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Directions in Australian hydrogen: Power to Gas and the ‘hydrogen superhighway’

In May 2021, 700 households in Mitchell Park, Adelaide began receiving a natural gas and hydrogen blend, the first Australian blending project to reach consumers.

Produced at AGIG’s Hydrogen Park South Australia (HyP SA), the green hydrogen is created via PEM electrolysis, fed with solar and wind output.

Later that same year, in November, Jemena started supplying blended hydrogen in a New South Wales trial that involved more than 20,000 residential consumers, 100 commercial consumers, and a handful of industrial consumers.

Jemena’s hydrogen is produced in a power-to-gas (P2G) demonstration project that will see an underground hydrogen buffer store “with the capability to provide hydrogen for a future onsite Hydrogen Refuelling Station (HRS).”

Elsewhere, an innovative agreement sees states collaborating to develop a hydrogen refuelling network that will encompass major routes on the eastern seaboard, creating a hydrogen superhighway.

Fyfe team members are currently involved in a number of promising hydrogen and new energies projects, and our work in this space continues to increase as our clients seek new and innovative ways of cutting emissions and contributing to the burgeoning industry.

Here, we’d like to highlight these two emerging directions in Australian hydrogen that Fyfe is pursuing.


Power-to-gas (P2G) is one type of reconversion that typically involves the conversion of surplus power from renewable sources to hydrogen gas via electrolysis.

These systems are particularly helpful in economies with a higher share of energy from renewable sources and for those with ambitious decarbonisation goals. The hydrogen produced by P2G systems can be injected into gas grids at safe levels, replacing some natural gas and helping to minimise both greenhouse emissions and high-carbon fuel reliance.

Or it can be used in hydrogen refuelling stations, such as those proposed in the eastern seaboard tri-state agreement, helping to decarbonise emissions-heavy industries such as logistics and kickstart and support a hydrogen vehicle industry.

Fyfe recently completed a proposal for a 200 MWe gas turbine power station fuelled by either 100% hydrogen or a hydrogen/methane blend. The idea is to use surplus renewable electricity to produce hydrogen through electrolysis. This stored hydrogen will then be used to fuel the gas turbines during peaks in demand for electricity when renewable power is not available. This will prevent grid load shedding. However, there are challenges in storing hydrogen as it is 8.5 times less dense than natural gas. Fyfe has worked on optimising hydrogen pipeline lengths, line packing, and the maximum duration the gas turbine will require hydrogen/methane blended fuel.

Although P2G is an effective way of creating a cleaner and greener gas product, there are challenges. The capital expenditure required to set up, test over long periods, and then eventually run P2G systems is high. A factor that is mitigated somewhat by federal funding in this area. Jemena’s $15 million P2G trial is 50% funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), for instance.

Besides CAPEX, there are other considerations, both technical and social, when injecting hydrogen into the grid.

P2G and hydrogen injection technical considerations

Every gas has a calorific value (CV), an indication of how much energy (for example, heat) is generated when the gas is combusted. The CV of each gas varies depending on its composition.

Hydrogen’s CV is very high, meaning it has a greater heat potential per kilogram than other combustible fuels. For example, the CV of natural gas is 42 to 55 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) while the CV of hydrogen is 120 to 140 MJ/kg.

While this initially sounds like a good thing, there are considerations such as explosivity, transportation and storage difficulties, and, in terms of P2G injection into the gas grid, there are challenges with downstream installations and appliances on the consumer’s end.

In an interview, Steve Davies, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Pipelines & Gas Association, noted that there had been no issues encountered injecting hydrogen at a percentage of 5%. In theory, hydrogen can be safely injected at percentages of 10 to 15%, or even slightly higher, although these estimates vary among scholars.

In the UK, for instance, a blend of 20% hydrogen and natural gas is being used to heat around 100 homes and several of Keele University’s faculty buildings. This is possible for several reasons: the project was granted an exemption from the UK’s 0.1% limit on hydrogen in the gas grid, and Keele University owns and manages its own private network that can be cut off from the main grid.

Additionally, the EU and the UK have regulations in place that ensure appliances manufactured after 1996 can support up to 23% hydrogen.

Because hydrogen embrittles metals, and the molecules’ diminutive size means leaks happen more readily than with natural gas, the industry is currently examining how well existing infrastructure will handle the addition of hydrogen, and how pipelines will fare over time.

One study shows that for new plastic piping with hydrogen concentrations up to 20%, the losses are about 1.5 to 2 times that of methane; economically insignificant. Hydrogen concentrations of over 20% start to exhibit noticeable losses. For 100% hydrogen, the losses are 66 times that of pure methane at 414 kPa. The losses increase exponentially with pressure increases.

While PE pipelines are, to a certain extent, hydrogen compatible, older high-pressure steel pipes present pressure cycling issues and older still cast-iron pipes are prone to embrittlement. Other factors that influence hydrogen embrittlement are temperature, pressure, flow rate, impurities in gas, and material surface condition.

The hydrogen superhighway

A Memorandum of Understanding between Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales will see the three states working together on a renewable hydrogen refuelling network, dubbed the hydrogen superhighway.

This network will support heavy transport and logistics, and the refuelling stations could be (in part, at least) supplied by P2G technologies.

Energy companies working with hydrogen may benefit from investing in infrastructure that can transport excess hydrogen to these stations. Although the superhighway is not slated for completion soon, it’s a step toward the logistics and freight industries working towards full decarbonisation.

Renata Berglas of the Queensland Hydrogen Taskforce said the next logical step would be “increasing supply of zero-emissions vehicles designed to meet Australian requirements.”

With the ability to refuel hydrogen vehicles on the Hume, Pacific, and Newell Highways, logistics providers won’t be the only beneficiaries.

The superhighway project will spur economic growth, but it will also mean that ordinary people can (eventually) buy, drive, and refuel hydrogen fuel-cell cars. And unlike with electric vehicles (EVs), drivers won’t spend hours waiting at recharge stations; these fuel-cell cars are refilled much like petrol and diesel vehicles, in a matter of minutes at a pump.

There are some time pressures on decarbonising transportation at play, too. For example, in Queensland all new buses from 2025 must be zero emission buses (ZEB), and the electric Metro bus in Brisbane is in a trial operation. Meanwhile, Sydney will transition its 8000-strong diesel bus fleet to electric and hydrogen by 2030 and in Victoria, all new bus purchases from 2025 will be zero emissions.

However, uptake is constrained by a lack of clear funding options, existing contractual arrangements, the ability of local bus manufacturing to supply ZEBs and other operational constraints.

Fyfe’s work in hydrogen is increasing

These are just a handful of the more than 50 hydrogen projects currently underway in Australia as the country, like many others, accelerates its decarbonisation efforts.

Fyfe team members are currently involved in a number of promising hydrogen and new energies projects, and our work in this space continues to increase as our clients seek new and innovative ways of cutting emissions and contributing to the burgeoning industry.

To discuss how Fyfe can assist with hydrogen-related projects, including pipeline support or engineering considerations, please contact us.