31 August 2021

Today's high-school students require more training in tomorrow's hydrogen

| James Coleman
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Car being filled at hydrogen refuelling station

Refilling a car with hydrogen. Photo: Region Media.

The days when teachers could simply encourage their less academically inclined high school students to take up a trade are over.

As the world increasingly pursues zero-emission technology, training in chemistry, physics and other sciences is becoming more critical for all school students, no matter whether or not their career path includes further study at university.

Robert Edwards is chairperson of the National Hydrogen Training Committee for Master Plumbers Australia and New Zealand (MPANZ) and says there has been a long-held misconception that trades are the easy way out, but this can no longer be the case.

Hydrogen promises to be a big part of the future.

In 2018, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced an investment of $22.1 million in 16 hydrogen research projects. In 2019, this was followed by more than $100 million for the Renewable Hydrogen Development Funding Round to help fast-track the development of a renewable hydrogen industry.

Hydrogen can be used to power homes, as fuel for transport or heating, a way to store electricity until it’s needed, or as a raw material in the manufacturing industry.

As a gas, it can be delivered through existing natural gas pipelines, while as a liquid, it can be easily transported on trucks or ships, effectively making hydrogen a tradeable commodity.

Hydrogen bottles

Hydrogen is only two-to-three years away from becoming a major energy source in Australia. Photo: Region Media.

But as all of this unfolds – and it’s unfolding fast – the future generation needs to know exactly what hydrogen is and how it works.

“Students need to be aware of this,” says Robert. “Those who are writing the high-school curriculum need to be aware of this, too. Parents who want their kids to do a trade also need to be aware of it.

“Hydrogen is not 20 or 30 years away, it’s two-to-three years away. It’s happening that fast. There’s a rollout of products overseas that have been in operation for quite some time that will start coming into Australia.”

Robert says the ACT is leading the nation when it comes to hydrogen technology, and we can expect to see anything here first.

“For instance, last month we were going to get a standalone hydrogen battery installed here in a house in Canberra, but it was only because of a couple of technical issues that it’s been put off until early next year.”

In March 2021, the ACT became the first place in Australia to have a publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling station when the ActewAGL facility opened in Fyshwick.

ActewAGL CEO John Knox said at the time: “If we have further investment in the hydrogen industry in Canberra, I am absolutely confident it will play a larger role in decarbonising both the transport and energy sector.”

Hydrogen-powered car at hydrogen refuelling station in Fyshwick

One of the ACT Government’s hydrogen-powered Hyundai NEXOs outside the ActewAGL hydrogen refuelling facility in Fyshwick. Photo: Region Media.

Elsewhere in Fyshwick, Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) and EvoEnergy collaborated to create Australia’s first hydrogen testing station at their campus in December 2018. It launched progressively during the next 12 months in three phases, from testing hydrogen’s compatibility with current energy networks, to how it could be used in the likes of continuous hot-water systems.

Robert describes CIT as being one of the driving forces in getting dedicated hydrogen training up and running, and his committee has been working closely with the institution towards designing a specific certificate for tradespeople entering into hydrogen-related industries in Australia.

“We want to make sure there’s a licence qualification because everyone in the hydrogen sector does not want an accident to happen,” he says. “If that happens, hydrogen will be set back years.

“We’ve already worked on hydrogen skills for upstream of the gas meter for those on the supply side, and now we’ve just started work with one of the skill service organisations to design a training course for households, businesses and consumers.”

The last piece of the jigsaw involves developing a hydrogen-ready workforce in high-school students.

In Queensland, the Annastacia Palaszczuk state government has granted $2 million to Gladstone High School for introductory training courses in hydrogen.

“Hydrogen has the potential to be a multi-billion dollar industry, and the investment in training is to ensure we have people with the skills and training ready to meet demand as it grows and to ensure the safe and sustainable development of the hydrogen industry,” said Queensland Premier Palaszczuk.

Robert would like to see similar education built into the ACT school curriculum.

“Don’t say to your kids, ‘Why don’t you just go and do a trade?’,” he says.

“They need to know now that it’s a case of, ‘You know what, you better knuckle down if you want to do a trade’.”

