HYDROGEN OPTIONS: Senior executives from Japan's leading energy companies and a world renowned academic from Tokyo University visit Gladstone's Port and Northern Oil Advanced Biofuel Refinery.
HYDROGEN OPTIONS: Senior executives from Japan's leading energy companies and a world renowned academic from Tokyo University visit Gladstone's Port and Northern Oil Advanced Biofuel Refinery. Matt Taylor GLA140218HYDR

Companies keen to build hydrogen pilot plants on state land

INTERNATIONAL companies are showing increasing interest in building pilot plants in Gladstone to test new technology in hydrogen production.

Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher said the region had the land, the port and the skilled workforce to home Australia's next big investment in hydrogen.

Mr Butcher said companies were exploring the possibilities of building pilot plants at the Gladstone State Development Area to test new technology to make hydrogen out of coal, ammonia or renewable energy.

He said companies were visiting Gladstone to speak with him and the Gladstone Development Board, whose chairman is Leo Zussino.

"They want to come to Gladstone because they want to export hydrogen and we have one of the best ports in the world," Mr Butcher said.

"Gladstone is moving into being a renewable hub, with the Northern Oil biofuel pilot plant, LNG exports and last week's announcement of a $500 million solar plant."

Mr Butcher said there had been interest from Japanese investors and the CSIRO too.

Earlier this year a Japanese delegation visited Northern Oil's biorefinery at Yarwun where they hope to one day export hydrogen made from waste.

The international visitors discussed partnering with the company in a bid to achieve its goal of fuelling cars used in the 2020 Olympics by hydrogen.

Hydrogen has huge potential as a clean energy source, but is currently uneconomical to produce and export at scale.

It can be created through electrolysis of water, or through gasification or particle oxidation of hydrocarbon fuels.

The interest in Gladstone comes off the back of the Federal Government's $50 million investment in the $500 million world-first hydrogen project at the Latrobe Valley in Victoria.

Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel's hydrogen power strategy group said earlier this month exports of renewable-energy produced hydrogen could become an industry that rivalled Australia's LNG exports within decades.

In a recent meeting, the group discussed opportunities to "take advantage of our abundant wind and solar resources by 'exporting sunshine' as hydrogen", and "near-term opportunities to export hydrogen produced by fossil fuels".

Siemens head of strategy Martin Hablutzel, who sits on the strategy group, told The Australian the shift to green hydrogen, produced by excess solar and wind energy, would allow Australia to "export sunshine" on a large scale.

"We should have ambition to build an industry of that scale," Mr Hablutzel said.