By Adam Watson, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, APA Group
APA’s Parmelia Gas Pipeline Conversion project set the stage for the first successful pressurised hydrogen testing on a section of gas transmission pipeline in Australia. This testing is an important milestone for Australia’s transition to renewables and key to harnessing the power of green hydrogen.
In May 2023, pressurised hydrogen testing was, for the first time in Australia, successfully completed on sections of gas transmission pipeline.
This testing was carried out at Australia’s first dedicated test hydrogen laboratory at the University of Wollongong, in partnership with Future Fuels Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
It took place as part of APA’s Parmelia Gas Pipeline conversion project, which is assessing the ability of a 43km section of the pipeline in Western Australia to carry up to 100 per cent hydrogen.
The results demonstrated that it is technically feasible, safe and efficient to transport pure or blended hydrogen along the steel pipeline at current operating pressure.
These results are very encouraging as they highlight the potential for APA’s existing gas transmission pipeline network to play an important role in connecting hydrogen production hubs to industrial sites across the nation. The research is now able to progress to phase three, which includes detailed safety studies and conversion plans, ahead of moving to the delivery phase.
While there’s a long way to go before hydrogen develops at scale to be commercial, there is no doubt that these positive results represent an exciting milestone in Australia’s energy transition as we move closer to hydrogen becoming a core part of the nation’s future energy mix, particularly for industrial customers.
The knowledge being created through the project is also informing the development of Australian standards for hydrogen pipelines, which is another critical step in being able to use the fuel widely.
Looking to the future
As a nation, we must continue to explore options for utilising our existing energy infrastructure in order to support an efficient and cost-effective transition to a low carbon future.
Australia has a competitive advantage when it comes to harnessing hydrogen, given the abundance of wind and solar available to power the production of renewable ‘green’ hydrogen. The gas sector is also well placed to accelerate the rollout of low emissions technologies, with decades of knowledge, capability, and critical infrastructure at the helm.
But to be able to get the cost of hydrogen down we need scale, and scale at a size we have not seen before. We need large scale interconnected networks that can bring the benefit of resources to our cities, industry hubs and homes.
The ability to transmit hydrogen at scale will play a critical role in decarbonising Australia’s energy grid as we transition towards net zero, while also delivering the hydrogen ambitions of governments, both at a federal and state level.
For the last 20 years, APA has been transmitting natural gas on this scale, which is why, with billions of dollars already invested in gas infrastructure across the country, it makes sense to look at ways to use existing energy infrastructure to support Australia’s transition to a low carbon future, and to help APA’s customers realise the potential market opportunities that exist for hydrogen.
APA has more than 15,000km of gas transmission pipelines across the country, connecting some of the most opportune locations in Australia for blue and green hydrogen production.
The section of the Parmelia Gas Pipeline being considered for conversion, for example, is located near the Kwinana Industrial Area south of Perth where a number of potential hydrogen offtakes are located, including for industrial processing, exporting and hydrogen transport.
Initial assessments indicate there is a high likelihood that around half of APA’s natural gas pipelines across the country could be used to transport hydrogen with little or no changes to their current operating profile.
For the remainder of APA’s pipelines, which consist largely of high-strength steel pipelines operating at higher pressure, further research and materials testing will be required to determine if any changes in operating pressure are needed to maintain pipeline integrity while transporting hydrogen.
We know we can play an important role in the transition to a whole new industry with jobs, a new growth economy and all while keeping the lights on.