In Australia, companies are planning a "super hub" to produce green hydrogen with wind and sun

In Australia, companies are planning a “super hub” to produce green hydrogen with wind and sun

This image shows part of a green hydrogen plant in Spain. A number of major economies, including the EU, aim to develop green hydrogen projects in the coming years.

Angel Garcia | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Plans for an Australian “super-hub” focused on generating wind, solar and green hydrogen are taking shape, and stakeholders hope it will start producing electricity by 2027.

In a statement Monday, Fortescue Future Industries said it is working with another company called Windlab on the project, known as the North Queensland Super Hub.

According to the FFI, the hub “could generate more than 10 GW [gigawatts] of wind and solar power and underpins industrial-scale production of green hydrogen from purpose-built facilities in Queensland.”

The initial phase of the proposed project will focus on the development of the 800 MW Prairie Wind Farm and another 1,000 MW project. Subject to approvals, construction of the first phase is scheduled to begin in 2025.

“The energy generated from the project will be used to produce green hydrogen and feed renewable electricity into the grid,” said FFI.

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Described as a “versatile fuel” by the International Energy Agency, hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be used in a wide variety of industries.

It can be made in a number of ways. One method is electrolysis, in which an electric current splits water into oxygen and hydrogen.

When the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source like wind or solar, some call it “green” or “renewable” hydrogen. Today, the majority of hydrogen production is based on fossil fuels.

In August 2021, oil and gas giant bp said that “large-scale production of green hydrogen and green ammonia using renewable energy” has become technically feasible in Australia.

The energy supermajor’s conclusion was based on the results of a feasibility study announced in May 2020, supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, solar developer Lightsource bp and professional services firm GHD Advisory.

For its part, FFI said Monday that industrial-scale green hydrogen “has been constrained by the lack of renewable supply to power the process of harvesting hydrogen from water through electrification.”

Commenting on the proposals, Mark Hutchinson, CEO of FFI, said Australia’s natural resources – including sun, wind and landmass – are unrivaled “in terms of their potential for green energy production” and “green hydrogen in particular”.

“For the first time, the North Queensland Super Hub will provide the amount of renewable energy we need to support large-scale green hydrogen production right here in Queensland,” he added.

Ambitious, but still to do

The news from Australia comes as other major economies look to develop green hydrogen plans.

For example, the European Commission has announced that 40 GW of electrolysers for renewable hydrogen will be installed in the EU by 2030.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz described green hydrogen as “one of the most important technologies for a climate-neutral world” during a discussion at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt last week.

“Green hydrogen is key to decarbonizing our economies, especially for sectors that are difficult to electrify, such as steel production, chemical industry, heavy shipping and aviation,” Scholz added, before acknowledging that it would take a significant amount of work for the sector to mature .

“Of course, green hydrogen is still a young industry, its production is currently too expensive compared to fossil fuels,” he said. “There’s also a ‘chicken-and-egg’ dilemma of supply and demand, where market players block each other and wait for the other to move.”

Also on the podium was Christian Bruch, CEO of Siemens energy. “Hydrogen will be essential for decarbonizing the…industry,” he said.

“The question for us now is how do we do that in a world that is still economically fueled by hydrocarbons,” he added. “So it takes extra effort to get green hydrogen projects up and running.”

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