7 February 2022

ACT pumped to be first Australian city with certified zero-carbon hydrogen

| James Coleman
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James Dunlop, John Knox and Shane Rattenbury standing in front of a hydrogen car

ActewAGL General Manager-New Energy James Dunlop, Smart Energy Council CEO John Grimes, and ACT Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Lachlan Roberts.

It’s official: the ACT is the first Australian jurisdiction to be able to certify its hydrogen is truly clean.

Working with local energy provider ActewAGL, the Smart Energy Council has traced the lifecycle of the hydrogen available at the refuelling station in Fyshwick to make sure no carbon is involved along the way.

The council is Australia’s peak body for solar, power storage and renewable energy, with independent auditors assigned to perform the process.

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CEO John Grimes announced the findings on Friday, 4 February, at the ActewAGL hydrogen station on Lithgow Street in Fyshwick, Australia’s first public hydrogen refuelling station.

“We have now certified that it is powered by 100 per cent renewable energy and that it is producing zero-emissions hydrogen,” Mr Grimes said.

This makes it just the second in the world to receive certification, behind another hydrogen station in Halle, Belgium.

Hydrogen car at a new refuelling station

One of the ACT Government’s 20 hydrogen-powered Hyundai NEXOs. Photo: File.

The Fyshwick station opened on 26 March 2021, marking a major milestone in the rollout of zero-emissions vehicles in the ACT. It primarily services the ACT Government’s hydrogen-powered Hyundai NEXO fleet vehicles.

The station and the 20 cars are the result of a commitment by renewable energy producer Neoen as part of its successful bid on the Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia in 2016.

Using power from the wind farm and an electrolyser, hydrogen is produced and stored onsite at the station. It can then be pumped directly into a hydrogen-powered car in much the same way as petrol or diesel.

READ ALSO Australia’s first public hydrogen refuelling station opens in Canberra

The hydrogen chemically reacts in an on-board fuel cell with oxygen in the air to make electricity and water. This electricity is used to power the electric motor and drive the wheels, just like in a battery-electric vehicle. The water is emitted from the tailpipes.

“It’s a process that starts with water and ends with water,” Mr Grimes said.

“Any emissions that coming are out of the tailpipes of this vehicle are water vapour. That’s a really exciting prospect. The question is, what is the energy source that is being used to power that process?”

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More than 97 per cent of the world’s hydrogen supply is produced by way of fossil fuels, chiefly gas and coal. Mr Grimes said this needs to change if hydrogen is to become the fuel of the future it is touted to be.

“If you have zero-carbon energy going into the process to make a zero-carbon, clean fuel, that really is the utopia,” he said.

“That is the ‘wunder-fuel’ that we need to power our zero-carbon future.”

Shane Rattenbury recharging his vehicle with a hydrogen charger

Shane Rattenbury filling up with hydrogen. Photo: Lachlan Roberts.

ACT Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury said renewable hydrogen is the only hydrogen that should be produced in Australia.

“Any investment in the hydrogen industry should be green hydrogen, that is, hydrogen made using renewable electricity,” he said.

“That is why the Smart Energy Council’s scheme is important because it will enable hydrogen and related products to be certified as zero emissions. It is critical we can track how these products are manufactured so customers can be certain the product they select is genuinely zero emissions.”

ActewAGL CEO John Knox said the achievement “provides certainty to our customers that their vehicles are running on green hydrogen”.

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Capital Retro7:52 am 10 Feb 22

What is the difference between hydrogen, green hydrogen and renewable hydrogen?

Capital Retro10:06 am 07 Feb 22

I recall filling balloons with hydrogen (the colourless one) by dissolving aluminium foil in a mixture of caustic soda and water. I used the old glass one pint milk bottles with the balloon affixed to the spout.

Why can’t scrap aluminium be used in large scale projects to make hydrogen? Absolutely no electricity needed.

HiddenDragon6:41 pm 06 Feb 22

“This makes it just the second in the world to receive certification, behind another hydrogen station in Halle, Belgium.”

Which tells us all we need to know about the economics of this process and underlines the point that a tinpot, up-to-its-ears-in-debt jurisdiction like the ACT should not be wasting public funds on tokenism.

