17/08/2020 - 12:00

$22m boost for hydrogen

17/08/2020 - 12:00

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The state government has brought forward Western Australia’s renewable hydrogen targets by a decade and made a $22 million investment to fuel the sector.

$22m boost for hydrogen
Mark McGowan says Western Australia is in a prime position to join the hydrogen supply chain. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The state government has brought forward Western Australia’s renewable hydrogen targets by a decade and made a $22 million investment to fuel the sector.

The funding will be applied across four areas comprising exports, remote usage, natural gas networks and use in electric transport vehicles to help achieve the state's hydrogen targets by 2030.

It includes a $5.7 million investment into the hydrogen-powered microgrid set to be installed in the coastal town of Denham, in WA’s Gascoyne region.

The initiative, known as the Denham project, was announced by the state government at the beginning of the year, with the microgrid set to produce enough energy to power 100 homes in the area.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the industry-leading project had potential to be rolled out across the state.

The latest instalment under the $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan also includes $2 million to support Fortescue Metals Group’s renewable hydrogen efforts in the Pilbara.

The funding is being allocated to Fortescue’s $32 million renewable hydrogen mobility project, set to produce solar hydrogen for transport at the Christmas Creek iron ore mine.

Fortescue said the project was a first for an Australian mining operation, with the company expected to purchase 10 hydrogen fuel cell electric buses to replace its diesel bus fleet from mid-next year.

The miner is planning to achieve net zero operational emissions by 2040.

Deputy chief executive Julie Shuttleworth said Fortescue would apply a technology-first strategy to its hydrogen initiatives.

“As a significant energy consumer, we are actively pursuing opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint and cost base and we expect hydrogen to play a key role,” she said.

Fortescue’s mobile fleet represents around 400-500 million litres of diesel consumption per year, Ms Shuttleworth said.

“[It] represents a significant opportunity for hydrogen to be used as a replacement fuel source to accelerate emissions reduction and diversify our energy mix.”

The electric buses are being built by US company HYZON Motors, which has operations in Australia, Asia and Europe.

Co-founder Craig Knight said it was rewarding to see enthusiasm for decarbonisation from Fortescue as “one of the leading miners of the world”.

HYZON, which launched its Australian operations in May, said the heavy equipment sector had become a key target for mining companies in implementing clean energy alternatives.

The state government has also allocated $1 million towards ATCO Australia and Fortescue's H2 Refueller project, which will provide both companies and agreed third parties with the opportunity to refuel electric vehicles.

ATCO managing director Pat Creaghan said the project would support the state's transition to zero-emission transport.

"ATCO is committed to expediting the global transition to a net-zero emissions balance in the future and sees a significant opportunity for hydrogen to play a role in that future," he said.

"Our Clean Energy Innovation Hub [in Jandakot] has been generating green hydrogen for 12 months, and the H2 Refueller will allow us to expand the hub's capability."

A further $5 million will go towards the existing $10 million Renewable Hydrogen Fund for grants to support industry development, the state government said.

Other initiatives to benefit from the remaining $13.3 million under the package include $3 million for regulatory reforms to support the local industry and $2.7 million to expand the renewable hydrogen unit in the Department of Jobs Tourism Science and Innovation.

Premier Mark McGowan said WA was in a prime position to join the hydrogen supply chain.

“Major export markets are seeking hydrogen much sooner than expected,” he said.

“Investing in our clean energy future will not only create jobs and training opportunities for Western Australians, but will further diversify our economy.”

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