Yara’s green ammonia project YURI gets further boosts

There were two new funding announcements last week concerning Yara’s YURI renewable ammonia project, to be built next to their Pilbara fertiliser plant in Western Australia. The Pilbara ammonia plant is an ideal demonstration site for green hydrogen and green ammonia at an industrial scale. This export-oriented plant has an annual capacity of 850,000 tons per year of ammonia, representing about 5% of the world’s merchant ammonia supply, and while the current site uses natural gas as fuel and feedstock it is situated adjacent to rich solar and wind energy resources.

These announcements show that interest in YURI is strong from Australian local, state, and federal governments, with more funding opportunities in the pipeline.

Putting the Pilbara “front-and-center”

The state government of West Australia will contribute AUD$2 million to the YURI project as part of its larger Renewable Hydrogen Fund, aiming to unlock green hydrogen’s potential in the Australian state. The project’s significance is not lost on West Australian Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan, who believes YURI will “put the Pilbara front-and-center in the global renewable hydrogen race.”

Local MP for the Pilbara area Kevin Michel was also thrilled about the employment and development opportunities YURI would provide for the Pilbara community: “This project will be … kick-starting a new renewable hydrogen industry on the Burrup and creating new job opportunities for locals.”

The $2 million allocation comes after Yara announced in December 2020 that it would be partnering with ENGIE to develop “phase zero” of the project: a 10MW solar farm and electrolyser to be installed and operational by the end of 2022. This translates to 625 tonnes of green hydrogen and 3,500 tonnes of green ammonia annually. The full scope of the project — 500MW of installed renewable energy generation — is scheduled to be online by 2030.

Building hydrogen technology clusters around Australia

Yara then received an additional boost when its partnership with the neighboring Karratha City Council was awarded seed funding by the Australian federal government body NERA (National Energy Resources Australia). The Karratha Hydrogen Technology Cluster is one of thirteen regional clusters around Australia that will be located at or near key hydrogen projects. The seed funding aims to strengthen cohesion between local supply chain partners and build sustainable capacity into future hydrogen supply chains. Ultimately, NERA hopes to “foster a multi-million-dollar, globally competitive hydrogen industry” in Australia based on these clusters.

What next for YURI?

YURI is also on a seven-project shortlist to receive funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of its $70 million Renewable Hydrogen Deployment Fund. Two finalists will share in the first round of this ARENA funding, with an announcement expected mid-year. YURI stands out from other projects in the shortlist as representing a “groundbreaking decarbonisation of an existing industrial facility”.

As mentioned, “phase zero” of the project is already underway. By the end of 2021 this 10MW setup will feed green hydrogen into the existing Pilbara plant, displacing grey hydrogen produced with traditional steam methane reforming techniques. Though this will not be a significant displacement at first, by 2023 Yara intends green hydrogen to displace 6-20% of grey hydrogen feed-stock by scaling-up renewable energy capacity. By 2028 a new ammonia plant will be constructed, nearly doubling the production capacity of Yara Pilbara overall (800 KTPA added to the existing 850 KTPA plant). And in the final phase, this new ammonia plant will be 80-100% green hydrogen-fed by 2030, with renewable energy production ramped up to 500MW. Potential agreements with local industry for off-taking green hydrogen and renewable electricity are also under consideration.

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