4 March 2022

Locally grown green hydrogen project will power a zero-emissions future

| Ian Bushnell
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Canberra clean energy

Canberra clean energy: Locally made electrolysers at Elvin Group’s hydrogen facilities in Lyneham. Photos: Michelle Kroll.

A $2 million Canberra-based project that promises to supply clean energy by producing green hydrogen from potable water is blazing a trail in renewable energy development.

A decade in the making, the project will use prototype technology to remediate the emissions-heavy concrete industry.

Elvin Group Renewables partnered with Hydrostar Asia Pacific to accelerate the commercialisation and assist with the manufacture and delivery of its own unique membrane-less electrolysers using a revolutionary design that is cleaner and produces hydrogen at 25 per cent less cost than other processes.

The hydrogen project is part of a multi-million dollar commitment by the company to de-carbonise its concrete operations and develop integrated renewable energy solutions.

All this without government assistance, although a recent tour of its facilities attracted interest from the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Zed Seselja, and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials.

At its trial site in Lyneham, the company has built electrolysers that, combined with a hydrogen fuel cell, can power households and businesses, and agricultural operations in remote areas. These include potential sites in the Pacific islands which are actively seeking solutions to their energy problems.

Elvin Group Renewables has already built a $7 million 5 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery in Holt using Tesla Megapacks that can supply a minimum two hours of power to 4300 homes in Holt and Ginninderra. The battery also contributes to grid stabilisation.

A solar farm to feed the battery will also supply electricity for an electrolyser to produce hydrogen to fuel Elvin’s entire fleet of converted fuel cell-based trucks within five years.

“They will be hydrogen-electric,” CEO Craig Elvin says.

“They’ll be quiet and they will have maintenance intervals that will be much, much better than the current trucks.”

Sam Blackadder at Holt battery facility

Elvin Group Renewables managing director Sam Blackadder at the Holt battery facility where a solar farm is planned. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Mr Elvin says the cement and concrete industry has to do some heavy lifting to reduce its carbon footprint, but in doing so, it needs to make economic sense.

Using hydrogen eclectic, the company will be able to operate its fleet for up to three times longer than their current replacement schedule, as well as slashing its fuel costs over the life of the vehicles.

The Holt facility will eventually be able to generate and store electricity, and produce and store green hydrogen.

“If we can do it in Canberra, we can do it anywhere in the world,” Mr Elvin says.

Elvin Group concrete truck

The conversion to hydrogen will allow Elvin Group to run its trucks for 12 to 15 years. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Elvin Group Renewables managing director Sam Blackadder, who helped take the small island nation of Tokelau off the grid in 2013, says one of hydrogen’s advantages over lithium batteries is that it doesn’t degrade over time.

He says it can also be stored, particularly useful if power is interrupted or the hydrogen is used for fuel cell-based electric vehicles or boats.

At Lyneham, Elvin has four working cylindrical electrolyser models – two 40 kilowatt and two 50 kW units, although the capacity can be expanded to 70 kW and 100 kW, respectively. Two years ago, that figure was just 5 kW. The model is currently going through rapid prototype upscaling to a commercial product made locally with 100 per cent recycled materials.

The units run off direct current (DC) which can be effectively connected directly to a solar PV farm.

“This process is simple and very cheap,” Mr Elvin says.

Senator Zed Seselja and Craig Elvin

Senator Zed Seselja discusses the hydrogen project with Elvin Group Renewables CEO Craig Elvin. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The hydrogen can be put through a fuel cell and fed into the electricity network, or the fuel cell can be used instead of a diesel generator to supply backup power to a house, community or business.

And like battery facilities, the product can be scaled up by combining multiple units.

Mr Blackadder says it is important to provide end uses now and take those necessary first steps before progressing to large industrial applications.

Electrolyser

A model electrolyser shows what the technology looks like. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Elvin Group sees great potential for the product in the bush or in island states where even solar generation can be interrupted by natural disasters such as cyclones; or in the case of Tonga recently, a volcano and tsunami.

The technology can also help develop industries, jobs and skills in places where a secure energy supply is lacking. Mr Blackadder says a good example is Papua New Guinea, where two plans for fish canneries are on hold because of the cost of connecting electricity.

Elvin Group believes hydrogen can also power clean, green marine coastal and inter-island transport. It currently has a zero-emissions fuel cell catamaran project in progress to demonstrate the possibilities.

The company is currently working with Evoenergy, AGL, CIT and its other partners to bring its work to real-world application and help reduce Australia’s fossil fuels and shift the economy to a zero-emissions future.

“For us, it’s a case of showcasing how we can create green hydrogen economically and then to start demonstrating some of the uses we foresee. But the uses are only limited by your imagination,” Mr Elvin says.

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Electric vehicle batteries use nickel and Russia produces 17% of the world’s top-grade nickel.
The price action for nickel in the past 48 hours has been extraordinary, to such an extent that the London Metals Exchange has suspended nickel trading until Friday, 11 March.
Nickel spiked briefly above $US100,000 a tonne.
The average Tesla contains approximately 45 kg of nickel.
Higher nickel prices, if sustained, will ratchet up costs for electric vehicle batteries. Unaffordable raw materials will make the electric vehicle and green energy industry even less cost effective than it is now, discouraging adoption and production.

