Australia’s eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have reached a landmark agreement on an interstate hydrogen refuelling infrastructure chain for heavy trucking.

The agreement is the first step towards a hydrogen refuelling network for heavy transport and logistics that is slated for completion by 2026. 

The “hydrogen highway” will span the length of the Newell Highway between Queensland and Victoria, the Hume Highway linking NSW and Victoria, and the Pacific Highway between Queensland and NSW.

NSW and Victoria have committed $10 million each available for infrastructure proposals, sufficient for at least four refuelling stations and support for 25 hydrogen-powered long-haul heavy freight vehicles. Grant applications for the Hume Hydrogen Highway grant program will open around mid-2022.

This comes as the Queensland government last week announced a $28.9 million investment into a hydrogen refuelling facility. Last month, the Commonwealth added support for hydrogen ZEVs to its Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy, which initially only targeted EVs.

CLARA Energy has welcomed the announcement, saying that the hydrogen highway will “kick-start” the domestic hydrogen industry. 

The company is planning a green hydrogen production facility in Tarcutta, NSW, about halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, with construction starting in 2024.

The facility will produce approximately 25,000 kilograms of green hydrogen per day in stage one with two subsequent stages to be added in the future. The company is also vying for a high speed train similar to Japan’s Superconductive Maglev to connect regional with metropolitan areas. 

“By building refuelling stations and providing grants to long haul trucks, the governments are underwriting two of the key ingredients in making green hydrogen a success. It is leadership, like the Hydrogen Highways strategy, that will enable a smooth transition from diesel to green hydrogen over the coming decades,” said chief executive officer Nick Cleary. 

Queensland minister for energy, renewables and hydrogen Mick de Brenni said hydrogen presents an opportunity both for emissions reduction and fuel security.

“When you consider the impacts of the COVID pandemic and international conflicts, it’s clear Australia must achieve energy independence, to shield our nation from foreign companies and foreign powers,” Mr de Brenni said.

“Transport is the fastest growing sector for emissions… Government support is needed to help develop refuelling stations so transport companies can economically invest in new vehicles.

“Low emissions electricity and hydrogen fuelled heavy transport will sit at the heart of the renewable energy ecosystem.” 

NSW energy minister Matt Kean said that establishing hydrogen refuelling infrastructure for heavy transport on Australia’s busiest road freight routes will enable the decarbonisation of the heavy transport industry, adding that hydrogen “will increasingly become a competitive zero emissions fuel option for our heavy transport sector”.

Similarly, Victorian minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio said the agreement will be key to reducing emissions in transport and logistics while creating new jobs and driving investment.

“This historic collaboration between Victoria, NSW and Queensland will revolutionise Australia’s busiest freight corridor, lighting a pathway to a zero-emissions transport sector.”

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