Sector analysis - Hydrogen in Asia Pacific: Where’s the Action?

Sector analysis - Hydrogen in Asia Pacific: Where’s the Action?

03 Aug 2021

Australia, Japan, South Korea and China are the frontrunners championing the development of a clean hydrogen economy in Asia Pacific. While the Chinese clean hydrogen scene is domestically focused at the moment, the opposite is true for Australia, Japan and South Korea. Australia has been fostering numerous partnerships to develop its hydrogen economy. Japan and South Korea on the other hand are very much focused on the usage side of hydrogen. These two nations are expected to be the biggest hydrogen importers in the region.

Australia is currently in the lead in terms of clean hydrogen projects, with 46 projects and 38GW of green hydrogen projects in the pipeline. Australia’s vision is to build a clean, innovative, safe and competitive hydrogen industry. It aims to grow its hydrogen industry and position itself as a major player by 2030, through the Australian National Hydrogen Strategy which was released in November 2019. The document outlines an adaptive approach that equips Australia to scale up quickly as the hydrogen market grows. Hydrogen is a priority low emissions technology for Australia, which is why in February 2020, Australia’s Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister announced the ambitious ‘H2 under 2’ target, aiming to cut hydrogen production costs to less than AU$2 per kg (US$1.5 per kg), under the government’s first Low Emissions Technology Statement. It is a goal that will need supportive policies co-ordinated with industrial strategies and research activities.

In terms of export opportunities, Australia has already set the foundations by; co-operating with Japan on hydrogen fuel cells and a world first clean liquefied hydrogen export pilot project; engaging with the Republic of Korea on a hydrogen production action plan; exploring renewable hydrogen supply chain possibilities and collaboration with Germany; exploring collaboration opportunities with Singapore; promoting hydrogen safety best practice as a member of the US Center for Hydrogen Safety; and supporting the work of the special adviser to the Australian government on low emissions technology.

Japan considers its domestic uptake of hydrogen as a viable way to increase its energy self-sufficiency, decarbonise its economy, increase industrial competitiveness and position itself as a fuel cell technology exporter. The goals highlighted in Japan’s hydrogen strategy, released in 2019, are to have; 200,000 fuel cell vehicles by 2025, and 800,000 by 2030; 320 hydrogen refuelling stations by 2025, and 900 by 2030; and 1,200 fuel cell buses by 2030.

As an extension to its hydrogen strategy in February 2021, Japan began promoting the Japan Ammonia Roadmap. The roadmap is focused on the use of ammonia in thermal power plants and as a shipping fuel. Japan expects to import 3m tons of clean ammonia, by 2030, with demand rising to 30m tons by 2050. At this stage, Japan is prioritising the reduction of the production cost of hydrogen and is actively looking for international co-operation to build a hydrogen supply chain, increase the scale of production, and reduce costs. Japanese companies continue to actively seek engaged international partners to undertake demonstration projects that deliver tangible results.

South Korea announced its Hydrogen Economy Roadmap at the start of 2019, setting long term targets through to 2040. The roadmap outlines the country’s goal to have 5.9m fuel cell cars and 60,000 fuel cell buses on the road by 2040 all supported by 1,200 hydrogen refuelling stations. In terms of the energy sector, the roadmap outlines an objective to supply 15GW of fuel cell for utility-scale power generation and 2.1GW of commercial and residential fuel cells by 2040. In February 2021, the National Assembly of Korea passed the Hydrogen Law (Hydrogen Economy Promotion and Hydrogen Safety Management Law), laying the legal basis for the government’s support to hydrogen and safety standards for facilities.

Previously, hydrogen equipment such as electrolysers, portable fuel cells and hydrogen extractors, and fuel cell facilities that directly used hydrogen were not subject to periodic government safety checks. Now, safety assurance will be carried out in three steps; technological safety at the design stage, an onsite examination upon completion of a facility, and annual safety checks. South Korea currently has one 50MW fuel cell power plant in operation, in Daesan (by Hanwha Energy) and another 20MW plant that is in planning in Gyeongju.

To conclude, it is quite clear that while Australia is more focused on upstream hydrogen production, and Japan and South Korea are focused on the downstream side, all three countries are at the helm of Asia Pacific’s hydrogen journey.

Madana Leela
Lead Energy Analyst (APAC) – Business Information madana.leela@the-eic.com

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