If this process was an economic winner now, or likely to be in the not too distant future, it would be happening in many more places than just two small, affluent towns.

Hi Hidden Dragon. Noting your comment regarding the hydrogen station being a form of tokenism, I’m interested in your thoughts on the broader issue of the future of internal combustion engine cards running in petrol / diesel. Do you a) think that given the broad scientific claims regarding climate change is true or alarmist? B) do you think that electric vehicles are, similarly, tokenisation as well. Just curious…

Not really.

It only makes sense economically if you have a dominant supply of intermittent renewables to selectively produce Hydrogen when they are generating in excess of network demands.

Seeing as almost zero countries have that amount of renewable energy production yet, it hardly is surprising that is isn’t more prevalent.

How about they actually deal with real issues in Canberra rather than using residents of Canberra as a play thing for their own left wing global agenda.

But you know Canberra and love to pay extremely high rates to support their local communist leaders.

What issues specifically?

Capital Retro9:15 am 07 Feb 22

You must have just moved to Canberra.

National grid, this is all a scam.

All the panels are made where and what is used to make those?

Carbon isn’t that bad, its what trees breathe.

As they can choose when they make the hydrogen from water, they can time it to when renewables are actually producing electricity.

Which is entirely the point.

The cheapest time to make them is during the night where there is little load?
However that’s made from carbon and just wasted energy.
Takes a while for coal plants to turn on and turn off.

Coal plants run during the day too? are you saying that they’re going to create hydrogen during the day and put more pressure on the grid so we are forced to build more gas plants? Or are we going to do them at night where there is little load?

If in the peak of summer people have their smart aircons turned off for loadshedding reasons are they going to be happy because they’re making green hydrogen?

I’m sick of paying for the leftist revision of sciences

No you can make Hydrogen when the renewable generators exceed demand to help smooth overall generation and demand profiles, whenever it occurs. The wholesale energy cost at these times will be low so it benefits everyone.

If you have better aligned generation and demand profiles, the grid is more efficient, less overall capacity is required and electricity is cheaper in the long term.

For example, peak electricity demands in summer typically occur in the early evening when people come home and turn on their AC units. But solar generators produce peak electricity in the middle of the day. Wind generators are also intermittent and excess electricity generation can be exploited when it occurs depending on the wind profile of the area they are sited at.

The same principles are applied for the big batteries or other energy storage technologies such as pumped hydro.

It’s also why charging EVs at night will help smoothing demand in the future.

I have no idea why you think this has anything to do with “leftists”, this is just basic grid management.

James, I hope you do a followup story on this.
How much does it cost to fill a hydrogen tank?
How many FCEV are there in Canberra apart from the 20 owned by the gov?
How reliable have the 20 gov owned NEXO been?
What is the total cost of the 20 NEXO and the green hydrogen plant?
How many non-gov FCEV have purchased a tank of hydrogen from the plant?
How reliable has the green hydrogen plant been to date?
How is the CNG trial at the same site going?

I agree.

ActewAGL should reveal how much their Executives get in their bonuses too out of this venture. They never do anything for “free” or from their hearts. This will cost out community. John Knox’s fat pay check needs to be made public.

The regulator and ActewAGL will come back in July (or soon after) with a price increase which we consumers need to include in our bills. This is no rocket science- we will be paying for this and the bonuses.

I would be interested in answers to these questions

Capital Retro5:07 pm 07 Feb 22

What goes on at ActewAGL has been secret for many years. The annual report can’t even be accessed anymore: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6157547/top-pay-at-actewagl-to-stay-secret/

Capital Retro4:02 pm 08 Feb 22

If we had an active opposition in the Legislative Assembly we could perhaps find out more answers.

This was actually funded as part of one of the renewable auctions, so they are actually doing it for free (at least costs of procuring cars/setting up the station), so your rant about bonuses is utter nonsense.


Capital Retro8:48 am 06 Feb 22

Why don’t I feel all warm and fuzzy too? How much is all this nonsense going to cost us?

Green hydrogen? At primary school were were told it was a colourless gas.

Cap retro I’m interested in the points you raise and wonder if your could further elaborate on them.

I know little about this technology. But my assumption is that producing “green” hydrogen locally would be less polluting than shipping crude oils from the Middle East to Singapore, undergoing refinery (powered I imagine by fossil fuels) then having the final product shipped to Sydney, then to be brought to Canberra via truck.

