A New Zealand Perspective on Hydrogen as an Export Commodity: Timing of Market Development and an Energy Assessment of Hydrogen Carriers
journal contributionposted on 10.08.2021, 21:32 by James HinkleyJames Hinkley
Hydrogen is currently receiving significant attention and investment as a key enabler of defossilised global energy systems. Many believe this will eventually result in the international trade of hydrogen as a commodity from countries with significant renewable energy resources, for example New Zealand and Australia, to net energy importing countries including Japan and Korea. Japan has, since 2014, been actively exploring the components of the necessary supply chains, including the assessment of different hydrogen carriers. Public/private partnerships have invested in demonstration projects to assess the comparative merits of liquid hydrogen, ammonia, and organic carriers. On the supply side, significant projects have been proposed in Australia while the impending closure of New Zealand’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter at the end of 2024 may provide an opportunity for green hydrogen production. However, it is also evident that the transition to a hydrogen economy will take some years and confidence around the timing of supply and demand capacity is essential for new energy infrastructure investment. This paper reviews the expected development of an export market to Japan and concludes that large scale imports are unlikely before the late 2020s. Comparative evaluation of the energy efficiency of various hydrogen carriers concludes that it is too early to call a winner, but that ammonia has key advantages as a fungible commodity today, while liquid hydrogen has the potential to be a more efficient energy carrier. Ultimately it will be the delivered cost of hydrogen that will determine which carriers are used, and while energy efficiency is a key metric, there are other considerations such as infrastructure availability, and capital and operating costs.