Chief scientist paves the way for CCS hydrogen

Chief scientist paves the way for CCS hydrogen

Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist has penned a piece in today’s Age titled ‘How I became a convert to hydrogen’.

It’s a great example of how a scientist readily changes their view on a topic when presented with new information.

It’s also a great insight into how to shape a particular message on a politically sensitive topic.

On the science, Finkel sets the tone by sharing his journey of evolving understanding. This is how science works. No reasonable person can deny the merit of an objective approach.

On the politics, he carefully crafts a path ahead for CCS-hydrogen, while avoiding an open attack on renewable hydrogen.

This is extremely important.

Why?

Hydrogen is projected to become a significant part of the global energy system in the coming decades.

But there is a war being waged between ‘green’ hydrogen supporters and those who’ve analysed the data and understand that CCS-hydrogen is the only way to achieve the desired scale and cost to become commercially viable, let alone compete globally.

Renewable hydrogen proponents also have the marketing edge. Who doesn’t like the sound of ‘exporting sunshine’?

To our collective detriment, most people don’t follow the facts and figures when it comes to energy-related topics, so can’t form a rational, objective view of which pathway is best. In this situation, simplistic messaging with well-meaning overtones often sticks.

But for those interested in drilling down on the data, here’s a couple of articles that take a deeper dive on the issues:

Returning to Finkel’s article, he deftly shows how reasonable minds change when confronted with new information, then explains how CCS-hydrogen fits with the global expectation for low CO2 emissions, and in closing, he notes the more hydrogen we can produce from renewable electricity the better.

We believe we can help support the development of the CCS hydrogen route in two ways:

  1. Lignite drying
  2. Hydrogen production

Lignite, also known as brown coal, can be used to generate hydrogen via well-established processes. However, it needs to be dried first.

Our Coldry process is the most efficient, cost-effective method for drying high-moisture coals, enabling lower-cost hydrogen production.

We also have a unique hydrogen production method called COHgen under development. If successfully scaled up, it could provide a more cost-effective, low CO2 method for hydrogen generation, reducing the need (and cost) of CCS.

Hydrogen provides a real alternative to the direct use of fossil fuels.

It can substitute liquid fuels in the transport sector, natural gas in heating applications and energy storage for improved reliability of our electricity network.

How I became a convert to hydrogen

22 December 2019 | Alan Finkel | The Age

Eight years ago, when I was working for an electric car charging company, we did a calculation aiming to prove the benefits of battery storage. We compared two hypothetical electric vehicles powered with the same initial amount of renewable electricity: one using hydrogen for storage and the other using batteries. Our conclusion was that the battery electric vehicle could easily drive further. I became a hydrogen sceptic.