Western Australia (WA) is set to play a leading role in the development of renewable hydrogen infrastructure, facilitated by state government policy and the establishment of bodies like the Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Council.
The Government of Western Australia first released its Renewable Hydrogen Strategy in July 2019. Speaking at a Petroleum Club of Western Australia event, WA Minister for Regional Development, Alannah MacTiernan, said the strategy would continue to focus on core areas of industry support including hydrogen blending in natural gas networks.
“We have identified 240 pieces of legislation that might need to be changed. We have also directed $1.68 million to private and public sector entities to support feasibility studies across seven proposed projects,” MacTiernan said.
The renewable hydrogen sector has also become a key priority of the WA Government’s $5.5 billion COVID-19 economic recovery plan, which has delivered a further commitment of $18 million in funding in addition to the initial $10 million allocated when the strategy was announced.
“An extra $18 million will support this dynamic and rapidly growing industry, and to make sure WA has a critical part of it,” she said.
“We have recently approved $8.7 million for capital works projects; we have another $5 million to run a second round of grants funding.
“We believe that blending into the existing gas reticulation system is going to be a really important way of developing this industry early and we are providing $1 million towards a detailed supply chain study.”
The WA Government has also identified Oakajee, 23 kilometres north of Geraldton, as a Strategic Industrial Area (SIA) to become a renewable hydrogen hub.
This area of the Mid-West is recognised for its world-class wind and solar energy potential - ideal for producing renewable hydrogen.
Initial assessments indicate the 4,070 hectare buffer area could generate up to 270 megawatts of wind power and 1,250 megawatts of solar energy at internationally competitive prices.
Minister MacTiernan has called for expressions of interest from commercial groups looking to produce or use renewable hydrogen within the Oakajee SIA.
Submissions close on December 24, 2020.
These initiatives have allowed the government to fast-track its renewable energy target by 10 years.
“If we kept 2040 as our target, we were going to be laggards rather than at the forefront. We want to have 10 per cent of our reticulated gas being hydrogen by 2030,” she said.
“In the same way the Renewable Energy Target in Australia really drives the development of solar and wind, in our view, to have this target here is really going to drive the early stages of hydrogen production until the point it can stand on its own.
“Across the State there are at least 30 renewable hydrogen projects and proposals, some of them differ in levels of sophistication and readiness, but it is really extraordinary to see the amount of activity. The [hydrogen] industry is an important part of trying to decarbonise our economy, but it is also giving us enormous opportunities when we start looking at becoming a serious manufacturer.”
As one of Australia’s largest gas distribution and infrastructure businesses in Australia, AGIG has taken the lead on assessing the technical and financial feasibility of blending hydrogen into its existing gas assets.
AGIG CEO, Ben Wilson, said the company will be blending renewable energy hydrogen with its gas network before the end of the calendar year.
This will be followed by blending renewable hydrogen in the Gladstone network in Queensland in 2022.
“Customers like using gas as it is reliable and great for heating, but they also expect us to do more to decarbonise,” he said.
“By 2030, we want every gas network in Australia to be on 10 per cent hydrogen.
“Then in the 2030s, we want to start the full-scale transition to 100 per cent hydrogen in the gas networks, so then we fully decarbonise. We want to achieve that by 2040.”