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Pilot project progressing 'well', commercialization by 2030: HESC

Australia's Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) expects to export its first liquid hydrogen cargo to Japan, slated to be the country's first commercial liquid hydrogen shipment, between October and March, a spokesperson of the project said July 23, in what will be watched as a test case for establishing a supply chain for the nascent global hydrogen market.

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"Due to the global impact of COVID-19, there have been delays in the commissioning of the ship," the spokesperson said, referring to the hi-tech liquid hydrogen carrier being built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd in Japan, one of HESC's project partners.

The carrier had previously been expected in July-August.

"The world's first liquefied hydrogen carrier, the Suiso Frontier, will arrive in Australia in the second half of the 2021 Japanese fiscal year -- between October 2021-March 2022," the spokesperson said. "Liquefied hydrogen will be taken back to Japan after the arrival of the Suiso Frontier."

The HESC project, situated in Latrobe Valley in southern Victoria state, seeks to produce hydrogen via coal gasification. After refining the hydrogen, as per plans, it would be trucked to Port of Hastings for liquefaction and shipment to Kobe in Japan. It would be a rare demonstration of shipping hydrogen liquefied at minus 253 degrees Celsius to allow it to be transported the long distance to Japan.

The other partners in HESC are Japanese utility J-POWER that will be responsible for coal gasification; Japanese LPG retailer Iwatani Corporation, whose task will be retailing hydrogen; trading firm Marubeni Corporation to look after infrastructure; Australia's energy and broadband retailer AGL that has provided the site; and Sumitomo Corporation working on carbon capture and storage (CCS).

As per the CCS technology, carbon dioxide is captured and stored in empty oil wells.

Long term view

At HESC "progress is going well" according to the spokesperson. Operations at the Latrobe Valley gasification and refining facility and the liquefaction facility in Hastings are "going ahead."

It is a pilot project with a long horizon. It will need to be completed and the results reviewed before detailed planning for the commercial phase can take place in consideration with economics, engineering, environmental and community matters.

"If the pilot phase is successful, the HESC project would enter its commercial phase in the 2030s," the spokesperson added.

A commercial-scale HESC project would produce up to 225,000 mt/year of hydrogen in the 2030s, as referred to by the Japanese New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) in 2015.

Japan is eager to push this project as there is a momentum for the deployment of hydrogen as a key energy source after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in October 2020 that the country would now aim for carbon neutrality by 2050.