Renewable hydrogen, iron and steel researchers, step on up

ARENA is seeking applicants for two separate research & development funding rounds worth a total of $50 million.

Step up hydrogen researchers, come forward iron and steel scientists.

ARENA is launching two separate research & development (R&D) rounds with a total funding pool of $50 million.

Running concurrently, the two rounds will focus on early-stage technologies for renewable hydrogen and low emissions iron and steel.

Each round has an allocation of $25 million.

ARENA is seeking applications for funding, expected to be allocated in the range of $500,000 to $5 million.

The funding will be provided in two phases: an initial laboratory-based research phase and; a follow-up commercialisation phase.

ARENA Acting CEO Chris Faris said the two rounds will build on Australia’s legacy of research and development.

“Australia has a proud history at the forefront of technological innovation to support our industrial base,” he said

“As global markets increasingly demand low carbon products, we need new solutions to bring us closer to net zero. And we need to get that research out of the lab and into industrial applications.”

What is the Hydrogen Research and Development Round?

Renewable hydrogen production and commercial use is still in its early stages, but it offers tremendous opportunities for Australia. ARENA is already supporting projects investigating hydrogen’s potential role as an energy source, an industrial feedstock, and as an export commodity.

The Hydrogen Research and Development Round will focus on two aspects of the renewable hydrogen value chain:

• improving and optimising the production of renewable hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives such as ammonia;
• investigating storage and distribution solutions.

Developments in hydrogen production have mostly, and successfully, focused on electrolyser technology. ARENA is targeting improvements in hydrogen production efficiency, improved operational flexibility and reduction in capital costs such as reducing the need for precious metals.

Alternative production methods, including photocatalysis are also eligible under the funding round.

As the use of hydrogen grows, so will the need to store and distribute it. Both are currently more expensive and less efficient than natural gas. ARENA wants to find solutions to these problems to help the renewable hydrogen industry scale up.

What about Iron and Steel?

Port Kembla Steelworks feature image
The Port Kembla Steelworks in NSW has a production capacity of just over three million tonnes of steel per year

Australia is the world’s largest producer of iron ore and most of it (including significant associated emissions) is exported.

But we also make steel. So, Australia has interests in the entire steel value chain, which is responsible for roughly seven per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Decarbonising the steel value chain has a number of obstacles including high capital costs and unproven technologies.

This R&D round will focus low emissions technologies and emissions reduction solutions using Australian ores.

Critical work

“Renewable hydrogen and low emissions iron and steel will be critical to Australia’s net zero economy,” Mr Faris said.

“We’re already seeing renewable hydrogen scaling up, but there’s still more to be done to improve efficiency, while storing and transporting the fuel at scale are looming challenges.

“Iron and steel production represents enormous emissions reduction opportunities for Australia and our trading partners.

“The research and development we’re funding now through these programs will underpin our clean industries of tomorrow.”

In 2018, ARENA committed $22.1 million to 16 research and development projects in renewable hydrogen technologies across the supply chain.

Notable projects funded include Hysata’s development of a high efficiency electrolyser technology, Hydgene’s biomass to hydrogen production technology and Jupiter Ionics direct ammonia production method.

All these R&D projects have since developed from their associated universities into commercial startups.

You can read more about ARENA’s 2018 R&D round in our knowledge sharing report.