Hydrogen is touted as the fuel of the future by its proponents but amongst the obstacles towards its adoption is the need to reduce the cost of production – particularly of the aptly named “green hydrogen”.

Green hydrogen is generally recognised as hydrogen that is produced by cracking water into its constituent elements using electrolysers powered by renewable energy.

While water itself is cheap, the cost of producing hydrogen comes from the capital costs associated with the energy source, be it solar or wind, and the electrolyser.

Let’s be clear here, the costs have been coming down rapidly. The widespread and still growing adoption of solar panels has resulted in a drastic reduction in their cost while the economies of scale are expected to do the same for electrolysers.

However, Global NRG claims that hydrogen production is possible at about $2 per kilogram – a goal that is not expected to be reached before 2030 and the point where hydrogen becomes competitive with alternative – with the potential to reduce this further to 50c/kg.

Waste to energy

The trick to this comes from the company’s primary role as a waste to energy.

Global NRG makes biogas through the anaerobic digestion of organic waste and syngas from the gasification of any organic waste.

For biogas, the company extracts the carbon dioxide to increase the methane content up to between 98 per cent to 99 per cent and use this gas for transport, power generation or for cooking and heating.

It also adds a percentage of waste plastic to the organic wastes before producing syngas, which brings with it the gate fees and levies that would have had to be paid if it had gone to landfill.

Up to 40 per cent of waste plastic can be added to the feedstock being gasified in the company’s patented plasma gasifiers while the use of waste wood or crop wastes for the remaining 60 per cent creates charcoal in the ash, which can be formed into BBQ and heating briquettes or biochar.

Biochar is a carbon sequester that can be used to enhance crop growth, remediate contaminated soil or strengthen concrete.

Adding the waste credits and income from by-products allows the company to generate base-load electricity up to 70 per cent cheaper than wind, solar or hydro.

This electricity can be fed into the grid or for the production of hydrogen.

Australian hydrogen production strategy

Global NRG is currently building its first WTE hydrogen hub at Goulburn, New South Wales, that aims to produce about 11,000kg of hydrogen a day at price of no more than $2/kg.

This will use some of municipal solid waste generated by the Sydney that would otherwise be landfilled in an old gold mine along with forest waste to make hydrogen for use in Greater Sydney and Canberra.

It will also use the hydrogen in its microgrids, which have a small fuel cell in them that keeps charging up the small battery pack so that it never runs out of stored energy.

The company claims that its Global Microgrid can cut the cost of electricity paid by most Australian homes from 34c per kilowatt hour (KWh) to 14.5c/kWh.

It is currently in discussions with institutional investors to joint venture for WTE hydrogen production hubs around Europe, UK and Japan.