Latrobe Valley has been nominated as a potential Hydrogen Hub. Whilst hydrogen is commonly referred to as a renewable resource, it is important to understand the process of how it is created in order to understand whether it is in fact a clean and renewable resource and the type of new economic development we want to create for a safe and prosperous future in our region.

An existing coal to hydrogen pilot plant known as the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) is currently underway on the LoyYang site & using approximately 180 tonnes of LoyYang coal to produce 3 tonnes of hydrogen.

This project is to produce hydrogen for export to Japan, not for our domestic use.

If this pilot is successful, a new coal field would need to be established, complicating further the mammoth task of rehabilitation in the Latrobe Valley, and potentially requiring more of our scarce water resources.

Without the colours, it’s still fossil fuel

To confuse the issue, the process to produce hydrogen is given a colour coding which refers to the source or the process used to make hydrogen covering an array or rainbow colours.

No doubt more colours will be added or changed by numerous conflicted entities designed to confuse or obscure the true emissions created. Currently, there is a push from the gas (blue) hydrogen industry to try and distinguish their industry as different, as each variation of hydrogen is in competition for government funding with both the big gas and coal corporates having an enormous influence on government policy.

The use of colours to influence, manipulate and obscure the facts is very concerning.

The Latrobe Valley coal to hydrogen process is variously referred as brown/grey hydrogen but under full commercialisation would require carbon capture and storage (CCS) which has made colour coding confusing.

CCS refers to the process of capturing CO2 emissions, transporting them via pipeline and storage in an underground site either onshore or offshore.

Some say:

  • Coal to hydrogen without CCS is brown
  • Coal to hydrogen with CCS is grey
  • Gas hydrogen must also utilise CCS and is blue

Talking in colours only benefits the fossil fuel industry. It’s renewable hydrogen or fossil hydrogen.

The proposed Hydrogen Hub for Latrobe Valley is part of the CarbonNet project which comes with a whole set of other non-transparent & manipulated information.

Big holes, bigger problems

Under a commercialisation arrangement for coal to hydrogen, a new coal pit would need to be established with only two options available within the Latrobe Valley area.

These are either south of the existing Hazelwood mine void at the site known as the Gifford site or further east of the LoyYang coal pit in the farming area of Flynn.

Any new expansion use of coal would require a whole other level of additional approvals in the current regulatory environment. This includes measures that were poorly defined, costed and reviewed in the past and include:

  • Water entitlement agreement noting costs based on the real value of potable water
  • Substantially increased rehabilitation bond
  • Significant contribution to the Latrobe Valley stability levy due to existing subsidence and ground movement
  • Appropriate risk insurance and liability risks for multi-user pipeline which is currently not transparent
  • Best practice for everything from fly ash disposal and storage to capturing other heavy metals emissions

Government have already stated the rehabilitation of the existing three Latrobe Valley coal mines are ‘one giant experiment’.

As we re-imagine our region and look towards a transition to clean renewable resources and economies, we should be asking our selves if this project really fits that bill, or if we will be left with another giant hole to rehabilitate and our precious water sucked dry in the process.

Real Renewables – the way of the future

Decarbonising heavy industry and heavy transport is where hydrogen will play the most important role.

Any development of hydrogen industry must be:

  1. Renewable
  2. It is not a replacement for electrification
  3. Invested in now, we can’t wait

While different sectors will continue to talk in colours it is important for the community to understand that fossil fuel hydrogen is setting up industry reliance on much of the same. Continuing to emit CO2 and creating another coal pit in Latrobe Valley with all its negative implications.


Further reading on renewable hydrogen can be found on following links.