Hydrogen as an export product

Up to now Australia has exported mainly liquid natural gas and coal - in the future also hydrogen
Up to now Australia has exported mainly liquid natural gas and coal – in the future also hydrogen, © BHP Billiton: Coal transport Australia Rail

The city of Perth in southwestern Australia was already one of twelve cities worldwide at the beginning of the 21st century that tested fuel cell buses in local transport. After that, however, the energy-rich country no longer emerged as a major promoter of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. And why should it? After all, the country has huge reserves of fossil fuels, precious metals and rare earth metals. But is that really reason enough not to look for alternatives?

Australia’s main energy source and number one export product has been coal up until now. This huge country is by far the world’s largest coal exporter (36.6 percent of all coal exports come from Australia) and the fourth largest coal producer. However, liquid natural gas (LPG) has now become almost even more important for export products, and Australian industry is now making more profits with LPG than with coal. As far as exports of liquefied gas are concerned, Australia is expected to overtake Qatar as world market leader before the end of this year.

South Korea, Japan and China are today the most important buyers of Australian coal and liquefied gas. However, the three countries have announced that in future they will shift their energy supply away from the use of fossil fuels and towards hydrogen. This applies in particular to Japan, which is the main buyer of liquefied gas from Australia. For the coal and gas industry – a powerful economic factor in the country – the signs are not good if fossil energy source sales cannot be offset by other, more climate-friendly products. The change in the energy strategy of the three neighbouring countries may therefore be a major reason why the Australian government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison sees the hydrogen economy as an important business segment for the country’s future.

In addition, consumer prices for electricity and gas, which have been rising steadily for years, are among the highest in the world today. At first glance this seems to be a contradiction, because the country has huge fossil energy resources (coal, oil, natural gas) as well as land for the development of renewable energies (wind, solar). The strong expansion of wind and solar energy over the past four years has led the country to exceed its target of a 20% share of renewables in electricity generation by 2020.

read more in H2-international July 2019

Author: Alexandra Huss

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