Fortescue lands grant for massive hydrogen electrolyser in Queensland

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Billionaire miner Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) is working with fertiliser and chemical manufacturer Incitec Pivot Limited (IPL) to develop a large-scale renewable hydrogen production facility at Brisbane’s Gibson Island.

The proposal includes the construction of a 500 MW electrolysis plant capable of producing up to 70,000 tonnes of green hydrogen annually, which would then be converted into green ammonia for Australian and export markets.

The project is also investigating the potential retrofitting of IPL’s existing Gibson Island ammonia manufacturing facility to run on 100% renewable hydrogen produced onsite. Currently, the facility uses natural gas as a feedstock.

FFI said on Friday the $13.7 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will help finance a front end engineering design (FEED) study with the companies to also execute a framework agreement to govern the project through to a Final Investment Decision (FID).

With studies having already confirmed the feasibility of the project, the FEED study will refine cost, schedule, permitting and commercial agreements. The study will also examine the development of the electrolyser and the conversion requirements for IPL’s existing ammonia plant to utilise the renewable hydrogen production and offtake approximately 400,000 tonnes of renewable ammonia per year.

It is expected the project will need about 1 GW of renewable energy contracts and that also forms part of the FEED study.

If built, the Gibson Island facility would constitute one of the world’s largest electrolysers. It would also be the world’s first fully decarbonised renewable ammonia plant.

The Gibson Island plant currently produces more than 300,000 tonnes of ammonia each year.

Image: IPL

Australia’s Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the project would help Australia become a world leader in hydrogen production.

“The project will provide valuable insights into the cost of producing renewable hydrogen and adapting infrastructure to facilitate exports of renewable ammonia,” he said.

“If successful, the electrolyser will be the largest built to date, feeding renewable hydrogen directly into the first fully decarbonised ammonia facility.

“The study is critical to the domestic and export industry for clean hydrogen and ammonia supply-chains to deliver Australia’s first renewable hydrogen shipments to international markets.”

ARENA chief executive officer Darren Miller said the project would significantly accelerate the development of a large-scale renewable hydrogen and ammonia industry in Australia.

“This is an exciting project for the parties involved and for Australia,” he said, adding companies are now seeing future benefits from engagement with renewable hydrogen technology.

“[They] are looking to build even larger projects,” he said. “Ultimately our goal is to reduce the costs of renewable hydrogen so that it can become … competitive with fossil fuels and we can scale up production and become a viable option for companies to decarbonise their industrial processes or further assist in the creation of a viable export industry.”

FFI chair Andrew Forest speaks to the media at Gibson Island.

Image: Supplied

FFI chief executive officer Mark Hutchison said about 100 jobs would be supported across the Gibson Island project in the lead up to FID to be taken in 2023, with first production expected around 2025.

“Progressing this project into this final assessment stage is an important milestone in what will be a world-first conversion of an existing facility to become an industrial-scale producer of green hydrogen and green ammonia,” he said.

“This collaboration aims to put Queensland and Australia ahead of the pack – not only in terms of the scale of production and supply of green hydrogen and green ammonia, but also in terms of demonstrating to the world that projects like this are feasible and that Australia has the foresight, the commitment, and the know-how to invest in and deliver them.”

FFI said applications for planning approval for the project will be submitted shortly and the company is working with Powerlink for connection of the project to the Queensland electricity transmission network and with Urban Utilities on sustainable water supply to the project.

The company also said a domestic and international process is underway to canvas potential buyers of the green ammonia that will be produced by the facility.

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