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Carbon capture and storage hasn’t worked very well so far: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/australia-s-giant-carbon-capture-project-fails-to-meet-key-targets-20210719-p58b3i.html

If CCS is a key part of transitioning to a “hydrogen economy” then that hydrogen economy is a hell of a lot more than 2-3 years away.

Note also that the failed carbon capture in the article I linked was only ever supposed to mitigate the emissions of the mining. Even if the project had been 100% successful, it would have done nothing to mitigate the emissions from actually burning the gas.

So far, carbon capture has only been useful to get the green light for fossil fuel projects that would have otherwise not been given permission.

I’m sure stories such as this, and others about EVs and anything referencing the C word are subsidised by ACT Health and the ACT Council on the Ageing. They certainly succeed in bringing them out.

Capital Retro10:02 am 02 Sep 21

I assume you use the letter C as a substitute for “con”?

Capital Retro8:26 am 02 Sep 21

Like electricity for Canberra’s EVs is coming from coal, hydrogen for Japan’s hugely subsidized hydrogen car industry is coming from coal in Australia too.


What a dilemma for the warmists.

Do you even read the articles you link?

“The project is in its pilot phase, and because producing hydrogen using coal creates greenhouse gases, it will not commercialise it unless it is able to capture and store the emissions.”

The whole idea is to set up the Hydrogen technology because the transition towards a low emissions future is already occurring. It’s called planning.

Exactly as the ACT is now purchasing the equivalent energy usage in renewables, with fossil fuels on the decline. Don’t you feel tired constantly trying to ignore reality?

Capital Retro10:10 am 02 Sep 21

Every new venture starts with a “pilot phase”.

The Hindenburg was the forerunner of a new aviation industry and it even had a “pilot failure”.

You don’t seem to have much faith in the project I linked to.

Capital Retro,
The project won’t move beyond a “pilot phase” if they don’t move production to a low emissions source of electricity so your apparent point is meaningless.

So it’s actually you who doesn’t have much faith in the project because no one is going to substitute one high emissions power source for a less efficient high emissions one.

The project only works if it isn’t powered by the current coal configuration.

Capital Retro4:29 pm 02 Sep 21

The project also includes carbon capture and storage which will be an extension of the current coal configuration or did you miss that too?


Capital Retro,
I suggest you reread my comment.

Low emissions.

Current coal configuration.

If they develop and install a carbon capture and storage arrangement, it’s no longer the current coal configuration, nor high emissions now, is it?

Capital Retro5:56 pm 02 Sep 21

I acknowledged that in the last sentence of my post.

You read my comment instead; for a change..

Capital Retro,
You claimed I missed something when it was directly covered in my comment, so I’m not sure what you’re on about.

Either you didn’t read my comment or you didn’t understand it.

Hydrogen is great! Goes off with a good bang when you get the stoichiometric ratio right – as the lab assistant at school inadvertently demonstrated many years ago. Liquid hydrogen is also good at giving you frostbite.

I wouldn’t call it a “terrible” problem seeing as it’s not a dissimilar efficiency to current petrol cars.

The main advantages of Hydogen vehicles being filling times, range and the fact that the hydrogen used can be produced using surplus electricity which smooths demands.

The main problem with EV’s is that charging them takes a significant amount of time and fast chargers cause a significant strain on the electricity network.

No mention of ammonia here. I am no expert, but I thought that it would be ammonia that is transported and later converted to hydrogen.

Capital Retro11:33 am 01 Sep 21

Ammonia gas can decompose at high temperatures forming very flammable hydrogen and toxic nitrogen dioxide. It is a compressed gas and a confined space explosion and toxicity hazard. Ammonia gas may cause lung injury, and the liquefied gas can cause frostbite and corrosive injury to eyes and skin.

And we are being lectured about the hazards of burning coal?

No, it’s pure hydrogen. The longer term idea would be to make it from water using electrolysis.

Capital Retro10:46 am 01 Sep 21

Their training should start with regular showings of historical film of the Hindenburg disaster to remind them how dangerous hydrogen is.

So we should similarly show oil well disasters and petrol refinery explosions to anyone learning about it?

Capital Retro8:16 am 02 Sep 21

I would hope so – O H & S is very important.

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