UNSW to lead Australian-German green hydrogen trade feasibility consortium


Australia and Germany are wasting no time in the race toward the green hydrogen economy. The two nations shook hands on an agreement for a joint feasibility study into green hydrogen production and trade back in September, and today it has been announced that the University of New South Wales (UNSW) will lead a consortium of Australian and German research and industry partners to test the viability of a renewable energy-based hydrogen supply chain between the countries. 

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham signed a joint declaration of intent with Germany. His Excellency Dr Thomas Fitschen, Ambassador of Germany witnessed the signing.

Image: Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

UNSW’s Iain MacGill will lead a vast array of researchers from the ARC Training Centre for The Global Hydrogen Economy, along with industry partners including Deloitte, Baringa Partners, and MAN Energy. The team will analyse the entire hydrogen supply chain from production to storage, through to transport, recovery and use. The ultimate goal being the best way to deliver renewable hydrogen to Germany. 

“The great renewable energy potential, infrastructure and energy exporting expertise, together with the manufacturing excellence and energy import needs of Germany, presents these countries with an ideal opportunity to establish a hydrogen value chain partnership that combines their comparative strengths and interests,” said MacGill. 

Indeed, this is exactly the kind of thing the ARC Training Centre was designed and funded for, the scaling up of hydrogen generation and its export. A recent publication from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) estimated that approximately 325 TWh of hydrogen – or roughly 8.3 million metric tons – will be needed by 2050. So it is no surprise UNSW’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Nicholas Fisk said that it is estimated the green hydrogen industry could be worth US$2.5 trillion by 2050 worldwide. Of course, it is both Germany’s and Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategies to be big parts of that. 

UNSW Professor Jie Bao, Scientia Professor Rose Amal, Professor Joe Dong, Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan and UTS Professor Guoxiu Wang gathered for the launch of the ARC Research Hub at UNSW.

Image: UNSW

Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said that partnering with future imports of hydrogen, such as Germany, Japan, Singapore, and Korea, “will be critical to growing demand for Australian hydrogen and accelerating industry development.” 

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor seconded Birmingham’s optimism, saying that the work of this consortium “will help to lower the price of hydrogen, which will get us closer to our goal in the Technology Investment Roadmap of producing hydrogen for under $2 per kilogram.”

However, whether Germany will ultimately need Australia’s green hydrogen is another matter. It has long been assumed Germany was fundamentally incapable of producing the amount of green hydrogen it requires. But the Fraunhofer ISE study alluded to earlier suggests an additional 300 GW of PV systems could produce the hydrogen that Germany might otherwise get as imports – a figure seen as achievable but not a certainty.

If Australia can rapidly advance its green hydrogen export potential, through advancements in shipping and production, other nations without the some freedom of PV might find Australian hydrogen in their best interest.

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