Clean Hydrogen Coal?

This is the Suiso Frontier, the first ever liquefied hydrogen transport ship sailing from Australia to Japan as we speak. Billed as being their greatest export since Novak Djokovic, the ship itself is an admirable achievement.

Hydrogen is made in different ways, usually from methane or from running electricity through water to split the hydrogen and oxygen. Confusingly, the water way is called green hydrogen and the methane is blue hydrogen. On top of this you have another type called “clean hydrogen” which is basically from carbon capture and storage of fossil fuel power plants. Confusing but basically you can electrolyse water with renewable energy and make hydrogen. It’s an elaborate but useful way of storing renewable energy It’s very clever and very worthwhile. It’s basically renewable energy battery, a way of storing excess so it doesn’t get wasted.


Making it from fossil fuels, in Australia’s case actually from coal, is neither clever nor worthwhile. Nor is it good for the environment as the Australian government claims. It’s good as a storage of energy. To burn the coal to release energy (and lose some), to then change it to hydrogen and export it on a ship is bizarre. It would be like starting a bonfire to create light to charge a solar panel.


Now the people behind this say they won’t continue this unless they can capture the emissions and store them. However this costs massively more than using renewables and might not work at all. 
It is a way for Australia to carry on using coal though which is a far more likely explanation. Australia has very high coal use and the highest per person emissions in the world (2018). They actively lobby for coal use (along with Qatar incidentally) so trying to make coal clean under the hydrogen disguise works in their favour. It’s just such an unnecessary step that takes more time and costs more than renewables.


 This only even comes close to breaking even if the carbon capture and storage is done on a scale and efficiency not seen before. If it works at an unprecedented scale it is still worse than using renewables, so quite pointless. It’s clearly a way to try and justify a coal mine in a country that has vast expanses of land that could be used for renewables.


 I suspect more effort will be put on the coal mining than on the capturing of emissions.

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