Response 233999692

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Marianne Robinson

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Voicesof the Valley

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Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
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South Australia
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Western Australia

Your comments

Survey questions

What do you think are the two or three most significant recent developments in hydrogen?
1. Politically, the commitment of Federal and State governments to funding research and development and the commitment of the Japanese government to a hydrogen economy. 2. Research on using hydrogen as a clean fuel. 3. The proposal to produce hydrogen in the Latrobe Valley using brown coal. Our submission will be concerned specifically with producing hydrogen in the Latrobe Valley.
What are the most important safety issues to consider in producing, handling and using hydrogen in Australia?
We have not obtained details of the process and management of producing hydrogen using brown coal as a fuel source so our concerns are based on prior experience of the Lurgi method of producing gas from coal in the Latrobe Valley. 1. Production: waste products from the process, including liquids and gas emissions and disposal of by-products, including effluent and brown coal ash. The waste products of the Lurgi process still affect the site after 50 years. Secondly, we are concerned about the safety of the process itself. We have been told that the pilot process will be safe because it will be a series of short experiments, but our questions about the safety of continuous process were not answered. Safety of workers and the surrounding community are paramount. Handling: Transportation and the safety of areas through which the gas is transported.
What environmental and community impacts should we examine?
1. The effect of using brown coal on the air quality of the Latrobe Valley air-shed, especially as it would contribute an additional risk of particle emissions to a valley affected by coal burning power stations, the proposed waste to energy plant being established by Australian Paper, predictable seasonal burning of surrounding bush and unpredictable bushfires. 2. The Latrobe Valley community has a health deficit resulting from decades of living with coal mining and burning and the health of people living in the area should no longer be subordinated to the mirage of jobs. 3. The production of carbon dioxide from current activities has not been reported so has not been included in air quality analyses for power station licences or the waste to energy proposal. The pilot project being run in the Latrobe Valley does not include carbon capture and storage, so we do not know whether this will be possible, or effective if it is established. 4. Producing hydrogen from coal is an inherently wasteful process since everything but the hydrogen is a waste product. We have a waste crisis in Australia generally and should be looking for ways to reduce waste, not add to it. 5. Why should Australians carry the environmental cost associated with a 'clean energy' solution for Japan? While hydrogen is described as a clean fuel, the production of hydrogen using coal is by no means a clean process. We must question whether it is really a clean fuel if the production of hydrogen is an environmentally dirty process.
How can Australia influence and accelerate the development of a global market for hydrogen?
The question of whether Australia should accelerate the development of a global market for hydrogen has not been adequately debated. There has been significant discussion of the non-polluting nature of hydrogen as a fuel, but very little information on the environmental cost associated with producing hydrogen using coal. A process producing hydrogen from water would be preferable. Australia should be wary of supporting the development of a global market for hydrogen if the process of processing hydrogen depends on increasing pollution locally and increasing the release of carbon dioxide globally. By analogy, gold is a very safe metal, used for filling teeth. However, the extraction of gold has been environmentally destructive, and dangerous to health, and we must consider the risks associated with producing clean fuel at the cost of human health and environmental degradation. Australia exports energy now, at the expense of high costs in the domestic market. We should not make this worse.
What are the top two or three factors required for a successful hydrogen export industry?
1. That the Australian market can absorb the energy costs. 2. That the development of a hydrogen export industry is not at the health and environmental costs to Australian communities. 3. If using coal in the production of hydrogen, comprehensive planning for the costs of mining, mine rehabilitation, health risks for the community and dealing with the waste products associated with continuing to use brown coal as fuel. The use of brown coal has never included these costs, with the result that the people of the Latrobe Valley have borne the health costs of producing cheap energy for Victoria and the economic costs of the decline of the coal powered energy industry. Now that we are living with these costs we must factor them into any future use of coal. 4.Carbon capture and storage.
What are the main barriers to the use of hydrogen in Australia?
Carbon capture and storage is not a proven technology.
What are some examples where a strategic national approach could lower costs and shorten timelines for developing a clean hydrogen industry?
We fear that the most likely way of lowering costs and shortening timelines is by neglecting to consider the real costs for people who live near where hydrogen is produced and by hastening the development of hydrogen production without properly considering the how to manage the waste that may be produced. Carbon capture and storage is offered to us as a mantra, but it is by no means clear that it is a solution. Producing hydrogen using coal will continue to release carbon dioxide at a time when the world is increasingly experiencing climate change and we need to reduce greenhouse gases, not continue to produce them and capture them.
What are Australia’s key technology, regulatory and business strengths and weaknesses in the development of a clean hydrogen industry?
A key weakness is the belief that development is a good in itself, without considering the costs and who bears those costs. The current gas export industry has been at the expense of domestic consumers and Australian industry.
Do you have any other comments or submissions to this process?
The production of hydrogen from water, using renewable sources of energy for the process would be a clean technology and produce a clean fuel. Using brown coal to produce hydrogen would continue the use of dirty fuel, produce significant quantities of greenhouse gases and would not justify the description of hydrogen as a clean fuel. We have been told that if hydrogen from coal goes ahead it will burn as much coal as the power stations.