The dairy supply chain in the south-west could be ideally placed to take on the use of hydrogen cells to power milk tankers, according to a Victorian agrifood development specialist.

Brolga Co director Karenza Menzies said the region could be a leader in the new technology.

“There are so many parts of the puzzle, we have going on down here,” Dr Menzies said.

One key part was the Hycel facility, being built at Warrnambool’s Deakin University campus.

Hycel program manager Adam Fletcher said the the work was part of studies being carried out at the designated hydrogen fuel cell research and development facility.

“We are looking at application technologies, with our core focus being heavy vehicle transportation – hydrogen powered trucks and buses, as a starting point,” Mr Fletcher said.

“We will be joining with industry partners and university researchers, improving the existing technology to create higher powered, more capable hydrogen fuel cells.”

The Hycel Technology Hub is intended to be a regional cluster of expertise for researching, testing, optimising and scaling technologies that use hydrogen.

Mr Fletcher said a key focus would be B-Double transportation, which was “quite unique to Australia.

“If we can achieve higher fuel cell performance it cascades down to milk tankers, timber transportation, meat and livestock carriers,” he said.

It was hoped hydrogen cells would eventually replace diesel fuel.

Mr Fletcher said it could be six to eight years, before a viable system was available in Australia, but there was the potential to introduce hydrogen sooner.

“With new technology, it is potentially able to be cost competitive with diesel by 2030 – but it is very difficult to pinpoint,” he said.

“It’s not initially going to be economically sound, it needs scaled implementation to drive costs down.”

Dr Menzies said the mining industry, in remote parts of Australia had already been looking at hydrogen, due to the high cost of diesel.

“Every year we are getting closer and closer to putting a truck on the road, at a much smaller cost, so it becomes more attractive,” she said.

“The transport part of the supply chain is where we can get some tangible wins in reducing carbon emissions.”

Dr Menzies said it now needed the key dairy processors to get around the table, to discuss the potential of hydrogen fuel.

She said processors, and tanker operators, would need to look at issues such as what maintenance and infrastructure was required to keep trucks on the road.

“We have a responsibility to educate people about the opportunities,” she said.

“How do you build people’s motivation and buy-in, to commit funding to this next stage?”

Milk tankers were an attractive option for hydrogen fuel, as they operated as a “return-to-base” system, to refuel.

“What needs to happen is a company, or consortium, needs to pilot a vehicle to get on the road in the south-west.

“A pilot hydrogen-powered milk tanker, requires funding and key stakeholder buy in.”

Dr Menzies said the supply chain had been overlooked, when it came to emissions and carbon reductions.

“We know that narrative is front and centre, we know we have big responsibility to reduce our carbon contribution.”

Extracted in full from: Warrnambool university looks to hydrogen powered milk tankers | The Standard | Warrnambool, VIC