A state-of-the-art liquid hydrogen tanker prepared for loading in Australia on Friday ahead of its shipment to Japan, in what Canberra described as a “world’s first” trial of the technology.
The Suiso Frontier is docked near Melbourne and is loaded with supercooled hydrogen, a fuel source that proponents hope could one day rival LNG.
The vessel is part of the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC), a joint Japanese-Australian project to produce abundant and affordable fuel for Japan.
“It’s a historic day, it’s the start of an industry that will shape the future of global energy,” Australian Energy Minister Angus Taylor said.
Hydrogen produces only steam and no carbon dioxide when burned, making it an attractive alternative to dirtier fossil fuels.
It can be made from renewable sources like water – but in Australia it is mined from lignite or lignite, which significantly reduces its eco-friendliness.
Australia hopes to win over increasingly environmentally conscious investors by capturing the carbon emitted during production.
Australia’s pro-coal government has thrown its weight behind the new industry, while trying to reassure supporters that it’s not the end of locally produced fossil fuels.
“We will continue to support our traditional industries, our traditional exports, but we will also develop areas like hydrogen,” said Resources Minister Keith Pitt.
“Today’s cargo comes from lignite. It’s available, affordable, local and creates jobs in the regions,” Pitt said.
Australian government adviser Alan Finkel said the shipment was “the start of an international hydrogen transport industry that could one day rival the global LNG industry”.
The ship is expected to set sail for Kobe, western Japan, in about a week.
If the tests are successful, the project will be extended and enter a commercial phase after 2030 and a new terminus in Japan will then be built, along with larger ships.
And the process is complicated, expensive and energy-intensive: to be transported by sea in liquid form, hydrogen must be cooled to -253 degrees Celsius (-423.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
When liquefied hydrogen is 800 times less than its gaseous volume, according to HESC.
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