SMILING for the cameras, shovel in hand on state budget day, Liberal Wannon MP and federal Education Minister Dan Tehan turned the first sod on a new hydrogen research facility at Deakin University Warrnambool.
The Hydrogen Test Bed project is a five-year $2.3 million industry-led research project and is a key step in establishing south-west Victoria as a hub of hydrogen expertise.
What looks like a giant sandpit, the facility will be used to investigate hydrogen compatibility in the existing reticulated gas network, one of the first steps to transition Deakin's Warrnambool campus to 100 per cent hydrogen.
The research will support the wider transition of existing natural gas networks for homes and businesses to hydrogen.
"The Hydrogen Training Testbed at the Hycel Technology Hub in Victoria will enable Deakin University to increase the industry application of hydrogen research," Mr Tehan said.
"The Government committed $2 million over two years to the Hycel Technology Hub to support research and education in regional Australia, and to develop our hydrogen research capabilities.
"The work will increase efficiency in hydrogen production, storage and use, which will positively impact Australia's energy industry.
"It involves research collaboration between government, higher education and industry partners, including the City of Warrnambool and Australian Pipelines and Gas Association and Energy Networks Association, and is part of our government's plan to invest in ideas and innovation in areas of national interest to help power Australia's economic recovery from COVID-19."
Deakin University Vice Chancellor Iain Martin said the $2.3 million test bed project would create up to 15 direct jobs and "hundreds" of indirect jobs and training opportunities.
The future development of the Hycel Technology Hub is subject to funding, with the vision of making Warrnambool the "epicentre" for the national hydrogen market.
$18 million is being sought to build the new facility.
"As we seek to get this project fully funded I wouldn't be a Vice Chancellor if I wasn't mentioning somewhere along the way as we are actively looking for the next tranche of funding minister, this hub is going to become not just a regional focus for expertise but actually a real practical National Center for how do you make existing technology a reality to drive progress and change across our communities," Mr Martin said.
"The site's going to be used for a long time because this is partly research and to build new capability and capacity, but also the work with South West TAFE as this will be an ongoing training facility.
"Just as we have plumbers who are certified in doing natural gas work or electricians who are certified in doing electrical work we're going to need people who are hydrogen engineers and hydrogen technicians, for a long time.
"There will be 10 to 15 direct jobs working on site and then you've got sort of indirect jobs working with industry partners, then there's those that come out more as we grow the hydrogen economy.
"So we anticipate that jobs linked to this will be in the hundreds, but that's the next stage, how we build that capacity but it is a very, very real plan. This is part of not just building the research capacity, but the economy and the demand of the hydrogen economy."
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