Hydrogen demonstration project

Diagram showing hydrogen generation storage
Diagram showing hydrogen generation storage and use on station
Diagram showing hydrogen storage and use in fieldHydrogen compression equipment installed at Mawson in 2005-6 summerHOGEN electrolyser units to split water into hydrogen and oxygenFixed and mobile storage units ready for operation February 2006Hydrogen refuelling system for vehicles at MawsonDual fuel cooker (uses both hydrogen and LPG) used on Bechervaise Island
A demonstration project during the 2005-06 season at Mawson researched the safety and operational aspects of using hydrogen on station, as well as its viability as a major energy carrier. Using excess wind power generated from the wind turbines, hydrogen was produced in sufficient quantities to power a barbecue, a quad motor cycle, a fuel cell for use in a field hut and a small heater.

Hydrogen is not, as many people believe, an energy source. Neither is electricity. In contemporary energy systems, electricity serves as an energy carrier. It is produced from primary energy sources using technology such as diesel powered generators or wind turbines. It is the same case with hydrogen.

Hydrogen was generated using energy from the Mawson wind turbines, stored and used in a test fuel cell, as fuel in a heater and in one of the station vehicles. For the demonstration project, the test fuel cell and heater were installed at the field camp on Béchervaise Island. They provided electricity and heat for the scientists involved in the penguin monitoring program.

The project aimed to gather information to contribute to a model of the large-scale use of hydrogen to supplement our energy requirements in Antarctica. The use of hydrogen as a fuel could reduce the need for fossil fuels during those times when the wind energy is insufficient to power the station. The hydrogen can fuel either a large scale fuel cell system or an internal combustion engine generator.

The ultimate aim would be to be able to run the station and all the field camps without the use of any fossil fuels. We believe this was the first attempt to use hydrogen as a major energy source in Antarctica.

The project was funded by a grant of half a million dollars from the Australian Greenhouse Office. Although valuable data was gathered, for a number of reasons a decision was taken not to develop the project further in the short term. We may resume the research in the future.