Engie advances Pilbara green hydrogen plans to make “sun shine at night”

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Engie and Yara Pilbara Fertilisers agree to $3m feasibility study into converting existing ammonia plant to produce renewable hydrogen.

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Plans to develop a green hydrogen and ammonia production plant in the Pilbara region of Western Australia are gaining momentum, with a feasibility study of the proposed project now underway.

Yara Pilbara Fertilisers and Engie Energy Services said on Monday they had agreed to invest $3 million to examine the feasibility of converting Yara’s existing ammonia plant in the Pilbara, which currently relies on natural gas, to produce renewable hydrogen.

According to Engie, the goal is to transform the plant from one that relies completely on natural gas for hydrogen to one where a significant share of the hydrogen comes from renewable power.

The project is one of a growing number around Australia hoping to tap the enormous opportunities in pursuing “green” hydrogen production and export, based on the country’s enormous potential for wind and solar power.

These opportunities were outlined in two major reports from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and a group led by chief scientist Alan Finkel, and in W.A. in particular at last year’s Renewable Hydrogen Conference.

Both Yara and Engie are members of the W.A. Labor McGowan government’s Renewable Hydrogen Council, which will make its recommendations to the state on strategies to drive a local hydrogen industry in the coming months.

“This project is in line with Engie’s goal to be a pioneer in the new energy world, a decarbonised world which is accessible to everyone, everywhere,” said Engie Hydrogen CEO Michèle Azalbert in comments last week.

“Engie is investing in clean hydrogen in the belief that it is likely to become a key component in clean energy networks because it can store energy in large quantities, over long periods of time and across great distances. Hydrogen can make the sun shine at night.”

W.A. regional development minister Alannah MacTeirnan said the commitment to progress the Yara plant facility showed the state’s push to drive a renewable hydrogen industry was paying off.

“This feasibility study is a major step forward in WA’s renewable hydrogen future, and has the potential to create a whole new job-creating industry in the Pilbara,” she said.

“This is just the beginning of what could be a major new industry for our State.”

A separate project, also based in WA’s Pilbara region, is pursuing plans to develop between 9-11GW of wind and solar which it would export to south-east Asia via a sub-sea cable and as green hydrogen.

That massive and ambitious project – dubbed the Asia Renewable Energy Hub – is led by a consortium of companies including Australia’s CWP Renewables, wind turbine manufacturer Vestas and Intercontinental Energy and Macquarie.

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