CANBERRA – Australia and Japan signed a memorandum of understanding allowing for liquid hydrogen to be shipped in bulk for the first time as part of a sustainable energy trade project scheduled to commence as a pilot project in 2020.
The memorandum was signed on Wednesday by Australian Maritime Safety Authority representative Alex Shultz-Altmann and Japanese transport ministry representative Masumi Ito in Canberra.
The pilot project aims to develop a transportation system capable of securely shipping liquid hydrogen between the two nations. It follows a concerted effort from Japan to move toward more hydrogen-based energy systems following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture.
In November 2016, the International Maritime Organization, a U.N. agency responsible for marine activities, endorsed plans for liquid hydrogen to be transported in bulk. This was the result of four years of Japanese-Australian partnership, working to meet the requirements of the IMO.
“Today’s signing paves the way for the employment of these standards for the pilot project. This project will . . . pave the way for full commercial shipping,” Shultz-Altmann said at the signing.
Brown coal found in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria has been identified as the fuel source that will be converted into hydrogen as part of the hydrogen energy supply-chain project.
Due to transportation difficulties, brown coal had been considered an untapped resource despite its abundance in Australia. The process of converting it to hydrogen has resolved the difficulties and provided a mutually beneficial opportunity for both Japan and Australia to utilize the resource.
The signing ceremony also showcased a model of one of the liquid hydrogen carriers developed by Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. scheduled for production starting in 2018. Kawasaki, in partnership with Shell Oil Co., is also developing a range of land and storage facilities in anticipation of the pilot program.
Liquid hydrogen is attractive as an alternative energy source because its combustion produces only water.