As Queensland and the world move towards a net zero emissions future, renewable hydrogen will have an increasingly important role to play.
Here’s how Queensland is developing a world-leading renewable hydrogen industry, and how that could translate into significant job opportunities for Queenslanders.
What is renewable hydrogen?
Hydrogen is a versatile energy carrier that can be used in a range of applications, including heavy vehicles, refineries and the production of ammonia and fertilisers.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but here on Earth, it doesn’t occur in its elemental (pure) form. Instead, it has to be separated from other elements.
Traditionally, hydrogen has been produced using fossil fuels. But it can also be produced in a renewable form by splitting water into its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen. This is done by passing electricity through purified water, in a process called electrolysis.
When the electricity that powers this process comes from renewable sources, such as solar and wind energy, hydrogen production doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases. This is why hydrogen produced this way is widely termed as green, or renewable, hydrogen.
This renewable hydrogen can reduce emissions from energy-intensive industries that have so far proven difficult to decarbonise, and will play a critical role in helping Queensland to reach its target of zero net emissions by 2050.
Why is Queensland developing a renewable hydrogen industry?
As well as helping to reduce Queensland’s emissions, renewable hydrogen production is also expected to create new jobs, open a new export market for the state, and attract foreign investment.
With abundant solar and wind resources, world-class infrastructure, export-ready ports and close proximity to Asian markets where renewable hydrogen is expected to be in high demand, Queensland is strongly positioned at the forefront of this emerging industry.
The Queensland Government aims to develop and expand the production of renewable hydrogen in Queensland through the $4.5 billion Queensland Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund.
There are more than 50 hydrogen projects currently underway across the state, including Stanwell’s Central Queensland renewable hydrogen (CQ-H2) Project, which is being developed in partnership with Iwatani Corporation, Kansai Electric Power Company, Keppel Infrastructure and Marubeni Corporation.
The project includes a large-scale renewable hydrogen production facility at Aldoga, near Gladstone, a hydrogen transfer facility (pipeline), and a liquefaction and shipping facility at the Port of Gladstone. The project will also supply renewable hydrogen to an ammonia production facility.
The project aims to deliver renewable hydrogen to Japan and Singapore, as well as supplying large domestic customers in Central Queensland. The project could eventually become the largest renewable hydrogen project in Queensland, scaling up to produce 800 tonnes per day of clean, renewable hydrogen by the early 2030s.
The project could support more than 8,900 new jobs at its peak, while delivering $17.2 billion in hydrogen exports and adding $12.4 billion to Queensland’s Gross State Product over its 30-year life.
A feasibility study for the project was successfully completed in 2022, with a Front End Engineering Design (FEED) study now underway. This study is developing the technical, commercial and strategic elements of the project to support a Final Investment Decision, with commercial operations planned to commence from 2028.
Where will Queensland’s renewable hydrogen workforce come from?
Renewable hydrogen has the potential to deliver thousands of jobs in regional communities across Queensland. This creates an opportunity across a range of industry sectors, and particularly aligns with the Energy Workers Charter that forms part of the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan.
The Charter states that workers at publicly owned coal-fired power stations will have opportunities to develop new skills and secure new, ongoing opportunities as Queensland transforms its energy resources to renewables.
To that end, the Queensland Government released the Hydrogen Industry Workforce Development Roadmap 2022-2032, developed in conjunction with industry, training providers, universities, and regional bodies.
It’s the nation’s first hydrogen workforce plan, and is aimed at building a pipeline of skilled, hydrogen-ready workers.
Stanwell’s Future Energy Innovation and Training Hub (FEITH), which is being developed at the Stanwell Power Station near Rockhampton, will assist with this transformation.
The size of a shopping centre, the FEITH project will provide a hands-on training environment for Queensland energy employees to develop the skills needed to work on new energy technologies, including renewable hydrogen.
A pilot project for a super-efficient five megawatt (MW) hydrogen electrolyser, developed by Australian startup Hysata, will also be based at FEITH.
Stanwell has also partnered with CQUniversity to collaborate on skills, training and technology initiatives focused on renewable hydrogen, complementing CQU’s research facilities with access to FEITH.
Other facilities across Queensland that will help prepare the hydrogen workforce of the future include the Hydrogen Training Centre of Excellence at Beenleigh; the Pinkenba Renewable Energy Training Facility; the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Training Facility at Bohle TAFE in Townsville; and upgraded training facilities at Gladstone High School, in the heart of the proposed Central Queensland Hydrogen Hub.
As the industry continues to advance, and major hydrogen projects move from concept to construction and then into operation, workforce development priorities and the skills needed will change over time.
Ensuring that the right pathways are in place for these needs to be met will require ongoing collaboration between industry, government, training and education providers and regional communities, which is why the Queensland Government has committed to refreshing the Hydrogen Industry Strategy for 2024-2028.
Regardless, it’s clear that now is the time to plan for Queensland’s hydrogen workforce of the future. With Queensland well on its way to developing a world-leading renewable hydrogen industry, that future could be closer than you think.