Australian scientists are exporting a groundbreaking Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technology in an effort to help India achieve energy security.
A new study has found that SolarGas – a discovery from the CSIRO whereby solar power is used to boost the efficiency of natural gas – would provide an alternative for industrial hydrogen production, fuel used in electric turbines, petrochemical applications and to provide cleaner transport fuels.
The CSIRO describes SolarGas as "a bit like solar supercharging" natural gas. The process uses a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant to create an endothermic reaction that transforms the natural gas and water into a higher energy product.
The resulting fuel has a 26-percent higher energy yield than original natural gas and is a unique method of storing solar energy in liquid form; allowing it to be stored, transported and exported.
The technology has been in development at the CSIRO’s National Energy Centre in Newcastle, New South Wales, since 1998. According to the Centre, existing fossil technologies can perform the same process, but by using the sun’s rays for heat, together with new catalysts invented by the CSIRO, SolarGas uses 50-percent less fossil fuel and up to 70-percent less water.
"The study has found that the SolarGas technology has the potential to provide a sustainable and cost effective alternative for the production of hydrogen in some of India’s most important industries," CSIRO Senior Research Scientist Dr Jim Hinkley said.
"There is a particularly strong potential to roll out the technology in Gujarat and Rajasthan because both states have excellent solar resources and natural gas infrastructure, as well as being major industrial users of hydrogen."
Conducted by the CSIRO in collaboration with the Solar Energy Corporation of India, the study found establishing SolarGas production in India would also provide the country with new manufacturing jobs, improve energy and food security by lessening the impact of natural gas consumption and produce solar liquid fuels for transport.
"Energy and energy security are critical issues for Australia and India, and we have much to offer each other by sharing our renewable technology expertise and technology," said Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Patrick Suckling said.