Strategic Energy: The emerging Australia-Korea hydrogen partnership

By James Bowen and Kyle Springer

Australia and Korea are early leaders in the development of the hydrogen economy. Australia has vast renewable potential for green hydrogen production, and is well- positioned to become a major exporter. Korea will be one of the first global demand centres, and its private sector is rapidly driving regional market development.

Establishing a hydrogen partnership can serve as a foundation for a new phase in Australia-Korea ties. As they seek to strengthen their bilateral ties, hydrogen is a mutually-beneficial issue in which they can activate the partnership model of bilateral cooperation, and exercise broader regional leadership.

A strong foundation for government-to-government hydrogen cooperation already exists. The Korea- Australia Free Trade Agreement, and the long-standing Joint Committee for Energy and Mineral Resources Consultations and Cooperation, are at the core. These intergovernmental mechanisms will steer the activities of the new Australia-Korea ‘Low and Zero Emissions Technology Partnership’.

Korean companies have made sizeable commitments to develop the hydrogen industry. This presents Australian hydrogen-focused firms with attractive commercial opportunities. Korean firms have organised into hydrogen-focussed public-private partnership groups, offering one-stop gateways for Australia to find partners.

Exploring hydrogen technology for industrial de- carbonisation and production of ‘green commodities’ such as steel will complement energy sector efforts. Joint projects involving Australian and Korean players are already underway, led by Korean firms such as POSCO and Korea Zinc.

Bilateral hydrogen cooperation can also be scaled up with other Indo-Pacific partners to develop regional energy transitions. There will be interest in the Indo-Pacific region in any technical assistance and investment across the hydrogen value chain. Korea and Australia’s development of low emissions iron ore and steel technologies will interest rapidly industrialising countries in the region.

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