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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

20 May 2003

Hydrogen - New Energy Source for Antarctica

Shipping diesel fuel to Australia's operations in Antarctica may eventually become a thing of the past if new plans to use hydrogen at the Antarctic Base are successful.

Speaking at Australia's first international hydrogen conference in Broome, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, announced the Federal Government would provide up to half a million dollars to investigate the use of hydrogen in our Antarctic operations.

The grant - funded through the Federal Government's Renewable Remote Power Generation Program - will go to the Australian Antarctic Division and the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies at the University of Tasmania.

"This grant will accelerate work underway into the use of hydrogen in fuel cells to reduce reliance on diesel fuel for Antarctic operations," Dr David Kemp said.

"The Federal Government last year took a major step in this direction by installing two large wind turbines at Mawson Base, which will provide up to 80% of the annual electricity and heat requirements depending on climatic and seasonal conditions.

"It is anticipated hydrogen has the potential to provide the remaining 20% of the base's annual electricity and heating requirements."

Dr Kemp said the study will include a report with recommendations for hydrogen use. Hydrogen is currently used in Antarctica for weather balloons to collect climatic data.

"It is hoped, in the long term, the wind turbines and use of hydrogen will almost eliminate the need to transport diesel to this remote and pristine location. This means no emissions from a diesel generating plant and it removes the threat of diesel spillage during transport, unloading and refuelling operations," he said.

Hydrogen, when produced using electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar, can offer a greenhouse free alternative to energy produced from fossil fuels.

Hydrogen can be extracted from water using electricity through electrolysis. Electrolysis separates the elements of water into hydrogen and oxygen by charging the water with an electrical current.

"The delivery of competitively priced and secure energy sources is an issue for all Australians. Australia's energy policy aims to foster economic growth and development while reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Dr Kemp said.

"This initiative will not only provide major environmental benefits to the pristine Antarctic environment, it will also further advance Australian expertise in what is regarded internationally as one of the most promising low emission technologies."

Media Contact:
Catherine Job 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia