An insight into Andrew Kirk, Co-Founder of Green Hydrogen Asia
Updated: Oct 1, 2021
Green hydrogen has been in the news often lately. Countries around the world are investing in the hydrogen market seeking a more sustainable energy future. The US is putting up billions of dollars into the research and development of hydrogen and fuel cells. The European Union will invest $430 billion in green hydrogen by 2030 to help achieve the goals of its Green Deal and Chile, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Australia are all making major investments into green hydrogen.
Andrew Kirk, former GM of Strategy for Woodside in Perth Australia, has decided to focus his background in fossil fuels and more specifically LNG, into the Hydrogen market seeking to help develop a sustainable energy transition for the regions’ future.
1. What is your background?
I have been working for over 30 years’ in the oil and gas industry, primarily in LNG development and business origination. Most of those years I have been based internationally, in the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, the U.S. and Canada, and of course Australia. The last 16 years of career was spent with Woodside in a variety of roles including country management roles, but I really found my calling when asked to take charge of Woodside New Business and Strategy. This allowed me focus on building new LNG businesses in the U.S. and Canada and having a more strategic and long term focus over previous roles where the goals were always time restricted.
2. How long have you worked in the hydrogen sector?
After leaving Woodside, I had an opportunity to sit back and take a more open view of the energy business and its future. Renewable Energy has been around for decades but with the recent global initiatives regarding a more sustainable energy mix and low carbon future are requiring us to seek a practical transition to achieve these goals.
About four years ago I was approached by a green start up in Western Australia to apply my LNG commercial experience to focus on developing a business model for the heavy transport sector. It was then that I began to realise that, with technological improvements and scalability and a solid business model, Hydrogen makes perfect sense as both a fuel and as an sustainable energy storage medium.
Since that role I have undertaken studies for major Australian mid-stream and retail energy companies developing a business model to incorporate heavy haulage hydrogen into their retail segment. I am currently contracting to an ASX listed company to develop an export focused blue hydrogen business, an area which will have a major impact in CO2 emission reduction in heavy industries and conventional power generation.
3. Why green hydrogen?
One of my initial roles upon returning from the Middle East for Woodside was to investigate the commercial viability of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for the Browse LNG project. Although CCS is a valid method of sequestering CO2, it tends to be opportunity specific, meaning that it is commercially viable where access to a depleted oil or gas field can justify the development. I realised that this will not be possible in many areas where CO2 production is problematic, so removing any production of CO2 from the production chain made sense.
Green hydrogen when produced by renewable electricity can be scaled to suit an initial transition away from fossil fuels and upscaled as the demand increases. In this way companies can see that their businesses can be commercially viable without an initial massive investment. The heavy transport sector is a margin business and this systematic approach to transitioning to hydrogen makes more sense.
4. Why green hydrogen in Asia?
Hydrogen is abundant and its supply is virtually limitless and Green Hydrogen can be produced wherever there is water and electricity to generate a truly climate friendly energy source. It can be used where it is produced or transported elsewhere. Unlike batteries that are unable to store large quantities of electricity for extended periods of time, hydrogen produced from a renewable energy source can stored in large amounts for a long time. Kilo for Kilo, hydrogen contains almost three times as much energy as fossil fuels, so less of it is needed to do any work.
Until Lithium Ion battery prices come down, which is unlikely in the near future, Green Hydrogen is a perfect fuel source for heavy vehicles. There are of course challenges to overcome in Asia especially with the renewable energy source required for its production. Whilst there has been an exponential growth in renewable projects within Asia, there are inherent intermittent production issues with solar and wind power. However, for those countries who average less than 5 hours direct sunlight a day, such as Malaysia, hydroelectric production makes for a fantastic energy source, underpinned by high rainfall.
From a business perspective, most of the countries in Asia have dense populations ably supported by a modern transport infrastructure. This combination of reliable renewable electricity, with short, return-to-base transport arteries serving large population centers, makes for an ideal environment for hydrogen to make inroads into the diesel transport market. In Malaysia alone last year, the on-road transport sector used 7.04 billion litres of diesel. Every 10 million litres of diesel replaced by hydrogen results is 140,000 Tonnes of CO2 not being generated. We are already having discussions with a number of transport companies in Malaysia and it is exciting to see such a positive response from these businesses, most of whom are keen to explore how they can contribute to a cleaner future.
Malaysia currently produces close to 14% of its electricity needs through hydro power and I believe that Malaysia has all the makings to be at the global forefront of the hydrogen transition for the transport sector.