Europe looks to Australia for green hydrogen amid energy crisis

In a test of the model, Australia delivered liquid hydrogen by ship to Japan in January from Victoria’s Port of Hastings under a $500 million settlement that will use lignite to produce the gas.

A cheaper way to transport the fuel could be by using hydrogen to make liquid ammonia, which has a much higher energy density per volume when stored at minus 33 degrees. The Rotterdam project includes both ammonia and hydrogen import terminals.

The Suiso Frontier transported liquid hydrogen from Australia to Japan.Credit:Eamon Gallagher

Castelein said Australia was in a “good and strong position” to supply the fuel at a time when the war in Ukraine highlighted Europe’s reliance on Russian gas and the need for renewable alternatives.

“Europe will have a very, very difficult time dealing with an abrupt supply interruption, which is not unlikely,” he said.

“Europe as a continent will not be able to replace gas with gas.”

The Rotterdam LNG import terminal is running at full capacity and the only other terminals nearby are in Zeebrugge and Dunkirk, while Germany rents floating import terminals. The International Energy Agency says that the European Union imported 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia last year and that alternative suppliers may only supply 30 billion cubic meters within a year.

“The scale of the challenge is huge, not least because 2030 is just around the corner,” Castelein said of the commercial hydrogen targets.

“Therefore, those countries that have assertive development plans, conducive to new business start-ups and having the materials, people and permits readily available will be able to become an important supply source.”

The port of Rotterdam is the transhipment point for 13 percent of European imports of fossil fuels – oil, coal and LNG – but is rapidly transitioning to clean energy with a mix of hydrogen imports and domestic generation.

It wants to realize commercial production and import of hydrogen from 2025 and to scale this up to 4.6 million tons per year from 2030, about a quarter of the forecast for the EU.

The EU plan assumes that half of its hydrogen will come from imports, highlighting the opportunity for Australia when countries like Chile, Uruguay and Iceland also plan hydrogen projects and Saudi Arabia aims to become a major hydrogen producer after decades of dominance in the world. oil.

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The Port of Rotterdam has early similarities with Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, but the most advanced appears to be with South Australia, where Prime Minister Peter Malinauskas plans for a $593 million hydrogen planttriggering warnings about financial risk.

Castelein said one benefit to Australia was its fuel export history, while the other benefit was that it could produce hydrogen at about a third the cost of northwestern Europe, the result of better solar and wind power, given the differences in climate. .

Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis when water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from renewable sources, creating a clean fuel that can be transported and stored.

Most of the hydrogen produced in the world is “grey” hydrogen made by combining high-pressure steam with natural gas, a process that produces 0.8 million tons of hydrogen in the Netherlands but generates 12.5 million tons of CO2 emissions, the report said. Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, TNO.

Burying the emissions would create “blue” hydrogen, which TNO says could be done using carbon capture and storage in the North Sea in the largest project of its kind in the world.

“We believe there is a clear case for blue hydrogen,” said Castelein, who has managed the world’s tenth largest port since 2014 and was previously vice president for environment at Shell.

“But green is clearly the ambitious goal. We see blue only as a temporary source and not necessarily the lead in the transition. Green will lead the transition, blue will be part of the equation, but will disappear over time.”

The port company, which is owned by the municipality of Rotterdam and the Dutch government, is executing the hydrogen project by entering into agreements with companies to build every part of the production chain. Shell and Air Liquide will produce hydrogen on site, while Air Products and Gunvor are planning a hydrogen import terminal. As fossil fuels are expected to be part of the transition, the plan also predicts the use of carbon capture and storage in depleted oil fields in the North Sea.

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The Rotterdam terminals and hydrogen production facilities are expected to cost several hundred million euros each, while the contemplated pipeline from Rotterdam to the Rhine industrial area could cost 2.5 billion euros.

The wind farm in the North Sea is expected to generate 7.4 GW. The largest single wind farm in Australia, being built by the Spanish company Acciona in Macintyre in Queenslandis expected to generate 1 GW.

“These are hugely ambitious timelines, but that said, we need a mindset that says it’s necessary and thus makes it achievable.”

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