Australia is a step closer to a new hydrogen (H2) production and export industry following the national science agency’s successful refuelling of two fuel cell vehicles.

CSIRO CEO Dr. Larry Marshall was one of the first to ride in the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo vehicles powered by ultra-high purity H2, produced in Queensland using CSIRO’s membrane technology. The technology will pave the way for bulk H2 to be transported in the form of ammonia, using existing infrastructure, and then reconverted back to H2 at the point of use.

It has the potential to fill the gap in the technology chain to supply fuel cell vehicles around the world with low- emissions H2 sourced from Australia, explained CSIRO.

The membrane separates ultra-high purity H2 from ammonia, while blocking all other gases. It links H2 production, distribution and delivery in the form of a modular unit that can be used at, or near, a refuelling station.

BOC and CSIRO collaborate on Australian H2 project

This means that the transportation and storage of H2 – currently a complex and relatively expensive process – is simplified, allowing bulk H2 to be transported economically and efficiently in the form of liquid ammonia.

Recent advances in solar and electrochemical technologies mean renewable H2 production is expected to become competitive with fossil fuel-based production, providing an opportunity to decarbonise both the energy and transport sectors while creating new export opportunities.

Dr. Marshall is excited by the prospect of a growing global market for clean H2, and the potential for a national renewable H2 export industry, to benefit Australia.

“This is a watershed moment for energy, and we look forward to applying CSIRO innovation to enable this exciting renewably-sourced fuel and energy storage medium a smoother path to market,” he said.

“I’m delighted to see strong collaboration and the application of CSIRO know-how to what is a key part of the overall energy mix.”

Interview: BOC discusses recent collaboration on Australian H2 project with CSIRO

BOC Sales and Marketing Director Bruce Currie congratulated CSIRO on the successful refuelling of H2 fuel cell electric vehicles, which proves the effectiveness of CSIRO’s membrane technology from generation, right through to point of use.

“BOC’s innovative engineering team are proud to be collaborating with CSIRO researchers on this technology breakthrough, as we focus on advancing the H2 economy and global transition towards clean H2 for mobility and energy,” Currie said.

Following this successful demonstration, the technology will be increased in scale and deployed in several larger-scale demonstrations, in Australia and abroad.

The project received $1.7m from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), which was matched by CSIRO.

In addition to its membrane technology, CSIRO is applying its expertise to all stages of the H2 technology chain (including solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, grid management, water electrolysis, ammonia synthesis, direct ammonia utilisation via combustion and/or fuel cells, as well as H2 production).