks are managed.

Speaker 11: Troy D’Souza. Toyota

  1. Is in charge of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car trial program in Australia.

  2. Global markets are driving the push for zero emissions vehicles and it will come to Australia .

  3. The Toyota Mirai has a 550 km km range and can be refuelled in just 3- 5 minutes.

  4. The development of the Mirai is based on a green hydrogen economy being achievable in the medium-term

  5. Toyota have a Mirai loan program and several city councils have taken up the offer including Moreland in Melbourne. Several hydrogen vehicles are presently being loaned in Victoria with others in other parts of Australia.

  6. The technology is based on a hydrogen fuel cell which converts hydrogen to electricity and water. The electricity produced powers an electric motor. In effect it is an electric vehicle. The only waste product from the exhaust is pure water.

  7. The old Toyota production facility in Altona is now the Hydrogen Centre, where a small solar farm converts water to electricity by electrolysis.

  8. Toyota and Hyundai are working together in a group called hydro mobility Australia.

Overall Impression of the Day

It had good and bad for both sides of the debate. The ACI did not get it all their own way and significant problems exist for commercialising C2H and in the end, it may be that the cost of providing CCS and running the C2H technology may be less economic if renewable hydrogen comes down in price as predicted. The CSIRO and the Victorian Govt were not openly backing C2H over renewables and both these parties expect Green hydrogen to be cheaper than the coal technology by 2030.

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