Do hydrogen investments show the sector is gaining traction?
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Australia’s hydrogen economy foray appears to be picking up the pace with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) providing Yara Pilbara Fertilisers $995,000 in funding to support a study into the production of renewable hydrogen and ammonia.
ARENA is also providing $1.28m in funding to Australian Gas Networks (AGN) to establish the Australian Hydogen Centre, which will investigate the blending of hydrogen into natural gas pipelines in South Australia and Victoria.
This comes as assembly begins on Australia’s first coal-to-hydrogen plant that will produce hydrogen directly from the brown coal mined in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
The Yara feasibility study will explore the potential to make green hydrogen at the company’s existing ammonia production facility in the Pilbara.
Yara will investigate producing renewable hydrogen via electrolysis powered by onsite solar panels.
This will displace 30,000 tonnes per annum of hydrogen that Yara currently derives from fossil fuels.
The blended hydrogen will subsequently be converted to ammonia with a lower carbon footprint and sold for further processing into domestic and international markets.
Yara’s study will also investigate the potential of using seawater for electrolysis.
In the long term, the company plans to produce hydrogen and ammonia entirely using renewable energy.
Meanwhile, the AGN’s Australian Hydrogen Centre will explore the feasibility of blending 10 per cent hydrogen into the existing natural gas networks in regional towns that will be selected during the study.
It will also work on feasibility studies focused on 10 per cent blending into the entire state gas networks in South Australia and Victoria. This includes the feasibility of converting the state gas network to 100 per cent hydrogen.
AGN is currently constructing a hydrogen producing facility at the Tonsley Innovation District south of Adelaide as part of the project to blend renewable hydrogen into the local gas distribution network.
This blend will be distributed to 710 properties in Adelaide when it begins in mid-2020.
In January, the Western Australia government provided $1.68m in funding for seven renewable hydrogen projects in the state.
This includes a project to determine if hydrogen can be introduced into the 1547km-long Dampier to Bunbury natural gas pipeline.
Hazer Group (ASX:HZR), the most visible small cap ASX company in the hydrogen space, was also a beneficiary of this funding.
The company secured up to $250,000 for a feasibility study on the creation of a renewable hydrogen transport hub in the City of Mandurah.
In November, the Tasmanian government said it was looking to leverage its abundant renewable energy resources to become a world leader in large-scale renewable hydrocarbon production.
It said a 1,000 megawatt facility capable of supplying 1 million homes could be feasible by 2030.
In July 2019, Woodside Energy (ASX:WPL) reached an agreement with Monash University to jointly invest more than $40m to explore the potential for hydrogen as a source of clean energy and carbon abatement.
Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG) also jumped on the bandwagon back in November 2018, signing a five-year partnership with the CSIRO to develop and commercialise hydrogen technology.