I’d be gratify if you could also further correct me if my above analysis is wrong.

Capital Retro7:20 am 07 Feb 22

Singapore generates 97% of her electricity from natural gas, most of which is piped directly via an undersea pipe from Indonesia.

The infrastructure for extracting, shipping and refining crude oil already exists as does the distribution of it to service stations all over Australia.

Most of Australia’s needs (including petrol/distillate) are shipped to Australia and then the ones we need are trucked to Canberra.

I don’t know much about the green hydrogen process but I understand there are large amounts of ammonia involved and lots of electricity required. It is unproven as a viable fuel to replace petrol and like anything that has the “renewable” tag, it is massively subsidised by you and me. The one in Canberra is only an expensive novelty.

Appreciate the reply!

Capital Retro,
“I don’t know much about the green hydrogen process”

Proceeds to make definitive comments on the issue regardless.

Too funny.

Capital Retro9:18 am 07 Feb 22

You must be new to this blog. You will soon learn that you never thank anyone. Derision is very acceptable, however.

You don’t feel warm and fuzzy because you are dead set against anything that may help the environment. You are so fixated on the status quo and don’t believe that your use of carbon is having an effect on the environment, or possibly that changing will do any good.

Capital Retro6:11 pm 08 Feb 22

1. The environment doesn’t need any help and efforts perceived to be seen as helping it by interfering with nature are totally futile.

2. My use of carbon is probably the same as yours and everyone else in Australia. I get the same electricity that you get. You say I am fixated, I believe I am being realistic.

3. The status quo is working well and there is no reason to change.

CR, you’ve now received that derision, you were seeking. It’s so rewarding isn’t it?

JC, I too don’t know a great deal about “Green” Hydrogen, however thankfully Mr Rattenbury informed us that Green Hydrogen is Hydrogen made using renewable electricity.
Of course, terms like “renewable”, “Green” and “carbon-free” in my opinion, have fairly loose definitions and I don’t buy them.

Only energy from the sun from in the sky is truly renewable and carbon-free. Everything else is a poor imitation playing catch-up.

Every solar panel made in China has a cost carbon in the mining, manufacturing, distribution and shipping processes.
Ditto for EVs. Lithium, being just a bit rare anyway, is at record prices making me wonder about whether we really can all move to EVs and ditch the ICE?

Batteries and panels have a limited life and eventually, the carbon cycle starts again.

I don’t doubt that Hydrogen is part of the answer and
I look forward to the day when I can ditch the ICE, but adoption of “lower carbon” transport for the masses, is a fair way off.

Capital Retro science says otherwise. But yeah I know you and most climate denialists don’t believe in science

If interfering with nature is totally futile, how did we change anything at all? No land clearing? No selective breeding? No dams or canals? No extinctions? Your problem seems to be one of comprehending scale.

“ The status quo is working well and there is no reason to change. “
Save time. Post this in lieu of all your comments.

You act like unless something is totally carbon free then it isn’t worth doing or doesn’t “count”.

Current EVs and Hydrogen cars using renewable energy obtained power sources already have significantly lower carbon footprints across their life cycle compared to ICE vehicles. The gap between them only expands each year.

People who argue against them look identical to the types of people who argued against the automobile 100+yrs ago because their horse was cheaper and more reliable.

Capital Retro10:00 pm 08 Feb 22

I don’t believe in the sort of science that is reliant on computer predictions and is used as a money raising tool by an unelected global institution, JC.

And gee, hasn’t it been cool lately – no unprecedented bushfires either. Could it be that CO2 levels have dropped due to the COVID induced 2 year inactivity of cruise ships and most international flights who between them were contributing about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions?

Capital Retro7:05 am 09 Feb 22

You claim that current EVs and Hydrogen cars blah blah have lower carbon footprints than ICE vehicles.


My current petrol vehicle is 21 years old. Where are the electric and hydrogen ones that have lasted 21 years?

In fact, not a single electric motor has lasted as long as the 1779 Smethwick steam engine.

CR, what modern folly dragged you away from steam? Although you still seem to blow off enough of it.

Capital Retro,
You can’t seriously have just posted that as a comment you think has any rational basis as an argument?

