AN investigation is under way into a fire aboard the hydrogen gas ship Suiso Frontier less than one day after arriving at Hastings.
A flame was spotted from the exhaust of a gas combustion unit on the ship’s deck after the ship had been loaded with a cargo of liquefied hydrogen.
Hastings is an essential part of the $500 million brown coal-to-hydrogen project being conducted by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and partly underwritten with $50m each from the state and federal governments.
The Suiso Frontier was purpose built for the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) pilot project and its delivery of hydrogen to Kobe, Japan from Hastings on 25 February was hailed as being a world first (“Cheers and jeers greet hydrogen ship” The News 25/1/22).
The fire aboard the ship occurred at about 10.45pm on 25 January and is classed as a “serious incident” by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
The ATSB expects its investigation into the fire to be completed sometime after June. The initial report on the bureau’s website states that the combustion unit was “immediately shutdown [after the flame was seen] and isolated before the crew implemented the fire prevention response plan”.
“No further abnormalities were reported and there were no injuries, damage or pollution. As part of the investigation, the ATSB will interview relevant persons and obtain other evidence, including recorded data,” the report states.
“Should a critical safety issue be identified at any time during the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify operators and regulators so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken. A final report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation.”
Julia Stockigt, of Save Westernport, said the group – now celebrating the first anniversary over AGL’s withdrawal of plans for a gas import terminal at Crib Point – “has always been concerned about the hydrogen liquification plant” at Hastings.
“Since Planning Minister Richard Wynne called the project ‘an essential project for Victoria’ in 2019, it has enabled the facility to avoid the scrutiny of an environment effects statement to assess its safety and other impacts,” Ms Stockigt said.
“It’s worth noting that the experimental hydrogen facility hosted by BlueScope is one of a number of major hazard facilities in the vicinity of Long Island Point … and this area in Bayview Road is within close range of the residential areas of Hastings.
“It also concerns us that the safety breach onboard Suiso Frontier appears not to have been reported to the public at the time.”
Environment groups say there are other ways to produce hydrogen that do not involve releasing CO2 stored in brown coal although those production methods would not provide jobs in the Latrobe Valley or open up a new way to exploit one of Victoria’s natural resources.
Mornington Peninsula Shire’s then mayor, Cr Sam Hearn, two years ago said that making hydrogen from brown coal was “not good” unless its proponents could “tick off all environmental concerns” (“’Emergency’ issues may hit port” The News 3/3/20).
He said politicians “need to think 50 years ahead” instead of initiating new fossil fuel projects.