Project NETAS is a small scale commercial demonstration project designed to kickstart the early transport hydrogen market. Tackling diesel consumption in the Agricultural ‘hard-to-abate’ sector is important for reducing emissions and to make significant inroads in reducing electrolyser costs, a key cost factor in the supply of hydrogen zero-emissions fuel.
The project is split over two sites with a third available; situated across multiple sites for supply redundancy of hydrogen, while fully encapsulating a vertically integrated solution in the supply of hydrogen at parity with diesel. The Scope of Project NETAS includes two SAT PV Solar arrays, six NETAS modules (8 total for 3 sites), one HVAC chiller unit, cryogenic hydrogen storage and one agricultural tractor 617 HP [460 kW], LH2 transporter, cryogen dispensing equipment and backup hydrogen cryocooler and storage unit.
9 Tech Solutions will need to “make the market” for green hydrogen agricultural machines. Whilst the Case New Holland
(CNH) group have produced a demonstration H2 tractor in the medium/low power range using medium pressure gas. It was
only a part solution as the total refuelling infrastructure was not present at commercial rates compared to diesel.
Once the green hydrogen diesel replacement system economics, technology and business model are demonstrated via the Project NETAS, we would expect the large machine manufacturers to bring products to market.
9 Tech Solutions does not intend to compete with the large agricultural machine manufacturers and fully expects once the green hydrogen economics are demonstrated; that the large machinery manufacturers will provide product offerings in time. However, large companies typically take 3+ years to bring new machines to market. In the short term 9 Tech Solutions will need to provide H2 modified diesel machines using the diesel product range of the John Deere, AGCO, CNH and Buhler +… as the donor machines rebuilt to operate with hydrogen fuel cells as minimum viable products. That is until these manufacturers bring complete liquid hydrogen machines to market.
At which point 9 Tech Solutions will exit the machine lease aspect of the green hydrogen market and focus purely on the green hydrogen tech and hydrogen projects.
Project NETAS will be Australia’s first all-in-one vertically integrated remote hydrogen project. The small-scale nature of Project NETAS means hydrogen production can be supplied in proportion to enveloping demand. As the hydrogen transport market largely does not exist, ensuring appropriate volume of hydrogen without flooding the market will be imperative for us. Ensuring this can be done without the benefit of an economy of scale has lead to not only the NETAS Altilium system development but so too the energy model by which to implement the hydrogen. This means cross-subsidising the hydrogen as much as possible and not incurring as much of the existing diesel fuel infrastructure costs as possible to accommodate the lack of large volume production.
With all these considerations (and many more) project NETAS has been developed to kickstart the hydrogen industry and fast-track decarbonisation and demonstrate a commercially viable business model canvas for the zero emissions fuel.
How did we settle on agriculture? There are three reasons, first, agriculture is ~16% of our greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, largely unable to transition to electrification due to the remoteness of farming operations and the lack of grid infrastructure to handle the power required for fast charging. Secondly, many farmers have available carbon LULUCF (tree planting) offsets and these can assist in financial front-loading future projects and finally, agricultural machines in Australia are normally geographically fixed in thus avoiding the hydrogen “Chicken or egg paradigm”. What comes first, a networked array of refuelling sites and no H2 vehicles, or vehicles and no refuelling? Agriculture presents as the most ideal sector for commencing the budding green hydrogen industry for these reasons and many more, providing farmers with sustainable farming alternatives all while driving electrolyser sales and new job opportunities for regional and remote communities.
Agriculture is a sector experiencing strong growth with tractor sales having set a 40 year high with 13,600 in 2020 as well as Australian average on-farm income increasing 34% 2021-22 .[Ref 1] This sector with increased output and retail diesel prices >$2/Litre, positions itself as the single most viable sector for the early development of the hydrogen transport market.
For hydrogen to compete and ultimately displace diesel, a consumer value proposition will be required, such that it makes purely commercial sense to utilise a low / zero emissions fuel substitute. To achieve a value proposition with or without a price on carbon requires hydrogen cross subsidisation with the other process streams being oxygen, thermal heat, trading of carbon credits and elimination of as many service station delivery supply chain costs as possible. Hydrogen requires a very specific manufacture and delivery model to enable the commercial competition with diesel without ongoing government subsidies.
Being geographically locked allows the infrastructure to match the hydrogen consumption, with hydrogen manufacturing capacity aligning with market growth. Geographically anchored developments facilitate hydrogen consumption hubs and avoid the hydrogen “chicken or egg” paradigm.
[Ref 1] Farming Ahead “Best tractor sales result in 40 years”.
9 Tech Solutions' H2 Model
Our model presents as the most viable in comparison to existing practices by maximising the inherent decentralised nature of power and water that incorporates an energy model that promotes point of use production and storage of hydrogen. Conventional methods of hydrogen production and storage seek to replicate a service-station delivery model. Our technology and business model for the supply of hydrogen ensures the highest possible systems efficiency in the production and supply of hydrogen while limiting the amount of imbedded legacy cost structures -that due to hydrogens properties – limits the economic viability of the green fuel as a supplement to the legacy fuels and infrastructure.
By operating in an all-at-base model, we can supply hydrogen at around $3-7/kg retail, by reducing as many legacy refuelling asset cost-structures and cross-subsidising the hydrogen supply with low grade heat generated from the hydrogen production, oxygen and offsets that result of use displacing fossil fuels such as diesel.
Australian agriculture consumes approximately 88 PJ of energy each year [Ref 2]. Eighty-eight PJ or Peta Joule is approximately equal to ~2.45 billion litres of diesel each year. With the strong customer value proposition that the 9 Tech Solutions Project NETAS provides for early adopters and also climate change sceptics alike.
Farming like any industry has early adopters and progressive farmers who set the standards and lead the industry. Based
on numerous discussions with farmers we estimate that up to 20% of farmers are progressive and open to new technologies that offer a commercial customer value proposition. Australia is approximately 2 -> 4% of the global market. Just 20% of the progressive farmers in Australia alone would equate to ~3,200 [Ref 3] additional projects. (Revenue of ~640 million AUD).
[Ref 2] Australian energy statistics .
[Ref 3] Assumes average volume of diesel consumption per farm operation.
Once established deployments continue in agriculture and the NETAS Altilium technology cost glide commences. Then expansion into tier 3 mining operations will be made possible. Mining operators consume far more diesel than farming operators do and thus – depending on scale – their purchasing power makes it more difficult to compete initially until such time as NETAS system costs come down with volume manufacture.
With both agriculture and mining sectors inherently being remote, the ability to seek and get ‘type’ regulatory approvals and licences are made far easier to attain as the proximity of the technology is situated in less densely populated areas. Once sufficient deployment and field data, mean-time to failure and other associated safety and insurance related data are validated. Then expansion into the domestic sector for demand response and home refuelling becomes optional, increasing wind and solar uptake and providing the NETAS Altilium technology as a distributed energy resource (DER) for grid power management in what is referred to as Integrated demand-side management DSM.
The 9 Tech Solutions’ inaugural Project NETAS is what we believe to be the spark the hydrogen economy requires to fast-track decarbonisation. Leveraging the great renewable energy resources that reside in Australia, to the large rooftop solar uptake by Australian households and local ingenuity and the capability available to deliver on complex engineering projects, The NETAS Altilium hydrogen production, storage and refuelling system in development by us since 2017, has the capacity to improve the sustainability of Australia, diversify our economy and put Australia back on the map in the race to net zero.
It is by thinking outside the box, collaborating and adapting to the challenges of climate change, that project NETAS and our hydrogen energy model can spur a rethinking of the hydrogen economy.