Germany and Australia launched a joint feasibility study on green hydrogen production and trade back in September. Since then, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has been announced as the leader of a consortium of research and industry partners from both nations. Their aim is to test the viability of a renewable energy-based hydrogen supply chain between the countries.
Now that consortium has begun its work on what German Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek has described as the “Wasserstoffbrücke,” or “hydrogen bridge.” In addition to Australian funding, the ministry has provided more than €1.7 million (US$2 million) in financing for the two-year project. The aim of the research is to investigate how a value chain of green hydrogen between the two nations could be established, by taking advantage of Australia’s enormous solar resources and Germany’s technical know-how in the field of electrolysis.
Karliczek stressed the importance of green hydrogen as the “energy carrier of the future,” and noted that Germany is an innovative country that “must now set the course for international green hydrogen partnerships. This way we give German companies early access to import sources of green hydrogen and sales markets for hydrogen technologies ‘made in Germany.' Australia has already become a central one positioned as an export country for green hydrogen and is also an important sales market for German technologies.”
Iain MacGill, an associate professor in energy systems at UNSW, will lead a team of researchers from the ARC Training Centre for The Global Hydrogen Economy, along with industry partners such as Deloitte, Baringa Partners, and MAN Energy. The team will analyze the entire hydrogen supply chain, from production to storage, through to transport, recovery and use. The ultimate goal is to find the best way to deliver renewable hydrogen to Germany.
“Australia’s potential for renewable energies as well as its know-how in energy exports and in building infrastructures can meet Germany’s import needs and outstanding expertise in mechanical and plant engineering,” said MacGill.
MacGill’s German counterparts are Holger Lösch, deputy general manager of BDI (Federation of German Industries), and Robert Schlögl, director of the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society.
“With hydrogen we can pack the energy of the Australian sun in tankers and bring it to Germany,” said Schlögl. “Now we want to investigate how this can be done on a large scale and over long distances. For this we have to work at the interfaces of the entire system of production, Transport, conversion and use still clarify urgent research questions. If we succeed in doing that, we have found a strong partner in Australia.”
However, Karliczek said that the study needs to consider the specific needs of Germany. A recent publication from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) estimated that approximately 325 TWh of hydrogen – or roughly 8.3 million metric tons – will be needed by 2050. It has long been assumed that Germany was fundamentally incapable of producing the amount of green hydrogen it requires. But the Fraunhofer ISE study alluded to earlier suggesting that an additional 300 GW of PV systems could produce the hydrogen that Germany might otherwise get as imports – a figure seen as achievable, but not a certainty.
If Australia can rapidly advance its green hydrogen export potential through advancements in shipping and production, other nations without the some freedom of PV might find Australian hydrogen in their best interest.
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