24 May 2022

Collaborative approach to hydrogen ‘superhighway’

You may have heard in the past few weeks about a landmark tri-State plan that will see Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria working collaboratively to build a hydrogen ‘superhighway’ along Australia’s eastern seaboard. But what does this mean?  

Australia: a country reliant on road freight transport

Australia’s road freight industry is a critical element of our national supply chain and has a market size of approximately $61 billion dollars and employs over 140,000 people. Infrastructure Australia has identified that by 2031, land freight volumes across Australia are expected to grow by 80% of 2011 levels. The ongoing Covid experience, as well as recent natural disasters have taught us many things. One of those learnings is that ongoing sustainability and accessibility of road freight is essential for the ongoing success national supply chain.  

Given international conflicts affecting the cost of fuel, and the increasing importance of a pivot to low-emission products, it’s a logical bow to draw that all levels of government must work together to ensure our freight industry can continue to operate sustainably and affordably.

Could the fast-growing sector for emissions solve its own emission conundrum?

Queensland’s Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen, Mick de Brenni, recently stated that “Transport is the fastest growing sector for emissions and ironically it could also be the key to reducing them. Transport applications are one of the most economic uses of hydrogen, where it is already competitive with diesel on a cost-of-fuel basis.” 

And this could very well be the case, with the proposed renewable hydrogen refuelling network for heavy transport and logistics.  

The network will involve three of Australia’s busiest road freight routes across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria: the Newell, Pacific and Hume Highways. The three states will work together to plan and develop a network of hydrogen refuelling stations for heavy transport vehicles to refuel along their logistics routes.  

A collaborative approach by government to this network is a genuine step in the right direction. Why? Because it’s a public acknowledgement that we need to shift away from carbon-based fuel sources. And if an entire industry can lead this change, there’s no telling what other industries can do to begin the switch to renewable energy sources.  

There are other benefits in adopting this approach:  

  • Job creation  
  • Ensuring investment on the east coast 
  • Less reliance on imported fuels. 

The State Governments on the eastern seaboard have set themselves some lofty goals in terms of emission reduction targets over the couple of decades. Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have all committed to zero net emissions by 2050.   

This collaborative investment in a low-emissions road freight network will assist the States in making significant headway in reaching their targets.  

Is hydrogen really “the freedom fuel”?

Dubbed by President George W Bush back in 2003 as the “freedom fuel”, hydrogen is the most common chemical on the planet. Additionally, it’s also one of the most versatile energy sources. Not only can it be stored as a liquid, or gas, it can be used as part of other materials, as a raw material, to store other energy sources (like electricity). And, it can be used as fuel to power trucks.  

The other key benefit? It’s transportable, which means that we can export it overseas – therefore it’s a commodity that is beneficial financially to our country.  

So how do we access this seemingly perfect fuel source? The cleanest way of creating it is through electrolysis. And, if the electricity used in this process is generated by renewable power sources, there are no greenhouse gas emissions…making it purely GREEN!  

The team here at Umwelt is really excited about the immense opportunity that green hydrogen brings. We’re currently working closely with some of Australia’s largest renewable energy developers, supporting the planning and approval phases of large-scale wind farms, solar farms and battery storage facilities. Additionally, we’re very pleased to have been involved in planning for Fortescue Future Industries’ Gladstone Global Green Energy Manufacturing Centre and be working on major transport infrastructure projects that are intrinsically linked to the hydrogen ‘superhighway’.  

Involvement in sustainable, long term renewable energy is a passion for many team members at Umwelt. The success of the renewable energy sector is important for every Australian. And, our team is passionate about ensuring the ongoing success of renewables projects across our nation.