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BP confirms Western Australian green hydrogen, ammonia plant feasibility

18 August 2021 IHS Markit Chemical Expert

BP said a study into the feasibility of an export-scale green hydrogen and ammonia production plant in Western Australia found that production using renewable energy is technically feasible at scale.

Western Australia "is an ideal place to develop large-scale renewable energy assets that can in turn produce green hydrogen and/or green ammonia for domestic and export markets," the company said in early August.

Green hydrogen production involves electrolysis using power from renewable resources. Green ammonia uses this green hydrogen and atmospheric nitrogen as feedstocks. Both renewables-sourced gases are seen as key decarbonization tools, especially in hard-to-transition sectors such as transportation and industries including steel production.

The study findings support BP's view that Western Australia's potential solar and wind resources, existing infrastructure, and proximity to large, long-term markets make it "particularly promising," according to Frédéric Baudry, APAC senior vice president for fuels and low carbon solutions at BP.

BP said it will continue to work with key stakeholders to develop plans for integrated green hydrogen projects in Western Australia, defining technical and infrastructure solutions, customer demand, and the business models. A potential investment figure and project schedule were not disclosed.

BP commenced a study in May 2020 of the hydrogen supply chain and domestic and export markets at two differing scales. One was for a demonstration/pilot-scale plant for up to 4,000 metric tons (mt)/year of green hydrogen to produce up to 20,000 mt/year of green ammonia, while the other was for a 200,000-mt/year renewable hydrogen plant producing up to 1 million mt/year of green ammonia.

The study considered three different hydrogen production technologies, with the proposed plant's power source modelled as a mix of solar and wind, with some battery support, according to BP.

Appetite for Western Australian hydrogen

BP is one of a number of developers eyeing the state for export-scale green hydrogen projects.

A consortium comprising InterContinental Energy, CWP Global, and Mirning Green Energy on 13 July unveiled plans for a wind and solar project in southeastern Western Australia that could be as large as 50 GW, with the output to be used to produce up to 3.5 million mt of green hydrogen or 20 million mt of ammonia annually.

Western Green Energy Hub (WGEH), unlike many other energy mega-projects announced around the world, has the backing of both local aboriginals and politicians eyeing jobs and tax revenues. Mirning Green Energy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mirning Traditional Lands Aboriginal Corporation.

The WGEH project is the second renewable energy and green ammonia facility in the state on the drawing board for InterContinental Energy and CWP Global. The developers' proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH)—a 15-GW to 26-GW wind and solar facility that would supply power to local industry and an up to 10 million mt ammonia export project—won support at the state level in late 2020. AREH is to be located in northwestern Western Australia's Pilbara region, an iron ore industry hub.

TotalEnergies-backed Total Eren, meanwhile, signed a memorandum of understanding with Province Resources to carry out a feasibility study for the Australian miner's Hyenergy project in the Gascoyne region of northwestern Western Australia, which would utilize up to 8 GW of renewable electricity.

In November 2020, fund manager Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners teamed up with developer Hydrogen Renewables Australia on plans for a green hydrogen facility powered by up to 5 GW of renewable electricity further south along the Indian Ocean coastline of Western Australia. The partners hope to export the hydrogen to Japan and South Korea, they said.

State-level backing

Backing for WGEH and AREH is part of the state government's ambitions to create a similar Western Australian success story to that seen in the LNG sector. Australia is the world's second-largest LNG exporter, and Western Australia accounts for more than half those volumes.

In November 2020, Western Australia unveiled a hydrogen roadmap. The state hopes to approve a green hydrogen project by 2022. In July, it joined the Zero Carbon Certification Scheme created by Australia's Smart Energy Council, which would certify renewable hydrogen, green ammonia or green metal with guarantees of origin in a similar fashion to EU guarantees of origin for electricity.

When the WGEH plans were announced in July, Western Australia Hydrogen Industry Minister Alannah MacTiernan offered her support to the project and added: "Our state is perfectly positioned to lead the global renewable hydrogen industry, delivering a strong economic future for WA and becoming a major contributor to global decarbonization."

Across the country

On a national scale, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the Leaders Summit on Climate convened by US President Joe Biden 22 April that Australia intends to develop "hydrogen valleys" akin to the US' Silicon Valley.

Such valleys will see Australia "transform our transport industries, our mining and resource sectors, our manufacturing, our fuel and energy production. … In Australia, our ambition is to produce the cheapest clean hydrogen in the world, at A$2/kg ($1.55/kg)," Morrison said.

In April, Morrison announced some A$275 million ($199 million) in state funding to create four hydrogen hubs. "I want Australia and hydrogen technology to be synonymous around the world," he said at the time.

The Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain pilot, an initiative of the Australian and Japanese governments, began operations in the state of Victoria's Latrobe Valley on 12 March. The pilot, launched in 2018, is part of plans to develop a complete hydrogen supply chain in the Latrobe Valley, with liquefied hydrogen then exported to Japan.

Such plans have inspired competition between states. In March, a summit in the state of Queensland convened by the government of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk established a regional development body similar to the one in the Latrobe Valley.

Also in March, Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo formalized a "hydrogen ecosystem" partnership with entities including Gladstone Ports, Gladstone Regional Council, CQUniversity Australia, and Australian Gas Infrastructure Group.

"Gladstone's hydrogen ecosystem project will prove supply chains and grow a domestic hydrogen market, with the ultimate prize being more Queensland exports from right here in Gladstone," Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said as the partnership was unveiled. "Queensland is well placed to supply renewable hydrogen to the world."

And 18 August, Japanese trading giant Itochu said it would be conducting a feasibility study on production and storage of green hydrogen at Dalrymple Bay Terminal in Queensland. Itochu will work in partnership with port operator Dalrymple Bay Infrastructure, port manager North Queensland Bulk Ports, and Canada's Brookfield Asset Management. Work will begin later this year.

--Based on original reporting by Chemical Week; contributions by Keiron Greenhalgh, Net-Zero Business Daily.

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