Australia is on track to becoming a major playing in the emerging global hydrogen industry, according to industry experts at AOG Energy 2021.
The Hydrogen: An emerging industry in WA’s energy future session featured presentations from Yara advisor Luke Blackbourn, Fortescue Metals Group director energy Rob Grant, Pacific Hydro director of strategy and new business James Miller-Randle, National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) chief executive Miranda Taylor, and Hazer Group chief executive Geoff Ward.
They agreed that while green hydrogen and ammonia production was in its infancy, the infrastructure was already in place for Australia to become a major player in hydrogen exports once commercial-scale production was achieved.
Mr Ward said hydrogen would play a major role across energy storage and transport, grid integration and stability, use of hydrogen as a product in transport, decarbonising heavy industry, and supporting civic infrastructure.
“It’s an example of the diversity in how much the hydrogen industry is growing up, transforming, and becoming a lot more diverse and sophisticated,” he said.
“It’s absolutely clear that there has been a shift in the past two years, from taking on this role three years ago and having the very first discussions with investment banks and fund managers about why hydrogen was an investment schematic and what it means.”
Mr Ward referenced a research report released by the Bank of America which forecast $11 trillion in infrastructure investment opportunities in the global hydrogen industry over the next 30 years.
According to Mr Grant, 90 per cent of emissions associated with steel came from its manufacture in the blast furnaces in China and North Asia, with the rest from mining.
“Helping them decarbonise and giving them the products they need at the cheapest cost is a significant opportunity,” he said.
Mr Miller-Randle said that while Australia was in a great position to benefit from a green hydrogen industry because of its incredible resource base, infrastructure, and proximity to export markets, WA itself ticked all the boxes.
This was highlighted by the Pilbara’s contribution to economic stability and recovery during COVID-19, according to Mr Blackbourn. “We have multiple major private sector entities pursuing emissions reductions and/or pursuing renewables opportunities,” he said.
“We already have existing ammonia infrastructure for exports, so once we start producing those green ammonia molecules and associated hydrogen, the export infrastructure is already there and in use.”
Mr Blackbourn said that this was backed up by government support, with the City of Karratha being a recipient of NERA’s Hydrogen Technology Clusters investment.
Ms Taylor said that two truths emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic: the need for diversification and resilience. “I think a third truth is the growing strength of the regions, and all the projects that were described this morning underscore just how much the regions are playing a role in our future,” she said.
“NERA is working with the energy sector partners to improve Australia’s performance both in the productivity of the energy sector itself, and also in the commercialisation of innovation, the scale up of technologies, and the diversification and decarbonisation of industry.”
Ms Taylor praised the shift toward industry collaboration. “The world of old when we were operating an industry silo, where you had mining, and you had oil and gas, energy companies, and manufacturing companies, is breaking down, which is a really good thing,” she said.
Recently, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency announce the approval of more than $100 million in funding towards three commercial-scale renewable hydrogen projects, two of which were in WA.
The projects include the Engie Renewable Australia and Yara Pilbara Fertilisers’ YURI Green Ammonia Project in Karratha, ATCO Australia’s Clean Energy Innovation Park in Warradarge, and Australian Gas Networks Limited’s Murray Valley Hydrogen Park in Wodonga.
The Renewable Hydrogen Deployment Funding Round was focused on growing an innovative, safe and competitive hydrogen industry in Australia, in line with the National Hydrogen Strategy.
Hydrogen Industry Minister Hon Alannah MacTiernan welcomed the funding injection. “The State Government’s early-stage funding for both projects through the Renewable Hydrogen Fund has now paid off,” Ms MacTiernan said. “Renewable hydrogen will be a major future industry for WA, helping to reduce carbon emissions locally and around the world and supporting local jobs.”
The State Government invested $5.7 million in Australia’s first community hydrogen power plant.
Horizon Power recently began work on installing a 704kW solar farm, 348kW hydrogen electrolyser and 100kW fuel cell in Denham, with the aim to use excess renewable energy to produce renewable hydrogen to be stored at its site in Denham and used to power homes.
Ms MacTiernan said the demonstration project in Denham was leading the rollout of hydrogen plants in community-based remote microgrids and had the potential to be implemented across the State. “Investing in renewable hydrogen sends a clear message to the industry that we are serious about Western Australia being powered by clean energy,” she said.