The process uses solar energy to electrolyze purified seawater, separating hydrogen from oxygen, that then gets converted to ammonia for shipping. The energy is being characterized as renewable, as Renewable Hydrogen hopes to take advantage of Japan’s growing interest in alternative energy.
The company is currently working with the Pilbara Development Commission to conduct a feasibility study. Mr Want believes that Pilbara is an ideal location because it is exposed to lots of sunlight, on average 24 megajoules per square metre every day. The area is also relatively unoccupied, leaving plenty of land available for solar farms.
Japan is reportedly (and understandably) looking to shift away from nuclear power after what happened in the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Renewable Hydrogen thinks that this eagerness will make up for the expensive process of electrolyzing and shipping their renewable energy. They estimate that a single gigawatt solar farm could net them 2 million megawatt hours of power. That could make 40,000 tonnes of hydrogen, which would then be turned into 200,000 tonnes of ammonia for shipping.
Increased access to renewable energy sounds great, but as demonstrated in the case of recycling, when eco-friendly products need to be shipped around the world, the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t always work out so great for the environment. This strategy could very well make Renewable Hydrogen a lot of money, and it may quench nuclear anxieties in Japan, but I’m not sure that this is a project that truly has its heart in the right place.