Green hydrogen injection plan for VIC and SA gas grids

A new centre will investigate the feasibility of blending hydrogen into the Victorian and South Australian gas networks.

By: ARENA

ARENA is providing $1.28 million for Australian Gas Networks (AGN) and to establish the Australian Hydrogen Centre.

Once up and running, the new centre will undertake studies and share information with a focus on integrating hydrogen into the existing gas networks.

As part of the green hydrogen injection plan, the Australian Hydrogen Centre will explore whether it is feasible to blend a 10 per cent concentration of hydrogen into the existing natural gas network in selected regional towns.

The study will also explore the opportunity to link gas grids with electricity transmission networks. This could utilise hydrogen as a way to balance the variability of wind and solar and maintain grid stability and as a greater proportion of energy is generated by renewables.

As the operator of distribution networks in South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, AGN is looking for ways to decarbonise. This is particularly relevant in South Australia, which is working towards reaching 100 per cent renewables by 2030 on the road to net zero emissions by 2050.

To support the gas industry to decarbonise and contribute to these goals, the project will look at technical, economic and regulatory aspects of blending hydrogen into the existing gas grids.

The Victorian and South Australian state governments are supporting the project, along with AusNet Services, Neoen and ENGIE.

Next stage in renewable hydrogen rollout

The work of the Australian Hydrogen Centre will build on the Hydrogen Park SA project in Adelaide, which aims to blend a five per cent concentration of hydrogen into a gas network that supplies 710 properties.

The Hydrogen Park has been framed as a first step to demonstrate the viability of blending hydrogen into existing gas infrastructure. According to AGN, when it opens in mid 2020 it will become Australia’s largest renewable hydrogen production facility.

Australian Gas Networks CEO Ben Wilson predicts that the 2020s will be an exciting time for the energy industry and consumers.

“AGN, as part of Australia’s broader energy industry, has commenced the new decade with a strategy that aims to deliver substantial, measurable and world-leading outcomes in minimising the current and future carbon footprint across the whole of our national gas distribution business,” Ben Wilson said.

“ARENA’s foresight in backing the strategy for a roll-out of more renewably sourced gas in these two key major markets, is to be commended.”

Green hydrogen injection plan to VIC and SA gas grids to form the Australian Hydrogen Centre
An artist’s impression of hydrogen production at the Australian Hydrogen Centre

The green hydrogen injection plan is one of a suite of hydrogen projects to receive ARENA funding, as part of the agency’s work towards bringing down the cost of electrolyser technology.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller believes the gas network could be vital to decarbonising Australia’s energy supplies.

“The network has the potential to be used for the long-term storage of renewably produced hydrogen and limit the need for electrification alternatives, which can be costly,” Darren Miller said.

“The development of a local hydrogen sector will underpin the investment in technology and skills to support the long term export opportunity. These studies will go a long way to identifying the possibility of using and storing hydrogen in local gas networks.”

ARENA is currently consulting with the energy sector ahead of the opening of a $70 million renewable hydrogen funding round. Applications are being sought from projects that will produce hydrogen at a commercial scale, with a focus on electrolysers larger than 10 MW.

Gas industry looks to decarbonise

AGN is part of the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group, which worked alongside five peak bodies to produce Gas Vision 2050, a pathway for the industry to reach ‘near’ zero emissions by 2050.

Alongside biogas and other renewable gases, hydrogen is poised to play a major role in the green hydrogen injection plan.

The vision was launched in 2017 and updated in October 2019 with a report tracking progress – Hydrogen Innovation Delivering on the Vision. Two of the four projects featured have received support from ARENA – ATCO’s Clean Energy Innovation Hub and Western Sydney’s Green Gas Project.

Both projects are trialling electrolysers to produce renewable hydrogen for blending with natural gas.

Most of the hydrogen from Jemena’s 500 KW electrolyser will be injected into the gas network, with some set aside to power a gas generator to return electricity to the grid.

Western Australian gas distributor ATCO has installed a 150 KW electrolyser at their headquarters in Perth’s southern suburbs. Powered by on-site solar panels, hydrogen created is blended at different concentrations with natural gas for testing in household appliances.

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