Clean hydrogen is Dirty Marketing: FOI & Polling

Documents obtained under freedom of Information show the Victorian Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project, that uses brown coal to make hydrogen, is unlikely to meet its claimed emissions reductions of 1.8 million tonnes, and is more likely to increase emissions by up to 3.8 million tonnes, the equivalent to adding up to 735,000 cars to the road.

The documents come as polling from the Australia Institute shows 78 per cent of Australians don’t know or incorrectly define ‘clean hydrogen’. This confusion allows proponents of hydrogen made from fossil fuels, including the federal government, to use the label ‘clean hydrogen’ for high polluting projects.

Key findings:

  • New polling shows that only one fifth (22%) of Australians know the definition of ‘clean hydrogen’ as defined by the federal government, which is hydrogen made using fossil fuels and CCS or with renewable energy.
  • 42% of Australians thought ‘clean hydrogen’ was limited to hydrogen using renewables, a zero emissions process which is incorrect.
  • The Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project uses coal gasification, a high polluting process that releases more emissions than burning coal directly.
  • HESC claims when fully operational it will reduce emissions by 1.8 million tonnes, equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road by incorrectly comparing itself with another fossil fuel based hydrogen project that doesn’t use CCS.
  • The HESC project claims it will produce ‘clean’ hydrogen by using Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) emissions despite the failure of all CCS projects in Australia to reach full operation.

“Clean hydrogen is a marketing term, not a climate solution. It is designed to sell dirty high-polluting hydrogen made using gas and coal as ‘clean’. The Australia Institute polling shows that the term is succeeding in sowing confusion, with 72 per cent of people not realising ‘clean hydrogen’ can include fossil fuels or renewables,” said Richie Merzian, Director of the Climate end Energy Program at the Australia Institute.

“Clean hydrogen with fossil fuels relies on the same failed carbon capture and storage technology to bury emissions as ‘clean coal’ and it is just as unsuccessful. If hydrogen is supposed to be a climate solution and act as an alternative to fossil fuels, it can’t be based on fossil fuels in any way.

“It’s concerning that the Australian Government was happy to repeat claims from the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) that their brown coal project will reduce emissions without having any idea of the basis of their claim.

“The federal government needs to finalise its delayed certification process for hydrogen production, to remove the marketing confusion and elevate zero emissions hydrogen made using renewable energy,” said Mr Merzian.

Figure 1: Overall understanding of the term ‘clean hydrogen’ (government definition highlighted)

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