What is green hydrogen, how does green ammonia fit in and could they pave the way for a renewable future for Australia?

Green hydrogen – it may sound like something out of a Superman comic book, but one of Australia’s richest men is betting on the substance to make Australia a world leader in renewables while creating jobs in the process.

Billionaire mining mogul Andrew Forest this week announced a major investment in gas, which includes establishing a Queensland plant to manufacture electrolysers – machines used to create hydrogen from water.

He also revealed that his company Fortescue Future Industries would lead a feasibility study on the manufacture of green ammonia from hydrogen at an existing ammonia production facility near Brisbane.

Investments are aiming to produce a fuel source from green energy – in this case the hydrogen of the green variety.

“Green hydrogen is an energy carrier – but unlike fossil fuels, it becomes cheaper, it will never run out – and we will not cook the planet,” Forrest said in a speech to the National Press Club. Wednesday.

What is green hydrogen?

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Is green hydrogen the fuel of the future?

Gas is said to be “green” because of the way it is made.

It is classified as “green” when produced with a renewable energy source.

Hydrogen produced from other energy sources such as fossil fuels is generally described as gray or brown hydrogen.

There is also blue hydrogen, which is produced by the same process as brown hydrogen, but the carbon dioxide that would normally be released is captured and stored underground.

Green hydrogen is seen as an energy source that could one day replace fossil fuels, and tests are already underway in Australia for hydrogen-powered vehicles and buildings.

So where does green ammonia fit in?

Artist's impression - FFI's green energy hydrogen manufacturing facility.
Artist’s impression – FFI’s green energy hydrogen manufacturing facility in Gladstone, central Queensland.(Provided)

Mr. Forrest wants to transform hydrogen into ammonia because the ammonia may be easier to store and transport.

Ammonia itself can also be used a fuel source Where converted back to hydrogen.

If the hydrogen used to produce ammonia is green and any energy used in the process also comes from a green energy source, then the ammonia is also referred to as “green”.

Mr Forest is teaming up with Incitec Pivot, Australia’s largest fertilizer supplier, to consider converting the company’s existing ammonia production facility on Gibson Island near Brisbane to operate at green hydrogen.

A graph showing two different ways of producing hydrogen.
A comparison of the production process for “blue” and “green” types of hydrogen.(Provided: Woodside)

Will the projects succeed?

A hydrogen electrolyser project at Tonsley in the south of Adelaide.
Electrolysers separate hydrogen from water, producing emission-free energy.(ABC News)

Griffith University physics professor Evan Gray thinks so.

“I’m really excited about it. It makes a lot of sense. I’ve been waiting for this to happen for over 30 years and couldn’t be happier,” said Professor Gray, who has worked on materials. for the storage of hydrogen in the solid state. .

Professor Gray said assigning colors to hydrogen was confusing, but would soon be clarified by the introduction of a certification system that will certify how the gas was produced.

He said the process of converting green hydrogen requires a significant amount of electricity, but that didn’t mean that production plants should be surrounded by solar panels or wind turbines.

He said the producers could buy green electricity from the grid through an electricity exchange agreement.

Where will the water come from to produce green hydrogen?

Professor Gray said another key ingredient needed for hydrogen production is the water, but this could come from various sources.

“Yes, it uses a reasonable amount of water, but when you compare the use of water to produce hydrogen to cooling water in all kinds of other industries, it’s very small,” he said. he declared.

Professor Gray said that electrolysers require very pure water, but this can be obtained from “cleaned” gray water or even seawater.

And he said that when you use the hydrogen on the other end, you get the water back.

“You take the water from the hydrosphere and then it ends up there. So the water keeps spinning around.”

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