Gladstone to run on gas-green hydrogen blend as gigawatt-scale plans take shape

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Gladstone set to become the nation’s green hydrogen hotspot with two new projects seeking to tap the opportunities in the domestic supply of zero-emissions gas and in the emerging export market. Located in central Queensland, Gladstone is set to become the first entire city in the nation to be on a blend of natural gas and hydrogen.

An Australian first $4.2 million gas injection facility will be built in Gladstone to deliver renewable hydrogen into the city’s gas network, thanks to the first grant from the Queensland Government’s $15 million Hydrogen Industry Development Fund. “Using green hydrogen, Australian Gas Networks (AGN) will trial the blended hydrogen gas with a view to converting Gladstone’s network to hydrogen in the future,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

AGN, part of the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG), has been offered more than $1.7 million through the fund to build a blending facility to deliver 10% renewable hydrogen into the gas network. Under its $19 million hydrogen strategy, Queensland is looking to assist companies with the purchase of capital equipment as well as industry players looking to carry out feasibility studies.

“This project will be the first in Australia to blend renewable hydrogen into a gas network with residential, commercial and industrial customers,” Minister for State Development Cameron Dick said speaking from the Gladstone Hydrogen Forum on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Australia, Canadian gas giant ATCO started blending renewable hydrogen into the on-site natural gas network at its Clean Energy Innovation Hub in Jandakot, WA. The blend will be used throughout the Jandakot depot as the first step in exploring the potential of hydrogen for home use in gas appliances.

In another initiative for greening the gas network, energy infrastructure company Jemena is looking to generate hydrogen from renewables and inject it into the existing gas network so that homes and businesses in Sydney could begin using the fuel within five years. The $15 million Western Sydney Green Gas Project aims to demonstrate the co-mingling, storage and distribution of hydrogen and natural gas in the existing network which, as Jemena puts it, has the capacity to store the equivalent of 8 million Powerwall batteries.

“This project supports Gladstone’s vision to be a key hub for Queensland’s domestic and hydrogen export industry, just as it is for natural gas today,” AGN’s CEO Ben Wilson said. AGN had formed a partnership with Central Queensland University (CQU) providing access to the blending facility for CQU staff and students to build skills in hydrogen technologies.

Gigawatt plans

Along with the AGN project, Gladstone has also been selected as the location for the Hydrogen Utility’s (H2U) latest project, a proposed $1.61 billion industrial complex for the large-scale production of green hydrogen and ammonia. The H2-HubTM Gladstone facility will be built in stages to integrate up to 3 GW in electrolysis plant, and up to 5,000 tonnes per day ammonia production capacity.

“The integration of mature technologies – such as electrolysis and ammonia synthesis – at industrial scale, powered by 100 per cent renewable power supply, meets the emerging demand for decarbonised products in the energy, chemicals and mobility markets of North Asia,” Attilio Pigneri CEO and Founder of H2U said. He sees Queensland as well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities from this new industry, in part due to its strong existing trading relationships with Japan.

According to Attilio, Gladstone was an obvious choice for locating industrial-scale green hydrogen and ammonia facilities due to its existing skill base, industrial port eco-system, and strategic location in the Queensland grid. Through the government-run land use planning and property development agency, Economic Development Queensland (EDQ), H2U has purchased a 171-hectare site at Yarwun in the Gladstone State Development Area, which is in close proximity to the export precinct at Fisherman’s Landing.

“The progressive and well-structured planning framework applicable to State Development Areas such as Yarwun, was also a key factor in our selection of the project site,” Pigneri said. “With the land in Gladstone secured under contract the project will now move into master planning and detailed feasibility, targeting approvals by 2023 and first operation in 2025.”

The project could potentially translate into a major bonanza for the city, creating over 100 operational jobs and driving new exports for green hydrogen and ammonia. Ultimately, it could turn Gladstone into the hydrogen export powerhouse on the back of Queensland’s solar, wind and biomass resources, existing gas pipeline infrastructure and developed export infrastructure.

A big step was made last year when Queensland celebrated Australia’s first-ever delivery of green hydrogen to Japan. The fuel was exported by JXTG, Japan’s largest petroleum conglomerate, with hydrogen produced at QUT’s solar cell facility at the Queensland government’s Redlands Research Facility.

Previously, the Queensland government committed $750,000 for a feasibility study into producing hydrogen using solar energy from central Queensland and exporting it to Japan via Gladstone. In a separate initiative, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced it was providing $2.9 million in funding to two studies in Queensland looking at the potential to use solar and wind-powered hydrogen produced via electrolysis to increase ammonia production at facilities which currently rely on gas as feedstock.