Hydrogen pilot a success: HESC

The Latrobe Valley HESC pilot has wound up. photograph michelle slater

Michelle Slater

The much heralded brown coal-to-hydrogen pilot project has come to close with consortium partners now assessing the figures to move to a commercial plant.

The $500 million Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain had successfully transported three tonnes of hydrogen created at the Loy Yang pilot plant out of the Port of Hastings to Kobe in Japan.

HESC was backed by a consortium of project partners led by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and the Japanese government, with $100 million from both the Victorian and federal governments.

Consortium partner J-Power non-executive director Jeremy Stone said Victorians should be “proud of” the success of the world-first project.

Mr Stone said now that the trial had successfully proven the supply chain, project partners would now analyse the pilot data to move to producing 225,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year.

It comes as the federal government was providing $7.5 million to be matched by the Victorian government to help upscale the project.

Mr Stone said he could not give a date on when the next step would take place, but he was “confident” the upscaled plant could be operating by the end of the decade.

He said this would include looking at front end engineering designs, discussing off take agreements with potential customers and then obtaining regulatory approvals.

“We need to get customers’ commitment to sign off on it. But this hydrogen could go anywhere, Japan, South Korea, Singapore. Or even in Victoria where it could be converted to ammonia,” Mr Stone said.

“There are opportunities in Australia to use this hydrogen, as well as overseas.”

Meanwhile, the Loy Yang gasification plant was now under “carer and maintenance mode into the foreseeable future”, while the Hastings plant was being used by other companies for research.

“The [Latrobe Valley] plant is locked up but we are still conducting site visits and we have an organisation responsible for its care and maintenance,” Mr Stone said.

“Once we work out the commercial pathway, we will proceed to to the next ability for the pilot plant, either remove it, reactivate it or incorporate in into the larger commercial plant.”

Mr Stone stressed that on going community consultation would be an important part of the project.

But the upscaled plant would need to be operating in conjunction with the CarbonNet carbon capture and storage project underway in Bass Strait.

“Both projects are progressing at the same time, it’s a coordinated approach and we are satisfied by independent assessments that this will work,” Mr Stone said.

“We are confident based on the information we’ve seen that this will work.”