Two huge renewable hydrogen projects have been planned for the heart of Queensland’s major coal and gas regions, with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency agreeing to initiate funding to support feasibility studies to use large-scale renewables for the production of ammonia.
One proposal is to build a solar farm of up to 210MW along with a 160MW hydrogen electrolyser to produce renewable hydrogen and “green ammonia” at Dyno Nobel’s existing facilities at Moranbah in central Queensland, which currently rely on gas.
The second proposal is to tap into wind and solar and storage facilities to be built by Neoen to use renewable hydrogen to supply one fifth of the ammonia needs from Queensland Nitrates ammonia plant near Moura, which also currently relies only on gas.
The two Queensland projects add to a growing list of renewable hydrogen proposals across the country, not just for the purposes of storing wind and solar for electricity, but also to help reduce emissions in key manufacturing industries such as ammonia production, and for the export of renewable fuels.
The advantages of these two projects is that both facilities currently use hydrogen, have customers, and are simply looking at whether sourcing the hydrogen from cheap wind and solar and electrolysers can offer a cheaper and cleaner deal than with the gas they use now or other fossil fuels.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller says ammonia production currently accounts for around one per cent of total global emissions, and there is enormous scope to reduce this, particularly in Australia, because of its abundance of renewable energy resources and proximity to key Asia markets, and the fact that the industry already uses hydrogen.
“This is the first step in the country tapping into the huge potential of a renewable hydrogen export industry,” Miller said in a statement. ARENA is putting in a total of $2.9 million into the two studies.
“ARENA is helping to create a market for hydrogen and to ensure that Australia remains at the front of this shift to renewable energy. ARENA is helping industry produce hydrogen at a price, quality and reliability point where it can be competitive with natural gas.”
Dyno Nobel currently supplies the mining industry from its current facilities at Moranbah, and would look to use the added renewable hydrogen component to meet increasing demand.
“The aim of the feasibility study is to determine whether renewable hydrogen can be produced in a way that makes commercial sense to support expanding our Moranbah manufacturing facility in central Queensland,” said Tim Wall, the head of global manufacturing at Incitec Pivot, which owns Dyno Nobel and in turn has a 50 per cent interest in Queensland Nitrates too.
At Moura, a consortium led by Queensland Nitrates along with Neoen and Worley proposes to produce 20,000 tonnes per year of ammonia from 3,600 tonnes of renewable hydrogen.
The new plant would provide up to 20 per cent of Queensland Nitrates’ current ammonia requirements, which is presently manufactured from natural gas. The renewable hydrogen would also fill an ammonia production gap that QNP currently procures from third party suppliers.
If proven feasible, QNP would produce hydrogen via electrolysis for one fifth of its ammonia production. The electrolysers would be powered by a hybrid supply of wind, solar and stored renewable energy from facilities owned and operated by Neoen.
It is not clear whether this would result in new wind and solar facilities to be built by Neoen, or whether it would come from its existing and upcoming portfolio, which includes the proposed Kaban renewable energy hub in north Queensland, which has been shortlisted for a state government auction.
The amount of renewables needed to supply to Moura electrolyser would depend on the size of the electrolyser itself and its proposed capacity factor, but could be around 100MW.
Neoen is also proposing a hydrogen facility at its proposed Crystal Brook renewable energy hub in South Australia, although this appears more in line for us as long terms storage for renewable energy on the grid.