Queensland zine refiner Sun Metals – the first major energy user to build its own large scale solar farm in Australia – will now develop one of north Queensland’s first renewable hydrogen production facilities, after securing a $5 million Queensland government grant.
The hydrogen facility, to be built at Sun Metal’s zine refinery in Townsville, alongside its solar farm, will go ahead with the support of funding from the Queensland government’s Hydrogen Industry Development Fund.
The project will help establish Queensland’s renewable hydrogen supply chain in a region with a large amount of industrial demand, as well as raising the prospect for hydrogen fuel switching in heavy vehicles.
“Hydrogen has huge potential to pump millions of dollars into our economy and create jobs for workers in Townsville,” Queensland state development minister Kate Jones said.
Sun Metals CEO Kiwon Park hoped that the project would be the first step in a wider investment in renewable energy projects by the company in North Queensland as it looks to diversify further into zero emissions technologies.
“This first phase of our hydrogen project will only be the beginning of developing a substantial renewables hydrogen industry based in Townsville that we hope in the long-term will create export opportunities,” Park said.
“The hydrogen project is part of Sun Metals’ long-term plans for a totally integrated operation including our zinc refinery, solar farm and other operations at Stuart.”
Sun Metals has already built a dedicated 125MW solar farm near its zinc refinery in Townsville, which will deliver as much as 30 per cent of the plant’s energy needs and significantly cut production costs.
The Sun Metals solar farm has, however, been impacted by system strength issues that have plagued a number of Queensland wind and solar farms, requiring the projects to dial down their output to zero on occasions. It has also suffered technical problems that have restricted its output.
Local state MP Coralee O’Rourke said the project would provide an investment and jobs boost at a crucial time when the Queensland economy is still recovering from the Covid-19 triggered economic shock.
“We know that to help our economy recover from COVID-19, we must invest in growth industries that will support local jobs,” O’Rourke said.
“The project will establish the region’s first renewable hydrogen supply chain and depending on the final scale, will deliver more than 25 local jobs during construction and 12 ongoing jobs once it’s up and running.”
The Queensland government has allocated a total of $15 million to support renewable hydrogen projects in the state, under the Hydrogen Industry Development Fund.
State development minister Kate Jones revealed that the Queensland government had received interest from 23 projects, and expects to announce further grant allocations in the near future.
“The fund is ensuring that Queensland is leading the way in renewable hydrogen development in Australia,” Jones said.
“The Queensland Government has committed to transition to a clean energy future and we are pleased to be supporting regional projects that promote innovation, deliver economic growth and highly skilled jobs for Queenslanders.”
The Queensland export hub of Gladstone is also set to become host to some of the state’s early investments in renewable hydrogen production, after the Queensland government awarded $4.2 million in funding to support an Australian Gas Networks trial of hydrogen injection into the mains gas supply in February.
If successful, the Gladstone project has the prospect of growing into a $1.6 billion H2-Hub project, that would expand the production of renewable hydrogen to target a growing global export market, as well as for use in the production of ammonia fertilisers.