By HARRY CLARKE
THE company behind Queensland’s ambitious push to commercialise hydrogen power has revealed the most detail yet about how its “demonstration plant” being built on the Western Downs will spearhead the renewable energy initiative.
Government owned operator CS Energy, in partnership with Japanese firm IHI Corporation, will next year begin building a Hydrogen Demonstration Plant on the site of CS Energy’s coal-fired Kogan Creek Power Station and mine.
Speaking at a conference in Chinchilla hosted by Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE), CS Energy CEO Andrew Bills said the region’s rapidly advancing and diversifying energy sector made it the ideal location to pilot the state’s hydrogen production.
“When you think about the Downs (Western Downs region), within a 300km radius you’ve got every form of energy you could possibly get,” Mr Bills said.
“There’s nowhere else in the world that has that. You’ve got solar, you’ve got gas, you’ve got battery storage, you’ve got coal, you’ve got hydrogen and ethanol.
“We’re talking about an energy hub on the Downs. This is about using those attributes – connection, transmission, water, the land, the approvals, the workforce and proximity to business in the Downs, to create an energy hub at Kogan which is beyond its coal-fired power plant.”
The hydrogen plant will be powered by a 2MW solar farm and a 2MW battery being built at Kogan Creek.
Up to 50,000 litres of hydrogen will be generated using a water electrolyser, before being stored in high pressure cylinders and tested on the domestic market.
“Unlike what you’ve heard about other hydrogen projects, this is pure green,” Mr Bills said.
“There is no synthetic washing – this is us generating green energy, storing it, and running that electrolyser to produce hydrogen.
“We’ll be particularly interested in the domestic market. I do believe the immediate domestic opportunity will be in trucking – long hauling and heavy vehicles.
“We’re already in quite advanced discussions with local transportation companies who also have a similar philosophy as us.
“Since we’ve announced this project the amount of companies that have come out and said we need to understand hydrogen as well, and understand how it fits into our business.”
“We need to understand – is it viable? Is it the right fuel for us to transition to? But no one wants to make that massive $100 million commitment. But we’re minimising it, basing it on a research approach.”
Among the most vocal sceptics of whether hydrogen could become a commercially viable source of renewable energy is high profile Tesla founder is Elon Musk.
Musk has dismissed hydrogen fuel cells as “mind-bogglingly stupid”, saying that its potential for success as a fuel source is “simply not possible”.
Mr Bills said: “I know it’s not commercial. It’s absolutely not commercial.”
“It’s a pilot plant to understand the technology, the opportunity, what services, what capability, what workforce, what challenges we are going to have, and what are the opportunities domestically,” he said.