Australian tech to produce hydrogen at point of consumption gets $6.5m grant

Catalytic Static Mixer. (Image by CSIRO).

Researchers at Australia’s science agency CSIRO received a A$10 million ($6.5m) grant to develop and deploy, over the course of six years, a device to produce hydrogen directly at the point of consumption.

The goal is to build a demonstration unit based on patented technology to efficiently generate hydrogen from liquid carriers.

According to the researchers, the use of a liquid carrier enables hydrogen to be safely and efficiently stored and transported in tanks from where it is produced – like a remote solar or wind farm – to where the energy is to be used.

“Australia has the potential to become an energy superpower through hydrogen, but we need to find better methods of safely transporting and storing it at scale,” CSIRO’s deputy hydrogen industry mission lead, Vicky Au, said in a media statement.

“To get the hydrogen industry moving, we need to be able to get hydrogen where it will be used by the consumer. This generator unit will do just that and will be compact enough to move to where it’s needed – whether that’s a farm, a festival, an industrial facility or, a mine site.”

Au and CSIRO researcher John Chiefari pointed out that the agency’s patented catalytic static mixers would be central to the development of the new hydrogen generator.

“Catalytic static mixers are special tools that mix fluids to speed up and better control chemical reactions without any moving parts. This level of control allows the process to be highly scalable without the technical challenges that this usually entails. This gives us a key advantage over the current packed bed reactor technology,” Chiefari said.

The scientist emphasized that the technology to add hydrogen to a carrier fluid is already established. However, the new hydrogen generation system will enable hydrogen to be produced locally and on demand from the carrier, with the added advantage of the carrier fluid being safely stored in a similar way to diesel or gasoline.

“This would be a big step forward with a goal to be able to store the fuel in standard tanks and manage it using existing diesel or petrol infrastructure,” he said.

Data from Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy show that a clean hydrogen industry will support 16,000 jobs by 2050, plus an additional 13,000 from the construction of related renewable energy infrastructure.

Australian hydrogen production for export and domestic use could generate more than A$50 billion in additional GDP by 2050, and result in avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to a third of the country’s current fossil fuel emissions by 2050.