The new hub will convert renewable energy into hydrogen to be used in green vehicles and energy storage units, said Stuart Archer, chief executive of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The project involves the University of New South Wales, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Alstom Australia and others. It is likely to cost more than A$60 million (US$48 million), he added.
Plans for an Australian “super centre” specialising in the production of green hydrogen, wind energy, and solar energy are taking form, and those involved hope it will begin generating electricity by 2027.
In a statement released on Monday, Fortescue Future Industries said it was working on the North Queensland Super Hub project in conjunction with another company named Windlab.
The centre “may generate more than 10GW [gigawatts] of wind and solar electricity and support the industrial-scale generation of green hydrogen from purpose-built facilities within Queensland,” according to FFI.
The building of the 800 MW Prairie Wind Farm and another 1,000 MW project will be the main focus of the project’s initial phase. The first phase’s development is expected to start in 2025, subject to clearances.
According to FFI, the project’s energy “stands to manufacture green hydrogen and supply renewable electricity to the grid at the same time.”
Hydrogen has several uses and may be used in a variety of sectors, according to the International Energy Agency, which calls it a “versatile energy carrier.”
There are several ways to generate it. One technique is electrolysis, which involves dividing water into oxygen and hydrogen using an electric current.
Some refer to this process as “green” or “renewable” hydrogen if the power utilised in it is generated by renewable resources like wind or solar. The vast bulk of hydrogen production today is powered by fossil fuels.
Oil and gas tycoon BP declared in August 2021 that it was now technically viable to produce green hydrogen and green ammonia at scale in Australia.
Based on the results of a feasibility study supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, solar developer Lightsource bp, and professional services company GHD Advisory, which was released in May 2020, the energy supermajor’s decision was made.
For its part, FFI stated on Monday that the shortage of renewable energy to power the process of electrifying hydrogen extraction from water had limited the use of green hydrogen on an industrial scale.
In response to the ideas, Mark Hutchinson, CEO of FFI, stated that Australia’s natural resources, such as its landmass, wind, and solar energy, were “unmatched in terms of their potential for the creation of green energy” and “green hydrogen in particular.”
The North Queensland Super Hub would, for the first time, offer the volume of renewable energy required to sustain extensive green hydrogen production right here in Queensland, he continued.
Ambition, but work to be done
As other major economies work to build strategies for green hydrogen, the news out of Australia is breaking.
For instance, the European Commission has said that by 2030, it wants 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers constructed in the EU.
Green hydrogen was cited as “one of the most crucial technologies for a climate neutral planet” by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last week at a roundtable discussion at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt.
Scholz said, “Green hydrogen is the key to decarbonizing our economy, especially for hard to electrify industries like steel manufacturing, the chemical industry, heavy shipping, and aviation,” while acknowledging that there was still a long way to go before the industry was ready for prime time.
Green hydrogen is still a young business, he noted, and manufacturing is still too expensive when compared to fossil fuels. The supply and demand “chicken and egg” problem occurs when market participants block one another as they wait for the other to act.
The CEO of Siemens Energy, Christian Bruch, was also a member of the panel. He stated that “hydrogen will be essential for the decarbonization of… industries.”
The difficulty for us right now is how to get there in a world where hydrocarbons are still the main source of energy for industry. Therefore, “making green hydrogen projects… work demands an extra effort.”