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Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) operations launch Latrobe Valley March 2021: speech by Dr Alan Finkel

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Speech

12 March 2021

Let me start with a quiz. What do the following have in common?

  • The laser
  • Landing on the moon
  • Gene therapy

Well, they all began with a dream that took decades to become reality.

Albert Einstein first theorised the laser in 1917, and now, a little over 100 years later, some of you are looking at me with eyesight sharpened by laser surgery, or from your offices in Japan via a fibre optic cable.

Jules Verne wrote of a voyage to the moon in 1865, but it took more than four decades from when Robert Goddard launched the first liquid fuelled rocket in 1926, till the Apollo 11 lunar lander put two men on the Moon in 1969.

Gene therapy – a theoretical concept in 1972, is now a new medical frontier.

So, too, with hydrogen. In 1923, British scientist John Haldane imagined an economy powered by oxygen and hydrogen that would be stored, then recombined in ‘oxidation cells’ to produce electricity when needed.

And here we are today, nearly 100 years later, to celebrate the first production of hydrogen from brown coal.

Two of the dream makers are Japan and Australia.

In 2017, Japan published its national hydrogen strategy.

In 2019, Australia published its national hydrogen strategy.

The real-world potential of the global hydrogen industry crystalised to reality for me in December 2019, when I stood at the dock in Kobe Harbour, Japan, and peered up at the towering bulk of the world’s first liquefied hydrogen carrier ship, the Suiso Frontier, then watched it slide confidently down the rails into the harbour.

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I’ve been a keen observer of the HESC project for three years and I am delighted to see the progress from artist’s impressions to physical kit, here in the Latrobe Valley, and at the Port of Hastings.

This project has the potential to fulfill the dream, the dream to produce clean hydrogen for export to Japan and other countries to help them deliver the most fundamental revolution of modern civilization – the transition to net zero emissions.

Success will depend on building demand and offtake agreements in Australia and other countries.

Success will depend on the development of an international certification scheme so that the clean hydrogen produced will, with the highest degree of integrity, prove its credentials.

Success will depend on the CarbonNet project to bury the carbon dioxide by-product, essentially forever.

Success will depend on community support, earned by the legitimate prospect of jobs, economic growth, and the pride of knowing that this new industry is part of a better future.

Above all, success will depend on the continuing, brilliant contributions of the partners in this project: the Australian Government, the Victorian Government, the Government of Japan, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, J-Power, Iwatani, Marubeni, Sumitomo and AGL.

And finally, why do we care?

  • We care because our civilisation depends on energy.
  • We care because our health and future prosperity depend on preserving our climate.
  • We care because we want to be part of the future economy, not just the present one.

Given that it addresses all of these reasons, the HESC project has the potential to be part of the future we care about.

Congratulations all, and thank you.

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Email osalet@industry.gov.au