Hydrogen energy: what is it and why Origin’s looking into it

Origin is looking to the future. We’re exploring new low and zero carbon ways of providing energy to our customers. Hydrogen, made using renewable energy, could be a solution.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. It’s the energy that fuels the sun and the stars.

Here on Earth, hydrogen is found in the greatest quantities in water (H2O), but it can also be found in natural gas, coal and petroleum.

Benefits of using green hydrogen energy

  • Sustainable: Hydrogen is emerging as a way for us to significantly decarbonise future energy production. When hydrogen is produced responsibly, it is a source of sustainable, clean, green energy.
  • Flexible: Hydrogen is also a flexible energy source – it can be used immediately or be stored and transported for later use.
  • Domestic and commercial: Green hydrogen can support domestic energy needs. It can be used as a clean transport fuel, for providing electricity to the grid, and in factories to offset the carbon from manufacturing processes.

In fact, hydrogen is already used around the world and many countries are planning to use it more for their future energy needs.

In California, hydrogen already fuels a lot of transport with more than 8,800 hydrogen cars, hydrogen-powered buses and a retail network of refuelling stations.

“Green hydrogen, made with renewable energy and sustainable water, will be key to decarbonising Australia’s and global energy systems.”

Felicity Underhill, General Manager Hydrogen, Origin Energy

Take a look at Origin’s plan to transition to low carbon

How hydrogen produces energy

When hydrogen reacts with oxygen in the air, it generates heat energy. This energy can be used to:

  • power fuel cell vehicles
  • generate electricity in power stations
  • power rockets into space

There’s only one by-product of burning hydrogen: water.

Hydrogen is one of the cleanest fuels that can be used to produce energy, and it has the potential to be zero-carbon if the energy source used to produce it was a clean, renewable energy source, like solar or wind.

Origin is committed to accelerating towards a cleaner energy future and hydrogen is one of the ways we can realise this vision.

How to make hydrogen energy

There are a number of ways to make hydrogen. Around 95 per cent of the world’s hydrogen is made using fossil fuels, either by using natural gas via a steam methane reformation process or using a coal gasification method. This type of hydrogen is commonly referred to as brown hydrogen. When the carbon emissions from the hydrogen production (for example from the methane in steam methane reforming) are captured and permanently stored, this is known as blue hydrogen.

Green hydrogen

Origin is focusing on opportunities in green hydrogen using renewable energy and sustainably sourced water.

As water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, a clean way to produce hydrogen is via a process called electrolysis. Electrolysis is where an electric current is passed through water to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen

How is Australia placed to produce green hydrogen

Our abundance of sunshine and land could help Australia to be a world leader in producing green hydrogen using renewable energy.

The potential for Australia to be a major supplier of hydrogen globally has been recognised by governments. The Australian Government released the National Hydrogen Strategy in November 2019 and $500 million in funding has already been announced to support hydrogen projects. Developing a hydrogen industry will benefit the Australian economy, create jobs and help protect the environment.

Exporting green hydrogen

By harnessing emerging technologies, we will be able serve our domestic market and export green hydrogen to other countries. Many of Australia’s regional trading partners have neither the land nor weather conditions to support the large scale solar and wind projects needed to generate their country’s clean energy needs. Origin can therefore play a part in helping other countries to access clean, green energy and create jobs and a cleaner energy future for Australia.

Origin and hydrogen

Technology around the way we can utilise hydrogen is emerging at a rapid rate globally. While it is early days, we are committed to exploring this emerging green energy source.

Origin has a small dedicated team exploring a number of green hydrogen projects and working out how they will fit with our energy mix and our business model for both domestic and export demand.

As a leading Australian integrated energy company with a history of delivering major projects and managing complex supply chains across power and gas, Origin is well-placed to participate in the hydrogen value chain.

More hydrogen resources

Want to learn more about hydrogen? Take a look at these sources.

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