Australia is at a crossroads in the global hydrogen race – and one path looks risky

An image of someone turning over a wooden block which has CO on the underside, and H on the top.
30 March 2021

There’s great excitement about Australia potentially producing hydrogen as a clean fuel at large scale, for export to countries such as Germany, Japan and South Korea.

Hydrogen (H₂) is a useful energy carrier, and doesn’t release greenhouse gas when that energy is recovered. But carbon dioxide (CO₂) can be emitted when hydrogen is produced, depending on whether the process uses renewable energy or fossil fuels.

Dr Alan Finkel – the federal government’s special adviser on low-emissions technology and a former chief scientist – said this month: “The world’s going to need a lot of hydrogen, and so the more ways we can get that hydrogen the better”.

But our analysis, released today, shows producing hydrogen from fossil fuels carries significant risks. The process can emit substantial greenhouse gas emissions – and capturing these emissions at a high rate may make the process more expensive than hydrogen produced from renewable energy. These findings have big implications as Australia looks to become a hydrogen superpower.

Read the full article on The Conversation website, authored by Dr Thomas Longden, Dr Fiona Beck, and Prof Frank Jotzo