As an energy carrier, hydrogen has two outstanding properties. Firstly, it has a very high energy density, with each kilogram of hydrogen containing about 2.4 times as much energy as natural gas. Secondly, its energy can be released either as heat through combustion or as electricity using fuel cells.
Hydrogen is a highly versatile energy carrier and feedstock and has the potential to be used across a wide range of applications, including:
- in many forms of transport, where opportunities are derived from hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and associated refuelling stations;
- in power generation, where opportunities are derived from hydrogen as a leading option for the storage of renewable energy;
- in industrial processes, where the current production of hydrogen from (unabated) fossil fuel sources offers opportunities for its replacement by clean hydrogen and a significant reduction in emissions;
- in buildings, where there are opportunities for hydrogen to be blended into existing natural gas networks.
Many of the ways in which hydrogen can be used are not common today.
The obstacle to realising hydrogen’s clean energy potential is that, on Earth, hydrogen is virtually non-existent in its free form; energy is needed to liberate it from other materials such as water, biomass, fossil fuels or minerals.
These energy requirements are significant at present and, despite it being an important decarbonisation pathway, clean hydrogen is currently not cost competitive.
Research, development and innovation must be at the forefront of efforts into developing more competitive end-to-end clean hydrogen value chains and infrastructure, thereby making a significant contribution to national and global decarbonisation pathways.
*Note: statistics in this animation were current as of July 2021. For up to date information, visit the Australian Government’s Long-Term Emissions Reduction Plan.