Lower end EVs don’t use nickel (lithium ion phosphate batteries) so it could actually see more prevalence of those types of vehicles and less high end luxury Evs in the short term.

And it won’t really make a difference to the “green energy” industry, which is far more than lithium ion batteries.

Which also makes it weird for you to post this on an article about a completely different technology…

What is weird is an incomprehension of logic applied to facts, combined with a disturbing propensity to stalk anyone with a different opinion.

Hilarious that you think pointing out errors in your statements and providing more details on an issue is somehow “stalking”.

Do you think you should be free to constantly post misinformation without counter?

Perhaps if your posts weren’t so often completely fact free or totally lacking in balance, I wouldn’t have to correct you so much.

John Nicholl1:53 pm 09 Mar 22

Absolutely inspirational that the Elvin group would take these huge commercial risk to develop a new green future for all Ken Behrens ..
Time for the ACT government- Andrew Barr- to walk the walk and provide $ incentives for the Elvin group and other emerging technologies to stay in Canberra with the ongoing multiplier to the ACT economy.

Capital Retro6:05 pm 04 Mar 22

Note that Zed (Zero Emission Devotee) is getting involved.

Not a good move Zed as you will lose more votes than you will gain.

Ashley Krum Howard5:19 pm 04 Mar 22

The diesel of the future IMO, that said, I’ve seen an battery powered mini excavator which was amazingly quiet. Eitherway, a combination of hydrogen and Li batteries as power sources is where we are headed.
Is there any ability for public investment in the hydrogen scene in Canberra?

Capital Retro6:02 pm 04 Mar 22

The virtue signaling government has already arranged for the public to invest in hydrogen.

It’s called subsidization.

Ashley Krum Howard8:19 pm 04 Mar 22

Well I meant investment through publically listed companies rather, but incentives always help

Capital Retro10:51 am 05 Mar 22

It’s public money providing incentives only to entrepreneurs so the public don’t get any “help” at all.

Ashley Krum Howard12:24 pm 05 Mar 22

well any member of the public can be an entrepreneur if the really want to be….or have the ability to be. the incentive aims to provide breakthroughs in technologies to then further drive policies for more targetted incentives. So I would say that the public does get “help” eventually

Capital Retro12:50 pm 05 Mar 22

Only if the technologies are successful and viable. The road is littered with failures.

Sam Blackadder10:48 am 09 Mar 22

Hi Capital Retro – in our case we haven’t received any public money or government support for either of these projects. Not saying that public funding wouldn’t be appreciated, as we could significantly ramp up projects which would bring more local jobs.
As a local family Canberra company for over 50 years we are focused on creating stable jobs and focusing on Australian manufacturing and innovation.

There will be some more exciting news unveiled over the next month or two on some other ground breaking projects that we have already started.

Capital Retro3:32 pm 09 Mar 22

The post I was replying too referred to “public investment in the hydrogen scene in Canberra”, not your project specifically.

As the ACT government has committed millions of dollars to various projects involved in green hydrogen and renewable energy storage batteries and your company being local, I would like to know why you missed out.

It appears however, that your company would have received financial support from the ACT Government as part of this initiative: https://reneweconomy.com.au/act-seeks-proposals-for-massive-250mw-big-canberra-battery-network/ , but that’s a different project.

By the way, I hope you realize that if the potable water you are using is supplied by Icon then you are using one of the most expensive water in Australia.

Sam Blackadder9:06 pm 09 Mar 22

Thankyou for clarifying , appreciated and understand what you mean now.

In regards to funding, it’s definitely not without us trying. I would have thought a local Canberra company would have had greater support in leading innovation.

We still haven’t received anything, however we believe it’s important to push ahead and deliver projects.

For the big battery program that you mentioned, our project started months before the announcement. As the project took us about 18 months to develop and construct.

To my knowledge in the public space the state is still receiving EOI’s, so I don’t think any project has been awarded or started as of yet.

Capital Retro,
You are too funny. How exactly do you think technologies became successful and viable if research dollars aren’t committed to developing them?

You realise that the fossil fuel technologies you religiously worship didn’t miraculously spring up from the ground overnight right? They received enormous government subsidies in their development and implementation and ongoing operations.

And I don’t know where you got the idea that our drinking water is one of the most expensive in Australia (it isn’t).

But you do raise an inadvertently good point, that of the immense water needs of fossil fuel generators that can be replaced by renewable electricity sources that require far less water.

Great point CR, highlighting another huge advantage of renewables compared to the old fossil fuel generators which are now being phased out.

How does the green hydrogen technology used by Elvin compare to the green hydrogen technology used at the government plant in Fyshwick?

Sam Blackadder11:10 am 03 Mar 22

This is novel technology and completely different, this technology is also made and manufactured within Canberra.

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