Did you know that there are roads today built by the Romans that still exist and are used?

These new fangled asphalt and bitumen roads are clearly inferior, show me one that’s lasted as long as good old Roman stone pebble carriageways. Ah those were the days.

And I don’t claim that current EVs and Hydrogen cars have lower carbon footprints, I’ve previously provided you reams of evidence showing it to be the case.

Evidence that you studiously ignored and then wiped from your memory because it affected your predetermined position and continue on with your selective Googling and cognitive dissonance.

Capital Retro9:17 am 09 Feb 22

I don’t know why you brought steam into this discussion but why not?


All they need is some lobbyists and a good case for subsidies and it will be up and running.

What an utter ridiculous comment. What hydrogen or EV car (beyond bespoke home built ones) even existed 21 years ago. I assume the very first hybrid vehicles perhaps might have just hit the market overseas….

Capital Retro9:47 am 09 Feb 22

There is no argument because there are no electric or hydrogen cars 21 years old that can be compared to your claim. You did say “Current EVs and Hydrogen cars using renewable energy obtained power sources already have significantly lower carbon footprints across their life cycle compared to ICE vehicles” didn’t you?

I think you have spun out of control and crashed on your Roman roads analogy, too.

“There is no argument because there are no electric or hydrogen cars 21 years old that can be compared to your claim”

Well duh, this is what makes your point meaningless.

What I’ve shown you previously is the research on the evolution of EVs that have already existed longer than the breakeven point for their Carbon footprint. Typically in 5-10 years depending on model. The trends show this has only ever improved over time as the technology develops and as more of the electricity grid is powered by renewables.

Evs and Hydrogen vehicles are already superior from this perspective and will only get better.

The only reason they currently don’t dominate (and why I won’t buy one yet) is purchase price. But any look at the trends on this show that it is literally a matter of time until the position reverses, particularly if government’s begin adequately charging for the negative externalities of carbon and other pollution emissions.

I do also have to laugh when you think your ICE vehicle with significantly more mechanical parts, belts, lubricants etc. will be a better long term bet for how long the engine will last. The only major thing it currently will perform better than on a maintenance program is battery lifespan. But that too is changing.

Capital Retro11:49 am 09 Feb 22

I tried to tell chewy14 that but he won’t listen.

Capital Retro4:35 pm 09 Feb 22

I don’t think any of the ones built before 2001 (year my current petrol engine vehicle was built) are still around which confirms that EVs have a reliability problem.

“I don’t think any of the ones built before 2001 (year my current petrol engine vehicle was built) are still around which confirms that EVs have a reliability problem.”

Well, how could anyone argue against that impenetrable logic.

Although perhaps you should have just stopped at the first 3 words.

Capital Retro7:51 am 10 Feb 22

The life cycle of my 21 year old ICE vehicle has the runs on the board and it is still going well.

If there are any 21 year old EVs (on their 4th battery) still in their “life cycle” in the future we can review this debate.

Remember, you were the one who chose “life cycle” as the comparison benchmark.

Typical ridiculous grandstanding.

Implicitly suggesting EVs built before 2001 are somehow reflective of current EVs and as a result claiming all EVs ‘have a reliability problem’ is like saying a computer built in 1995 running Windows 95 that can’t run modern programs shows all smartphones and computers are useless bricks….

Nice try at a very long bow of correlation and causality however.

The reference to life cycles was around Carbon footprints, if you’d bothered to read before mashing the keyboard.

Perhaps try some basic comprehension and reading skills first?

Capital Retro10:32 am 10 Feb 22

How long to batteries in EVs last, JS9?

Capital Retro10:36 am 10 Feb 22

I acknowledged that by reminding you that a 21 year old EV would be on its fourth battery and we all know how nasty the making and disposing of EV batteries is.

Capital Retro,
No you didn’t acknowledge it and I’ve already shown you that EVs are superior from a life cycle perspective in their Carbon footprint.

You do realise that a life cycle assessment also includes disposal right? So your incorrect point around battery disposal is already included in the assessment showing EVs on top.

This is gone well beyond embarrassing for you now, you should have just stuck with your original comments around not knowing much about the topic.

Keep digging though, you’ll eventually hit the surface right?

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