Read more on the latest developments from our research facility, as well as Australian and international news relating to the hydrogen economy.
Welcome back to the Star Scientific stakeholder’s newsletter. The last year has been very much a “ducks on the pond” time for us – quiet on the surface but pedaling furiously underneath. We are expecting a very big second half of 2023, and we look forward to keeping you informed. Please stay tuned to our Twitter and LinkedIn pages.
On the factory floor and in the labs the team has been working on our Mars pilot and one other that we haven’t announced publicly but is also related to the Central Coast food cluster. We are also working on a very important project that will be a milestone in the development of HERO® and will demonstrate to the world that HERO® is peerless when it comes to continuously extracting heat and energy from renewable energy sources.
We will fill you in in future editions.
Our Central Coast Food Hydrogen Cluster continues its work; indeed, we hosted a delegation from a potential customer this week. Last month, Central Coast Industry Connect (of whom we are a member) announced that it had secured land for the development of its AUD $17m Food Manufacturing Industry Hub. While this project has a broader remit than heat and energy, covering the whole spectrum of food production, Star Scientific will undoubtedly have a role to play in the future. Even better, it is just nearby to us and is located next to a campus of the University of Newcastle. And just to add to the proliferation of hydrogen hubs in our region, the Federal Government recently announced that it will fund the establishment of a separate Hydrogen Hub in the port city of Newcastle, just north of where we are on the Central Coast. This will be a more general hub, for a range of industrial stakeholders and our friends at the University of Newcastle. Star Scientific will be an eager participant in the activities of this hub too.
One of the reasons we have been relatively quiet is that a lot of our efforts have been deployed into getting the regulatory environment right for our rapid expansion. Red tape doesn’t make great copy for tweets and newsletters, but it is vital for hydrogen’s progress. We’ve had to overcome basic and obvious issues like our home state government that didn’t count hydrogen as a “gas” in its critical legislation. To be fair to governments they have been working hard with us and bodies like the Australian Hydrogen Council to get these matters right, with one example being the Australian Federal Government’s efforts to develop a Guarantee of Origin Scheme.
Our efforts to engage effectively with governments have not gone unnoticed. For example, in May our Deputy CEO was invited to speak to a cross-party committee of Australian Parliamentarians looking at aspects of the global trade in hydrogen – you can read his contribution here:
Our program of meetings with important political stakeholders continues, and this week we met with the Federal Opposition Energy spokesman Ted O’Brien, who is getting a lot of attention by championing a nuclear industry for Australia.
At a more technical level, Steve Heaton remains engaged with various government bodies, while our Principal Engineer, Ashkan Vatani has been accepted by Engineers Australia to be part of their Hydrogen Codes of Best Practice working group. This group will work closely with Government departments to develop National codes that will play a pivotal role in the development of the hydrogen sector in Australia. Engineers Australia is the peak professional engineering body in Australia, so this is quite an honour.
One of the key bodies Steve is engaging with is Standards Australia, which is the country’s accredited ISO body. This work is proceeding well with the endgame being a global standard that allows us to develop and operate HERO® anywhere – and as noted below that opportunity may come sooner rather than later.
Finally, the Australian Government has announced a review of the Australian Hydrogen Strategy, which was released in 2019. Star Scientific is engaging in this review, both directly and through bodies like the Australian Hydrogen Council.
As it has been a little while, we thought we’d give you our perspective on some of the megatrends in the world of renewable energy and hydrogen. Earlier this year, those of you who follow us on Twitter would have seen that we were present at the Sustainable Energy Council’s World Hydrogen Congress at Rotterdam. A gauge of the interest in hydrogen was that in 2022, the Congress was attended by 1,100 people – this year it was 11 thousand! And governments continue to pump money into hydrogen, with the billions under US President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act resulting in governments around the world responding, in albeit more modest ways (like the Australian Government’s $2 billion in its recent budget).
There are, however, clouds on the horizon. Firstly, the reality is sinking in regarding the real-world practicalities involved in the promises of nations to achieve “net zero” by 2050. “Simple” things like land-use access and the rights of communities, engineering challenges, geographic challenges and the vast amounts of materials that will need to be mined and, eventually, disposed of. For example, see a recent report from a joint government, academic body on Australia’s challenges here:
And while the government investment in hydrogen is welcome, they remain doggedly focused on supply-side issues and export, with very little attention on the demand side. It’s all chicken and no egg. There are a couple of notable exceptions, such as the American State of New Mexico. They are comfortable that supply-side issues are under control and have moved their attention to how to use/deploy hydrogen. Star’s Chairman and Deputy CEO have recently enjoyed fruitful discussions with the Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham. The Government of New Mexico is very interested in Star establishing our first American base there and we have been studying the details closely. We also remain very interested in Texas and continue discussions there. We expect the competition for our first US operation to intensify after the Biden Government announces funding for the successful Hydrogen Hub consortia later in the year.
Out in the business world, the focus is less on supply and more on demand. Companies that are committed to net-zero or are just desperate to find a replacement for gas on a price basis are looking closely at hydrogen. However, they “hit the wall” when it comes to using hydrogen, or renewable energy for that matter. For example, there is a large vegetable pulp processor on the Murray River that supplies most of Australia’s tomato pulp for sauces, etc. It uses massive amounts of gas to fire its steam requirements. “That’s okay,” says the city-based “electrify everything” cheer-squad, “just use heat pumps”. The problem is that the size or number of heat pumps that the company would need requires a massive upgrade of the electricity transmission infrastructure in the rural area it is located. For them, hydrogen could be the answer – but they need help on how to use it.
Of course, we know HERO® is the answer and we are talking to them and dozens of companies like them around the world, and many governments, about how we will fill this hydrogen deployment gap.
Earlier in the Newsletter we mentioned the Global Hydrogen Conference in Rotterdam. The big news for us is that the SEC and the Australian Hydrogen Council will be bringing the Australia-Pacific version to Sydney in late October. Being on our “home turf”, Star Scientific will be playing a major role as a major sponsor, alongside some of the biggest energy and infrastructure companies in the world. More details soon but if you are interested, please go to: