NEW efforts are being made to force the state government to abandon its commitment to having hydrogen produced from brown coal in the Latrobe Valley to be shipped from Western Port to Japan.
Opponents say the amount of CO2 released by the process raises doubts over Victoria being able to meet its emissions target reductions of 75-80 per cent by 2035; net zero by 2045.
Using hydrogen in Japanese vehicles will help that country cut its emissions but add to Australia’s.
A debate scheduled in state parliament’s Legislative Council this week over the fate of the brown coal to hydrogen project follows what appears to have been a public relations visit to Hastings last month by the purpose built hydrogen carrier, the Suiso Frontier.
Members of parliament, business and community leaders toured the ship on 8 October, coinciding with a visit by Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Yasutoshi Nishimura who, while in Australia, was assured that green energy policies would not threaten another source of energy to Japan, LNG.
The petition to parliament reminds MPs that the government has said it will further assess the feasibility of “a highly polluting brown coal to hydrogen project in the Latrobe Valley” (“Friends petition aims to stop hydrogen project” The News 4/7/23).
It emphasises the unproven ability of CO2 to be forever contained in disused offshore gas wells through carbon capture and storage technology.
“Amid a climate crisis, this new coal project would extend the life of Australia’s dirtiest fossil fuel and according to The Australia Institute, create between 2.9 to 3.8 million tonnes of CO2 per year.”
The petition calls for an end to the brown coal to hydrogen project and for the government to “begin the urgent phase out of all existing coal projects with appropriate support for workers and communities”.
The state and federal governments have already each contributed $50 million to the $495m pilot project known as the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC), proposed by three Japanese companies, Japanese companies including Kawasaki, Sumitomo and J-Power.
However, hydrogen made from brown coal in the Latrobe Valley liquified at a Hastings plant failed to meet expectations when the Suiso Frontier arrived to pick up its first cargo in May 2022.
The ship was reported to have taken on less than half a tonne (instead of a planned three tonnes) of hydrogen originating from the Loy Lang gasification plant before adding another 1.6 tonnes made from gas.
Adding to the Suiso Frontier’s woes and before disembarking” on its 11,000 kilometre return voyage to Japan, a fire broke out while it was moored at Hastings (“Equipment blamed for fire on hydrogen ship” The News 20/2/23).
A video released and distributed online last week by the Save Westernport community group aims to enlist more Victorians to “help fight this absurd and dangerous project”.
“It’s pretty much gone under the radar, with opposition localised by concerned groups in the Latrobe Valley and Western Port. Now we need to grow the campaign and ensure HESC goes no further,” narrator Jane Carnegie says.
Using brown coal to make hydrogen and export it to Japan from Western Port was contradictory to the state government’s plan to build Bass Strait wind farm infrastructure at Hastings.
“There is certainly no room for both projects without massive environmental harm,” Carnegie states. “Commercial production [of hydrogen] would involve new coal mining, significant energy and water requirements, producing large quantities of waste and sludge and massive new emissions … for us; not for Japan.
“The project makes no sense on any level. It seems all the costs and risks are with Victoria with no benefits for Victorians.”