Australian Renewable Energy Agency Issues H2 Fuel Carriers RFP

By Stephen H. Crolius on January 18, 2018

One of Ammonia Energy’s “top ten” stories of 2017 described Australia’s early steps toward export of renewable hydrogen in the form of green ammonia.  The story said that “Agencies such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) made it clear during the year that the country intends to build on [its historical] position” as a supplier of fossil energy to countries such as Japan. 

ARENA took a tangible step in this direction on December 20, 2017 with the release of a Request for Proposal for a AUD$20 million (USD$16 million) renewable hydrogen R&D funding program.  Included in the scope, per ARENA’s 2017 Investment Plan, could be “demonstration of renewable production methods for transportable energy storage options (such as hydrogen or ammonia).”

The ARENA plan contains four priorities, one of which is the export of renewable energy.  In this area, the agency is thinking in terms of a complete value chain, from the capture of renewable energy in Australia to the use of the energy in another country.  The overriding objective is to improve as many steps as possible so that Australian renewable energy can compete on total cost with conventional energy.

“Hydrogen production, conversion to a carrier or substance suitable for export, and transformation into energy at point-of-use are all stages in the supply chain that have significant scope for cost reductions. The capability to supply renewable hydrogen (or a related substance) at a competitive price is likely to drive further investment throughout the rest of the supply chain, including increased support for dedicated renewables for export.”
ARENA press release: “ARENA launches $20 million hydrogen funding round,” 12/20/2017

ARENA presented its 2017 Investment Plan in May and issued a Request for Information in September. This garnered “45 responses from a range of organisations and individuals with information on the renewable production of hydrogen, hydrogen fuel carriers and supply chains in Australia that make use of a carrier material to transport renewable fuel.”

Commenting on the renewable hydrogen funding round, ARENA Chief Executive Officer Ivor Frischknecht said that “Australia exports approximately three quarters of the energy it produces, in the form of coal and gas. Having some of the best solar and wind power resources in the world, Australia could become a superpower in exports of renewable energy, globally, leveraging existing relationships and growing global low carbon energy demand in countries such as Japan, South Korea and China.”

This theme was reinforced as part of Hyundai’s January 15 announcement that it will introduce its Nexo fuel cell vehicle in Australia in 2019. In the announcement, Hyundai Australia Future Mobility and Government Relations Manager Scott Nargar spoke about the Nexo’s catalytic potential:

“We’ve got guys working with CSIRO who built the world’s first [hydrogen] cracker where you have liquid ammonia going in and, through the CSIRO cracker, which is world-first technology, out comes pure hydrogen for cars.”

Nargar said other nations were already eyeing the process, which could offer “massive export opportunity”.

“The Korean government is very interested because they’re going to run 26,000 fuel cell buses,” Nargar said. “They need to buy their energy from somewhere in the world, [so] let’s make that green energy. Australia should be able to supply that energy in the form of green ammonia.”
Wheels: Hyundai’s Nexo hydrogen vision coming to Australia, 1/15/2018

Ammonia Energy has posted about the CSIRO cracker on several occasions, including in another “top ten” story.

ARENA’s renewable hydrogen funding round is seeking proposals that map onto Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 2 through 6.  In the agency’s schema (borrowed from the U.S. Department of Energy) TRL 2 involves formulation of a technology concept and/or application.  TRL 6 involves validation of a pilot-scale or prototypical system in a relevant environment.

The deadline for applications to the program is February 28, 2018.