Recently the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) trial was announced to test the technical, economic and environmental viability of producing hydrogen from Victorian brown coal for sale in Japan.
It’s a complex supply chain, involving coal mining, chemical processing, pipeline transport, gas compression and liquefaction, and (critically) capture and storage of CO2 produced during hydrogen generation.
Hydrogen is the chemical equivalent of electricity. It’s not an energy source; it’s an energy carrier (a way to move energy from place to place). We can produce it from any energy source. Like electricity, its environmental impact is only as clean as the supply chain from which it is sourced.
I’ve read some sharp criticism of the idea of using brown coal as the feedstock. It’s understandable; in power generation, brown coal emits more CO2 per MWh than any other fossil fuel.
However, I think it’s important to reserve judgement. The world will need more clean energy over time, not less. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) has not had a great run thus far, but it’s not been tried in this application. Scrutiny of this trial’s performance should be rigorous, but if it’s cleaner and cheaper than alternatives, let’s give it a chance.