Friday, 21 February 2020 13:50

ARENA ramps up funding for hydrogen projects

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced funding for two hydrogen prjoects as it continues to ramp up the allocaton of funds for the development of renewables.

ARENA has just announced an allocaton of $995,000 in funding to Yara Pilbara Fertilisers to support a feasibility study for the production of renewable hydrogen and ammonia.

And in other developments the agency has also announced an allocation of $1.28 million to Australian Gas Networks (AGN) to establish the Australian Hydrogen Centre to investigate blending hydrogen into natural gas pipelines in South Australia and Victoria.

The Yara Pilbara study will explore the potential to make green hydrogen work at industrial scale at Yara’s existing ammonia production facility in the Pilbara.

ARENA says Yara will investigate producing renewable hydrogen via electrolysis powered by onsite solar PV, and the renewable hydrogen produced will displace 30,000 tonnes per year of hydrogen which Yara currently derives from fossil fuels. The blended hydrogen will subsequently be converted to ammonia with a lower carbon footprint and sold for further processing into domestic and international markets. The study will also investigate using seawater for electrolysis.

In the long term, ARENA says Yara is aiming to produce hydrogen and ammonia entirely through renewable energy, and the study will be the first step on the path to achieving commercial scale production of renewable hydrogen for export.

Yara currently produces and exports approximately five per cent of the world’s ammonia production out of its existing facility in the Pilbara, and the project will utilise Yara’s established trade partnerships and market expertise to export renewable hydrogen as ammonia from WA.

Yara will collaborate with global energy company ENGIE to deliver the feasibility study. ENGIE has a dedicated hydrogen business unit focused on developing industrial-scale renewable-based hydrogen solutions in international markets.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the feasibility study is another step to decarbonising the mining and ammonia production sectors in Western Australia.

“Hydrogen has huge potential as a fuel of the future, and as a potential energy export for Australia,” Miller said.

“Yara’s project will offer great insight into how Australia’s current ammonia producers can transition away from the use of fossil fuels towards renewable alternatives for producing hydrogen while continuing to leverage the substantial export capabilities that those companies have already established.”

“This project will support future investment in renewable hydrogen from our largest producers, which in turn will provide the economies of scale required to produce renewable hydrogen and ammonia at a competitive price for export,”

“We appreciate that ARENA has recognised Yara and ENGIE’s complementary expertise and experience on this complex project via this commitment. ARENA’s support will assist in completing the feasibility study so that we can fully understand the opportunity for generating renewable hydrogen for use in our Pilbara facilities,” said Yara International Executive Vice President Production Tove Andersen.

“As an energy transition enabler, ENGIE is heartened by ARENA’s support for the joint project with Yara to decarbonise its ammonia production. This is also a great example of the government support for a renewable hydrogen industry to take off in Australia. ENGIE is ready to contribute.” says Michele Azalbert, CEO of ENGIE’s Hydrogen Business Unit.

Funds for Australian Hydrogen Centre

In ARENA’s other announcement on Friday of $1.28 million in funding to Australian Gas Networks Limited (AGN) - part of Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) - to establish the Australian Hydrogen Centre, will see the centre investigate blending hydrogen into natural gas pipelines in South Australia and Victoria.

The project will undertake feasibility studies and share knowledge focused on the integration of hydrogen into existing gas networks.

And as part of the project, the Australian Hydrogen Centre will explore the feasibility of blending 10% hydrogen into the existing natural gas networks in regional towns that will be selected during the study, including the potential coupling of gas networks with electricity transmission networks.

ARENA says the Australian Hydrogen Centre will also work on feasibility studies focused on 10% blending into the entire state gas networks in South Australia and Victoria. This work will also consider the feasibility of converting the state gas networks to 100 per cent hydrogen.

The outcomes of the studies will address the technical, economic and regulatory hurdles for blending hydrogen into natural gas networks and support subsequent detailed feasibility and design to support an investment decision.

The Australian Hydrogen Centre will also be supported by the South Australian and Victorian Governments, as well as AusNet Services, ENGIE and Neoen.

ARENA says the project is seen as the next step to AGN’s power-to-gas demonstration facility at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide (Hydrogen Park SA) which was co-funded by the South Australian Government’s Renewable Technology Fund - and which will demonstrate a 5% hydrogen blend in gas distribution to 710 properties in Adelaide when it begins in mid 2020.

Darren Miller said: “The natural gas network could be a key piece of infrastructure to support decarbonisation of the national energy system. The network has the potential to be used for the long-term storage of renewably produced hydrogen and limit the need for electrification alternatives, which can be costly.”

“The development of a local hydrogen sector will underpin the investment in technology and skills to support the long term export opportunity. These studies will go a long way to identifying the possibility of using and storing hydrogen in local gas networks.”

AGN CEO Ben Wilson said: “AGN, as part of Australia’s broader energy industry, has commenced the new decade with a strategy that aims to deliver substantial, measurable and world-leading outcomes in minimising the current and future carbon footprint across the whole of our gas distribution business.”

“This public licence also requires total transparency so the studies will provide guidance as to both the best solution to deliver renewable gas into our networks while ensuring full engagement with all stakeholders and consumers about this step-change in Australian energy delivery.”

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Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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