Australia is a step closer to shipping the world’s first ever cargo of liquefied hydrogen with the start-up of a pilot project in Victoria.

The Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project partners confirmed Friday that operations had commenced at both the gasification and gas refining facilities for the coal-to-hydrogen project.

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The pilot project is aiming to deliver the world’s first international hydrogen supply chain and will see the gasification of Latrobe Valley coal into hydrogen, which will then be transported to the Port of Hastings for liquefaction and shipped to Japan.

The first liquefied hydrogen cargo is expected to depart by the middle of the year onboard the world’s first liquefied hydrogen carrier, the Suiso Frontier, which was built by one of the project partners, Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI).

The HESC is being delivered by a consortium involving Japanese companies KHI, J-Power, Iwatani, Marubeni and Sumitomo, as well as Australia’s AGL Energy. The project also has support from the Victorian, Australian and Japanese governments.

Commercial scale plans

The pilot project is only anticipated to produce up to three tonnes of hydrogen over the year long trial, yet it is estimated it will emit up to 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide during that same time.

However, if successful, the consortium will assess a potential multibillion-dollar commercial-scale project, which it claims could produce up to 225,000 tonnes of clean hydrogen annually.

The potential commercial scale development would utilise the Australian government’s proposed CarbonNet carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, which would see CO2 captured and stored 1.5 kilometres beneath the Bass Strait, off the coast of Victoria.

“A commercial-scale HESC can leverage and build local skills, potentially creating thousands of jobs. This will include long-term employment in a new clean energy industry for the people of Gippsland,” J-Power Latrobe Valley non-executive director, Jeremy Stone, said.

“We estimate our project could reduce CO2 emissions by 1.8 million tonnes per year, equivalent to the emissions of some 350,000 petrol cars.”

Step to building Australia's hydrogen industry

The Australian government claims the pilot project is an important step in developing the nation’s hydrogen industry, which it estimates could generate more than 8000 jobs and over A$11 billion (US$8.6 billion) in gross domestic product by 2050.

“Our major international trading partners like Japan are very excited about Australia’s hydrogen prospects,” Australia’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said.

“This HESC project milestone demonstrates the value of Australia’s technology-led approach to reducing emissions and the leading role hydrogen could play in our future. Real projects like this show our approach is working.”

The federal and Victorian governments have both made A$50 million commitments to the A$500 million HESC project.