A $20 million partnership between CSIRO and Fortescue Metals Group has been reached that enables ammonia to be used as a carrier material for hydrogen storage and transport – propelling Australia forward in the drive towards a hydrogen industry.

CSIRO will work with Fortescue to identify, develop and commercialise technologies to support the creation of an Australian hydrogen industry and future global uptake.

The agreement includes commercialisation arrangements for the membrane technology, with a subsequent five-year investment in hydrogen R&D.

CSIRO’s National Hydrogen Roadmap, released earlier this year, provided a coordinated blueprint for growing Australia’s hydrogen industry and found that an economically-sustainable hydrogen industry could soon be a reality.

Due to its low density, hydrogen is difficult to transport. Conversion of hydrogen to ammonia overcomes this problem, but it then must be converted back again.

CSIRO has developed a metal membrane, which when combined with a suitable catalyst for ammonia decomposition, can extract pure hydrogen from ammonia, paving the way for a hydrogen industry.

The partnership complements CSIRO’s continued investment in hydrogen research and development, chiefly through its Hydrogen Energy Systems Future Science Platform.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, said the partnership would create more Australian jobs and new industries, as well as opening up export opportunities.

“This partnership centres on an investment in CSIRO’s metal membrane technology, which solves the problem of hydrogen transportation and is another example of the strong ideas coming out of CSIRO,” Ms Andrews said.

“CSIRO Future Science Platforms help create new industries of the future and give young scientific talent the opportunities to train in these industries,” Mr Andrews said.

“Fortescue’s investment in CSIRO’s metal membrane technology exemplifies how our industry and scientific leaders are working together for the future benefit of Australia.”

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall, said, “CSIRO has a strong history of collaboration with industry, not just helping existing industries reinvent themselves through global disruption, but actually inventing entirely new industries like hydrogen where Australia can take the lead.

“This partnership is great news for Australia, not just through new industry creation and the jobs that will flow from it, but in contributing to a different energy future that is secure, affordable, and sustainable.”

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

CSIRO will continue its own investment in hydrogen R&D, chiefly through its Hydrogen Energy Systems Future Science Platform (FSP), and will work with Fortescue to commercialise technologies that support new energy markets, including in the chemicals and transportation sectors.

Both CSIRO and Fortescue recognise that a hydrogen industry will require a collaborative approach, and that many opportunities for partnership will emerge as technologies and markets develop.

Lauren ‘LJ’ Butler is the Assistant Editor of Utility magazine and has been part of the team at Monkey Media since 2018.

After completing a Bachelor of Media, Communications and Professional Writing at the University of Wollongong in 2014, and prior to writing about the utility sector, LJ worked as a Journalist and Sub Editor across the horticulture, hardware, power equipment, construction and accommodation industries with publishers such as Glenvale Publications, Multimedia Publishing and Bean Media Group.

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