Regional communities in Western Australia are hoping a budding green hydrogen industry will stop rural population decline and reinvigorate their economies.
- Industry, and state and local governments look to the Mid West as a location for green hydrogen production
- ATCO Australia secures $28.7 million for a green hydrogen project at Warradarge
- There have been 65 expressions of interest in hydrogen projects at the Oakajee industrial estate
As demand for decarbonised energy increases around the world, the abundant sunshine and reliable winds of the state’s Mid West are attracting prospective green hydrogen producers, with industry, state and local governments looking to capitalise on the growing interest.
Across the Mid West, four separate projects with green hydrogen components are in development.
The state government is reviewing 65 expressions of interest to develop a renewable hydrogen production and export precinct at the Oakajee industrial estate near Geraldton.
The shire of Carnarmah is also keen to attract green hydrogen projects to the region.
Hydrogen gas is used to produce ammonia, but it can also be used in fuel cells and blended with natural gas.
Green hydrogen is created when electricity from renewable sources — such as wind, solar or geothermal activity — is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas via electrolysis.
Industry driving demand
Principal energy consultant with analyst group Cornwall Insight Ben Cerini said that green hydrogen production was in its infancy across the world, with just 0.1 per cent of all hydrogen being produced in a green manner.
However, he expects that to change.
Mr Cerini said demand for green hydrogen was coming from “energy intensive industry, chemical processing and … the transport sector” as well as other markets.
International markets open up
Japan and South Korea have both set targets to transition to using more green hydrogen for transport over the next two decades, creating a potential market for fledgling Australian green hydrogen companies.
As a result, the WA government expects national low-emissions hydrogen exports to be valued at $2.32 billion by 2030.
The state is putting $22 million into a renewable hydrogen strategy and is assessing more than 60 expressions of interest to develop projects at the Oakajee industrial estate, 23km north of Geraldton.
The federal government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency has just pledged more than $100 million to three projects, including $28.7 million to ATCO Australia’s planned 10mw electrolyser at Warradarge, 250km north of Perth in the shire of Coorow.
When completed, the project will take excess capacity at the existing Warradarge wind farm and convert it into four tonnes of hydrogen a day.
Cooking with gas (and hydrogen)
ATCO’s manager of innovation projects, Sam Lee-Mohan, said the plant would be one of the largest in the world, producing enough energy to replace the tank of fuel in 800 domestic cars every day.
“We will be trucking the hydrogen to the gas distribution network and injecting it, blending it into the natural gas pipeline where home owners will be consuming a small percentage of hydrogen as they use the natural gas for heating and cooking,” he said.
“We are in a fantastic position to really be a powerful player in the global export race for hydrogen.”
Shire eyes hydrogen-fuelled revival
The Shire of Carnamah is among a number of local governments hoping to get a slice of the green hydrogen action.
A report commissioned by the shire identified the town of Eneabba, just north of Warradarge, as a prime location for a green hydrogen production hub, due to its proximity to existing road, rail and gas infrastructure, along with large parcels of vacant land.
Shire CEO Vin Lamont said the renewable energy industry could help tackle the town’s declining population.
“We would have an ongoing industry that would require permanent workers, ” he said.
“There will come a time when we won’t have a choice and we’ll have to be investing in renewable energy production.
“So it stands to reason that we should be doing it now, and WA has the natural resources where we should be leaders in renewable energy.”