By Mark Agnor @

Scientists working for Kawasaki Heavy Industries and the government of Australia are working together to test ways to turn coal into liquid hydrogen. The group is putting over $380 million (US) into the plan. FT reports:

The pilot project aims to generate “green energy” for use in cars, electricity generation and industry in Japan from one of the dirtiest fuels, brown coal. It involves converting coal to hydrogen at a power plant in the Latrobe Valley — a region in Australia with some of the world’s most abundant supplies of the fossil fuel, which is also called lignite.

“The global hydrogen market is booming,” said Eiichi Harada, deputy general manager of Kawasaki Heavy’s technology division. “We are thrilled that both the Victorian and Commonwealth governments wish to participate in this project, which has the potential to deliver a critical option for future energy needs.”

Japan is making a big gamble on hydrogen-powered vehicles with Toyota backing its Mirai to win a green energy battle against electric powered rivals, including Tesla. J-Power, Iwatani and Marubeni Corporation are partners in the Australian project, which also includes AGL, Australia’s biggest energy company.

The coal to hydrogen project has won A$100m backing from government, which is seeking ways to continue to utilise its ubiquitous brown coal reserves. AGL will host the pilot project, which if successful will see a commercial coal to hydrogen plant built on a site near its Loy Yang lignite mine in the Latrobe Valley.

But the ambitious plan must overcome significant hurdles including the lack of a hydrogen energy supply chain or commercial market. It also faces environmental challenges posed by the carbon emissions released when burning coal to create hydrogen.

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