Gas pipeline owner Jemena has launched Australia’s biggest trial to generate hydrogen from renewables and inject it into existing gas network, which could see homes and businesses in Sydney begin using the fuel within five years.
The two-year project has won $7.5 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The grant will be used to build a a demonstration scale 500 kW electrolyzer at Jemena’s facility in western Sydney, which will be able to generate enough hydrogen to power approximately 250 homes.
The project – known as Project H2GO – will connect to Jemena’s existing gas network which delivers gas to 1.3 million customers in New South Wales.
If the trial is successful, Jemena says it will look to expand it across the NSW network.
“In the future Australians will need to decide what to do with excess renewable energy on very windy or very sunny days,“ said Frank Tudor, Jemena Managing Director.
“Jemena’s Project H2GO will demonstrate how existing gas pipeline technology can store excess renewable energy for weeks and months, making it more efficient than batteries which can only store excess renewable energy for minutes or hours.”
While the majority of the hydrogen produced in the trial will be injected in the local gas network for domestic use, a portion will be utilized via a gas engine generator for electricity generation back into the grid with the remaining stored for use in an onsite Hydrogen Refueling Station for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
According to ARENA, hydrogen can be safely added to the natural gas mains at concentrations of up to 10% without affecting pipelines, appliances or regulations.
“As Australia transitions to renewable energy, hydrogen could play an important role as energy storage and also has the effect of decarbonizing the gas network with ‘green’ gas,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said.
“There is significant potential in the power-to-gas value chain including the ability to stabilize the grid as well as pairing renewable energy with electrolyzers to soak up and store surplus electricity.”
Energy Networks Australia identified hydrogen injection into the natural gas network as an avenue to decarbonize the gas distribution networks.
In a series of reports released earlier this year, low emissions hydrogen was described as a golden export opportunity for Australia.
The report by ACIL Allen Consulting commissioned by ARENA set out that hydrogen export could contribute $1.7 billion to the economy annually. In a separate report by the Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, delivered to the COAG Energy Council, described hydrogen as Australia’s next multibillion dollar export opportunity.
In addition, the National Hydrogen Roadmap released by Australia’s national science agency CSIRO, showed the development of a hydrogen export industry represents a significant opportunity for Australia and a potential ‘game changer’ for the local industry and the broader energy sector due to associated increases in scale.
Last month, ARENA earmarked $22.1 million in funding to boost national research and development projects in the field.
The funding has been distributed among nine Australian universities and research organizations including: the ANU, Macquarie and Monash Universities, QUT, RMIT University, The University of Melbourne, UNSW, The University of WA and the CSIRO.