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Hydrogen in Australia: investments and jobs

There is so much hydrogen news coming out of Australia that it is hard to keep up. At the state level, Tasmania has released its draft plan to increase renewables to 200% of its electricity use by 2040. This marks a serious start to establishing a renewable energy export economy, and includes funding and policy support to ramp up green hydrogen and ammonia production and begin exports by 2027. At the federal level, ARENA announced that its AU$ 70 million funding round for large-scale, “shovel-ready,” renewable hydrogen projects received applications representing over $3 billion of commercial investments. Australia’s renewable hydrogen industry has appetite and momentum, “and we’re seeing a lot of projects ready to be built.” As if to prove the point, two developers in two weeks have each announced hydrogen projects that could produce a million tons per year of ammonia. These are at opposite ends of the low-carbon spectrum: Leigh Creek Energy's in-situ gasification (ISG) coal-to-ammonia plant; and Austom Hydrogen's 3.6 GW green hydrogen export project.

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Green ammonia plants win financing in Australia and New Zealand

In recent weeks, governments in Australia and New Zealand have announced major financial awards to accelerate development of local green ammonia plants. In Australia, ARENA awarded AU $995,000 (US $0.6 million) to Yara and ENGIE for their solar ammonia pilot at Yara Pilbara. In New Zealand, the Provincial Growth Fund gave NZ $19.9 million (US $11.3 million) to Ballance-Agri Nutrients and Hiringa Energy for their wind-fed ammonia plant at Kapuni. Both projects will demonstrate that an existing fossil ammonia plant can be decarbonized in increments. Renewable hydrogen can be introduced in small amounts, displacing only a fraction of the plant's natural gas consumption but demonstrating and de-risking the technologies. Then, the renewable energy farms and electrolyzers can be scaled-up in stages, eventually replacing all the natural gas requirements and completing the conversion of a fossil asset to a renewable asset.

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H2U moves forward with 3 GW green ammonia export plant

According to a statement released by the Queensland government last week, the clean infrastructure development firm Hydrogen Utility (H2U) has purchased a 171-hectare site in Gladstone, Queensland, where it intends to build a green ammonia export plant with initial operations beginning in 2025. This "H2-Hub" will be built in stages, scaling up over time to reach up to 3 GW electrolyzer capacity for green hydrogen production, and up to 5,000 tons per day of green ammonia. This is at least twice the size of a conventional natural gas-based world-scale ammonia plant.

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Gigastack Phase 2 Receives Funding in the UK

Earlier this week the United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced that a group led by ITM Power has been awarded GBP 7.5 million (USD $9.7 million) for the second phase of a renewable hydrogen project dubbed “Gigastack.” According to the BEIS announcement, “Gigastack will demonstrate the delivery of bulk, low-cost and zero-carbon hydrogen through ITM Power’s gigawatt scale polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysers . . .” with the goal of “dramatically reduc[ing] the cost of electrolytic hydrogen.” The hydrogen produced will be used for petroleum refining, although the project partners have their eyes on opportunities that go well beyond desulfurization of oil.

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Australian Company Advances Low-Carbon Hydrogen from Methane

Hazer Group, an Australian company with technology in development for the production of low-carbon hydrogen, had a busy 2019. In April the company announced that it had received its first Australian patent. In September, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced the approval of “up to [AUD]$9.41 million in funding to Hazer … for the construction and operation of a groundbreaking hydrogen production facility in Munster, Western Australia.” In December Hazer announced that it was negotiating an agreement with industrial gas distributor BOC related to its Munster project. Last week the company announced that it had secured up to AUD$250,000 in grant funding from the Government of Western Australia for “a feasibility study on the creation of a renewable hydrogen transport hub." in the City of Mandurah.

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Australia Issues National Hydrogen Strategy

Last month the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council – “a Ministerial forum for the Commonwealth [of Australia], states and territories and New Zealand, to work together in the pursuit of national energy reforms” – issued a 137-page report entitled Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy. For those focused on how ammonia energy will go from promising idea to practical reality, this is what the next step – the one after the discovery of ammonia's virtues as a hydrogen carrier – could look like. The Strategy is detailed, comprehensive, and concerned with both practical measures in the near term and the arc of progress over the long term. And embedded within it are three ideas that are likely to have on-going relevance for ammonia energy implementation.

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Green Ammonia Production Integrated into US Wholesale Power Markets

The High Plains and Rocky Mountain regions of the United States have some of the best renewable energy resources in the world. As more non-dispatchable wind and solar generation is integrated into the power system, it is impacting wholesale power markets. Average wholesale electricity power prices are falling while their volatility is increasing. This creates opportunities for large flexible loads that are capable of consuming energy while prices are low and not consuming energy when prices are high. Result from an analysis of dispatchable fully electric ammonia production integrated into the power system are presented.

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ThyssenKrupp’s “green hydrogen and renewable ammonia value chain”

In June, ThyssenKrupp announced the launch of its technology for "advanced water electrolysis," which produces carbon-free hydrogen from renewable electricity and water. This "technology enables economical industrial-scale hydrogen plants for energy storage and the production of green chemicals." Two weeks later, in early July, ThyssenKrupp announced that it was moving forward with a demonstration plant in Port Lincoln, South Australia, which had been proposed earlier this year. This will be "one of the first ever commercial plants to produce CO2-free 'green' ammonia from intermittent renewable resources." The German conglomerate is one of the four major ammonia technology licensors, so its actions in the sustainable ammonia space are globally significant.