Mining magnate Andrew Forrest is sinking $20m into helping develop new hydrogen tech.

Mr Forrest’s iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) is working with the CSIRO on the agency’s metal membrane technology and other technologies.

The membrane separates ultra-high purity hydrogen from ammonia, while blocking all other gases.

The technology will pave the way for bulk hydrogen to be transported in the form of ammonia, using existing infrastructure, and then reconverted back to hydrogen at the point of use.

CSIRO chief Larry Marshall said the agency was seeing a “market pull” from companies like Fortescue to reinvent themselves through “deep science-driven innovation” and follow the global market shift towards a low-emissions energy future.

In August the CSIRO demonstrated it could refuel two fuel-cell vehicles and released what is essentially a “blueprint” for the development of the hydrogen industry.

This new partnership includes commercialisation arrangements for the membrane technology, with a subsequent five-year investment in hydrogen research and development.

“We are at the beginning of an energy revolution and Fortescue intends to be at the forefront of this once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Mr Forrest said.

The global hydrogen market right now is worth $US130 billion ($179.2 billion) and is forecast to grow to $US2.5 trillion by 2050, according to Morgan Stanley.

Hydrogen is being touted as a potentially popular solution to the issue of distance – “range anxiety” – with electric vehicles.

The problem right now for many potential buyers of electric vehicles (EVs) is how far can they go before the battery needs charging?

But by incorporating hydrogen fuel cells into EVs, drivers can just pop into their local servo for a top-up.

Doug Spencer-Roy, corporate affairs and marketing manager for Melbourne’s EastLink motorway, told Stockhead recently that car makers like Toyota are now starting to talk up the hydrogen fuel cell.

The Toyota Mirai is powered by ultra-high purity hydrogen, produced in Queensland using the national science agency’s membrane technology.

Toyota also revealed in early November that it was partnering with Hobson’s Bay City Council in Melbourne’s inner west to trial hydrogen-electric vehicles for 12 weeks.