On May 24, a Quadruple A leaders’ meeting between US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has been held in Tokyo. The four leaders discussed regional and global issues in the Indo-Pacific, including the influence of the Russian-Ukrainian war on the region as well as the importance of the community energy supply chains.
The meeting produced a joint statement which included a variety of areas of quadrilateral cooperation, such as international security, global health security, infrastructure, climate and energy. The four countries agreed on the importance of “clean energy cooperation” in “clean hydrogen”, while welcoming the contribution of the Sydney Energy Forum as well as the commitment of the new Australian government to the climate change. Indeed, the newly elected Australian Prime Minister has declared that Australia could become a “renewable energy superpower.”
Before the Quad meeting, Japan and Australia had already cooperated in the field of clean energy, especially the creation of a clean hydrogen supply chain in the Indo-Pacific region. On April 9, a consortium of Japanese companies, including Kawasaki Heavy Industries, J-Power, Iwatani Corporation, Marubeni Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation and Australia’s AGL Energy, organized a ceremony at celebrate their success in a pilot project to transport hydrogen from Australia to Japan by the world’s first liquefied hydrogen carrier, “Swiss border.” During the ceremony, Kishida mentioned that Japan explored a stable energy supply following the Russian-Ukrainian war and said that hydrogen is key to Japan’s energy security and stable energy supply towards carbon neutrality goals.
The Japanese government has announced aBasic Hydrogen Strategyin 2017 aimed at establishing a “global hydrogen society” in pursuit of carbon neutrality goals. The strategy outlined that Japan would establish core technologies with Australia for the development and demonstration of a “liquefied hydrogen supply chain” paving the way to commercialization. Regarding the world’s first attempt to transport liquefied hydrogen by sea, the document highlights that Japan will develop and demonstrate a liquefied hydrogen carrier vessel for the Australia-Japan liquefied hydrogen supply chain project. Based on this strategy, Suiso Frontier was developed in Japan, deceased from the port of Kobe on December 24, 2021 and arrived at Port Hastings in Victoria, Australia on January 20 this year. Vessel revenue safely in Kobe on February 25.
Before the success of the transport of liquefied hydrogen to 500 million Australian dollars pilot project Backed by the Japanese and Australian governments, Tokyo and Canberra have entered into several agreements and declarations regarding bilateral renewable energy cooperation. On June 13, 2021, Japan and Australia agreed to cooperate to facilitate the carbon neutrality goals of the Paris Agreement by announcing the “Japan-Australia Partnership on Decarbonization through Technology” recalling and building on other initiatives and statements, such as the “Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain” (HESC), the “Japan-Australia Energy and Resources Dialogue” (JAERD) and the “Australia-Japan Joint Cooperation Statement on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells”.
On January 7 this year, “Australia-Japan Clean Hydrogen Trade Partnership” was released by the Scott Morrison government. Prime Minister Morrison declared that “it is essential that we work closely with our international partners such as Japan to meet Australia’s low emissions targets… Clean hydrogen is at the heart of Australia’s plans and of Japan to achieve net-zero emissions while growing our economies and jobs”. The bilateral agreement is based on the first round of an A$150 million Australian Clean Hydrogen Trade Program (ACHTP), which aims to advance Australia-based hydrogen supply chain efforts. . Regarding the joint partnership, Morrison continued“When Osaka hosts the World Expo in 2025, Australia will be there to showcase the best of Australian ingenuity and innovation.”
The Australian government has invested over A$1.3 billion in developing a domestic hydrogen energy industry. Liquefied hydrogen is created from lignite and biomass produced at a hydrogen production plant at AGL Energy’s Loy Yang site in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. It is 99.99% pure hydrogen, but reviews pointed out that “emissions of hydrogen derived from lignite are twice those of natural gas”. A group of energy specialists in Australia has warned that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is “technically complex and expensive” and that high carbon capture rates are not assured, meaning that the liquefied hydrogen produced by CCS cannot be “really clean” hydrogen.
In addition, Llewelyn Hughes, an associate professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, argued that Japan’s carbon recycling strategy is a “risky gamble” and pointed out that Japan’s energy strategy includes building coal-fired power plants. . Otherwise, Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou, a hydrogen technology expert and professor at the University of Sydney’s Nano Institute, highlighted the technical challenges associated with transporting liquefied hydrogen. Yet he also commented that “obviously it’s [currently] is not economically viable, there are obviously a lot of technical challenges, but what HESC does is actually create the market. So, while there are some technical issues to be resolved in CCS and transporting liquefied hydrogen, clean hydrogen remains a promising and critical energy source for Tokyo and Canberra.
As Patrick Gorr observed in The Economist, buying hydrogen from Australia is not the cheapest choice, but from Tokyo’s point of view, Australia is strategically reliable and Japan could “expect to write off its balance of payments with Australia, likely exporting some of the fruits of its hydrogen revolution, public transport fleets. Gorr also claimed that Japan would become one of the first major consumers of “green hydrogen” produced by renewable energies in to achieve net zero emissions Hydrogen itself is a colorless gas, but there are different colors in the classification of hydrogen according to its production methods: carbon-free renewable energies (green), fossil energy associated with the carbon-neutral CCS process (blue), steam methane reforming method (grey), coal or lignite (black or brown), thermal methane separation (turquoise), nuclear energy (pink, purple or red) and natural generation (white).
Notably, Japanese companies have also tried to cooperate with Australian companies for the commercialization of “green hydrogen” energy. January 12, sojitz corporation, a Japanese trading company, has announced that it will work with CS Energy, an Australian power producer, and carry out a demonstration project to transport green hydrogen produced from solar energy in Queensland in Australia to Palau for back-up power sources in small fuel cells. The Pacific island country is trying to achieve 45% renewable energy production, and the project is financially supported by Japan’s environment ministry. Likewise, Osaka Gas announced on April 12 that it would provide project management as well as engineering and technical support for an A$10.75 billion “green hydrogen project” on Australian soil.
The outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war confirmed Japan’s will energy insecurity due to its low rate of energy self-sufficiency, but at the same time it proved the functionality and mutual complementarity of Australia-Japan”quasi-alliancein the field of energy security cooperation, in particular clean hydrogen energy as a potentially and economically important renewable energy. In the changing geopolitical and strategic environment, Japan and Australia should cooperate in the maintenance of international peace and security as well as in the field of renewable energy development through the emerging power chain network. hydrogen supply in the Indo-Pacific region.
A version of this article first appeared in The interpreter.