This week’s ReportThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that global warming will reach dangerous levels unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by half by 2020. This cannot be achieved without a huge effort from China, the world’s The largest emitter.
According to the IPCC limiting global warming will require a significant reduction of fossil fuel use and the deployment alternative fuels such hydrogen.
China is responsible each year for nearly one-third global emissions. It’s committed to becoming carbon neutral before 2060 – and producing green hydrogen is key to this plan.
Australia is also investing millions in green hydrogen technology. But China’s new plan could throw cold water on Australia’s dream of becoming a global hydrogen superpower.
There’s much talk about hydrogen’s various roles in the global economy as the world races to decarbonise.
Hydrogen is an energy carrier – it holds the energy used to extract it. It can be produced without emissions – as “green hydrogen” – using solar and wind energy, nuclear or hydropower. It can also be made from fossil fuels like gas and coal.
Hydrogen is versatile. Hydrogen can be used to produce electricity or to power motors. It can also be used for electricity and to power vehicles. AlsoProduce ammonia, chemicals, and petrochemicals, as well glass and metals.
Australia’s extensive solar and wind resources mean it’s Placed wellTo produce green hydrogen. And our proximity to Asia means we’re well-located to export hydrogen there.
The federal government wants you to Ship hydrogen around the world – creating an export industry to replace Australian coal and gas, demand for which will fall as global climate action ramps up.
China has been a major economic power in the last few years. toutedAs a potential export market, Australia will be a major source of future hydrogen. This is due to the expected increase in hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles.
It was also believed that the country had limited green hydrogen production capacity due to the fact that it has onshore solar and wind power capacity in western China. This is far from the energy demand of the east.
However, China’s hydrogen picture is fast changing.
China is ready to take on the challenge
China released its first official statement late last month. National planTo develop a domestic hydrogen industry until 2035.
It involves mastering technologies and manufacturing processes, coordination of the construction and maintenance of hydrogen energy infrastructure and improving industry standards and policy.
It also requires a gradual introduction of hydrogen to industry sectors by 2035.
China’s green hydrogen production is expected to reach up to 200,000 tonnes annually by 2025, avoiding up to two million tonnes of CO₂ each year.
It appears increasingly likely China will not need to import Australia’s green hydrogen – and will compete with us as a green hydrogen exporter.
Industries need to be cleaned up
China’s manufacturing sector is a major contributor to its national emissions – particularly energy-intensive cement and steel production.
Steel is made by removing oxygen from iron ore to make pure iron. Historically this has been achieved using coal or natural gas, which releases a lot of CO₂.
Hydrogen can be used in steelmaking to substitute fossil fuels.
China sees two benefits to home-grown greensteel. As well as slashing national emissions, it would reduce China’s reliance on imported coking coal and iron ore from nations such as Australia.
How will China make hydrogen?
Fossil fuels account for almost all China’s current hydrogen production.
In theory, coal-based hydrogen can be produced cleanly if CO₂ from the process is captured and stored. This is a possible route to hydrogen production. China.
However, the process is complex and costly. Does not capture all CO₂ emitted.
As nations seek to reduce their emissions, an export market for coal-based hydrogen – even when some emissions are captured – cannot be assured.
To produce green hydrogen, China would probably use a combination of nuclear and hydropower – the nation’s two cheapest non-fossil fuel sources of energy.
Hydroelectricity is another way to produce hydrogen in China. It’s a low-cost energy source, and is often produced in excessIn the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.
However, the development of hydropower and nuclear power capacity in China comes with its own risks and social cost.
For example, hydropower dams can deprive local communities of their livelihoods. livelihoods. And Japan’s Fukishima tragedy – and more recently, Russian threats to nuclear facilities in Ukraine – show the potential for nuclear disasters.
Australia has spent big on hydrogen of late – most recently in last month’s federal BudgetHydrogen was allocated a share of A$1.3 million for new energy infrastructure development and infrastructure. The Private sectorThe company is also spending a lot of money on technology.
Australia needs to have more detailed plans to ensure that it has trading partners for green hydrogen. It should also highlight the relative lower risk of investing into Australian hydrogen produced from solar or wind, as compared to plans of our global competitors.