LNG can help lead the way to a hydrogen future

February 8, 2023

Media statement

A world-first study has confirmed the potential for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and its infrastructure to act as an accelerator for the emerging global hydrogen economy.

Researchers from the Future Energy Exports Cooperative Research Centre (FEnEx CRC) recently made the finding in a peer-reviewed study published in the prestigious International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

Speaking today at the Australian Hydrogen Research Conference being held in Canberra, FEnEx CRC CEO Professor Eric May said the study has demonstrated that a viable and cost-effective hydrogen export business from Australia to Japan could be achieved rapidly by harnessing the expertise and infrastructure of the established LNG sector.

Professor May said LNG is a source of vital energy throughout Asia and the world, however, it is much less recognised for its potential to accelerate the development of commercial-scale hydrogen.

“Right now the world is working to reach Net Zero by 2050 and there is no doubt that hydrogen can play a critical role as we look for low carbon sources of energy,” he said.

“The cost-effective production and delivery of ‘green’ hydrogen developed from renewable sources is an ultimate goal but at present we have a number of significant technical and cost barriers that need to be solved before this is viable.

“Our researchers show that using LNG and existing technologies can quickly establish a supply chain to deliver what is often termed ‘blue’ hydrogen to Japan from Australia within the cost target set by the Government of Japan (GOJ) and at a CO2 emission intensity well below proposed targets.”

Professor May said the paper explored how hydrogen could be produced from shipped LNG to Japan at a cost of 2.3USD/kg which met the 2030 GOJ target of 3USD/kg. The paper also outlined that by using existing carbon, capture and storage (CCS) technologies, LNG-produced hydrogen could meet emission intensity targets for hydrogen.

“What we can see is that a complete hydrogen supply chain entailing LNG exports to Japan, its conversion into hydrogen and then liquefying and repatriating by-product CO2 to Australia for sequestration or utilisation is financially and technically achievable,” Professor May said.

Professor May said a major benefit of developing an LNG-based hydrogen export supply chain meant that the world could start to break down the barriers for hydrogen adoption and also allow researchers and companies to “learn from doing”.

“If we wait for the technology and the infrastructure needed to develop and use only green hydrogen, we slow our progress towards reaching net-zero,” he said.

“What we need is more hydrogen in the marketplace – blue or green – so that it, as a cleaner form of energy, can be more increasingly adopted and allow governments and the public around the world to gain confidence in it as a sustainable energy source for the future”.

Professor May said he hoped the paper would stimulate discussion across governments and industry on using LNG as a viable hydrogen export option until other hydrogen supply chain options (such as liquid hydrogen or ammonia) become competitive.
He also believed the paper should accelerate discussion about how CCS should be considered as a vital tool in the energy transition.

Professor May said the ground-breaking study was the result of an enormous amount of research collaboration by scientists and engineers at the University of Western Australia and Curtin University team which included Saif Al Ghafri, Caitlin Revell, Mauricio Di Lorenzo, Gongkui Xiao, Craig E. Buckley and Michael Johns.

Professor Buckley at Curtin University leads the FEnEx CRC’s Hydrogen Exports and Value Chains Research Program, while the paper’s corresponding author, Professor Michael Johns at the University of Western Australia, is the Director of Research for the FEnEx CRC.

“This study was a significant effort by everyone involved in the research,” Professor May said.

The paper Techno-economic and Environmental Assessment of LNG Export for Hydrogen Production is available here.

Key points:

• The paper demonstrates, for the first time, the viability and commercial potential of a complete hydrogen supply chain from Australia to Japan based on the transport of LNG.

• The concept is based on a hydrogen supply chain entailing LNG export to Japan where it is used for blue hydrogen production and by-product CO2 is liquefied and repatriated to Australia for sequestration or utilisation.

• Within the supply chain, various hydrogen production technologies were assessed, including steam methane reforming (SMR), autothermal reforming (ATR) and natural gas pyrolysis (NGP).

• SMR with carbon capture and storage (CCS) resulted in the lowest total hydrogen supply cost of 19 USD/GJ (2.3 USD/kgH2) which meets the 2030 Japanese hydrogen cost target of 25 USD/GJ (3 USD/kgH2). This technology also obtained the lowest CO2 emission intensity (EI) of 38 kg CO2 /GJ (4.5 kg CO2 /kgH2).

• The analysis indicates this supply chain can act to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and meet targeted hydrogen supply costs.

The Future Energy Exports Cooperative Research Centre (FEnEx CRC) is an Australian not-for-profit organisation striving to help decarbonise energy exports through industrial-scale research and innovation. Through research and innovation targeting the decarbonisation of LNG production and growing the use and export of clean hydrogen, the FEnEx CRC will help Australia to remain at the forefront of energy provision internationally.

Established in 2020 as a research and education-driven charity, FEnEx CRC brings together industry Participants, governments, innovative research universities and international affiliates to collaborate on projects that address the key challenges now facing Australia’s energy exports. More detail can be found at www.fenex.org.au

The FEnEx CRC is funded by the Australian Government under the Cooperative Research Centre Program.

MEDIA CONTACT: James Bowie 0424 013 756

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