What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen (H2) is the most abundant, lightest chemical in the universe. On earth, it is most commonly found in molecular forms such as water and organic compounds. It is colourless, odourless, non-toxic and highly combustible.
Hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis, a process where electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. When renewable electricity is used the result is a zero-carbon fuel, known as 'green' or 'renewable hydrogen'. It can also be produced through thermochemical reactions either using coal (in a process called gasification) or natural gas (in a process known as steam methane reforming). Using coal or gas to produce hydrogen means that carbon emissions are created in the process, but if these emissions are captured and permanently stored, through Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies, the result is ‘clean hydrogen.’
It’s the poster child of the new economy. But hydrogen also has a long history. This gas powered the first engines more than 200 years ago. It’s now critical for refining petroleum, treating metals and manufacturing fertilisers. You’ll even find it behind margarine and butter. Its production has traditionally relied on natural gas and coal. But solar and wind can supply the electricity needed to split water into the gas. And this clean energy can power foundries and turbines. It also drives fuel cells with three times the efficiency of internal combustion engines. And, believe it or not, natural hydrogen deposits can be found in underground reservoirs - just like hydrocarbon gas.
How is it used?
The main use of hydrogen in Australia is as a raw material for industrial processes. Hydrogen can also be used like natural gas to heat and power homes, to power fuel cell electric cars and trucks, buses and trains, and to make electricity (through fuel cells or being burned to drive turbines).
Is hydrogen produced in South Australia?
Green hydrogen is currently being produced at Hydrogen Park South Australia (HyP SA), located at Tonsley Innovation District. HyP SA is home to Australia’s largest hydrogen electrolyser (1.25 megawatts) and is owned and run by Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG).
A blend of 5% renewable hydrogen and natural gas is being supplied to 700 domestic consumers in Mitchell Park. From 2021, AGIG began supplying industry with renewable hydrogen from its tube trailer refuelling station at Tonsley, replacing hydrogen deliveries from Victoria, and saving 120,000 kg of carbon emissions each year.
The South Australian Government is currently supporting several large-scale hydrogen projects under development, including the Hydrogen Utility’s (H2U) Eyre Peninsula Gateway Project located at Cultana and Neoen Australia’s Hydrogen Superhub, Trafigura Group’s Green Hydrogen Project at Port Pirie and South Australia’s Hydrogen Jobs Plan.