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Australia Woodside Petroleum unveils plans for $1 billion hydrogen and ammonia plant in Kwinana

10:20  25 october  2021
10:20  25 october  2021 Source:   msn.com

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Woodside's H2Perth hydrogen and ammonia plant would produce up to 1500 tonnes of hydrogen every day at full capacity. (Supplied: Woodside) © Provided by ABC Business Woodside's H2Perth hydrogen and ammonia plant would produce up to 1500 tonnes of hydrogen every day at full capacity. (Supplied: Woodside)

Oil and gas giant Woodside has announced plans to build a hydrogen and ammonia production hub on government land south of Perth, sparking debate over the project's green credentials.

While the company and WA Premier Mark McGowan said the $1 billion project, dubbed H2Perth, would position WA as a global clean energy powerhouse, the facility was not going to be entirely 'green'.

Mr McGowan said the facility would be built on about 130 hectares of vacant industrial land, commercially leased from the state government.

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Woodside CEO Meg O'Neill said the phased development would, at full potential, produce up to 1500 tonnes of hydrogen per day for export in the form of ammonia and liquid hydrogen.

"The land being leased from the state government in the Kwinana and Rockingham areas is ideally located close to existing gas, power, water and port infrastructure, as well as a skilled local residential workforce," Ms O'Neill said.

"H2Perth is designed to be net-zero emissions for both Woodside and its customers, supporting Woodside's corporate emissions reduction targets and the Paris Agreement goals of customers in the region."

Project a blend of green and blue hydrogen

The first phase of the project would produce mostly "blue" hydrogen and around a third "green".

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Blue hydrogen is still produced using fossil fuels but the carbon dioxide is captured and stored or offset, while green hydrogen is produced from electrolysis powered by renewable energy.

In this case the hydrogen will be produced from natural gas and Woodside says 100 per cent of the project's carbon emissions would be abated or offset.

The project is partly considered green because it would use electricity generated by renewable energy through the South West Interconnected System, which includes rooftop solar power.

"H2Perth will also facilitate substantial growth of renewables in Western Australia by providing to the grid a flexible and stabilising load that benefits uptake of intermittent renewable electricity by households and local industry," Ms O'Neill said.

Conservation council says 'devil is in the detail'

Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Policy and Legal Director Piers Verstegen said the project fell short as it would use gas, which is a fossil fuel.

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He said Woodside needed to detail exactly what emissions would be generated by the project and how that would be offset.

"In the future, the market is not going to want blue hydrogen," he said.

"The market is going to demand genuinely clean products, not fossil gas that will be greenwashed with uncertain and highly risky offsets such as tree planting," he said.

"This development has made for a good headline but the devil is in the detail, and on closer inspection, it appears to be yet another way for Woodside to greenwash its highly polluting fossil gas expansion plans," Mr Verstegen said.

"We would always welcome resource companies moving into renewable energy and green hydrogen in a genuine way, but this project appears to be yet another greenwashing exercise for Woodside."

Staged approach manages costs, expert says

Grattan Institute energy and climate director Tony Wood said there was nothing wrong with Woodside's staged approach to producing green hydrogen.

He said while the company was starting out using fossil fuel, its plans were to transition to greener hydrogen over time which made sense given the cost of producing green hydrogen was currently much higher.

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"One answer is to start with hydrogen being manufactured from a fossil fuel, in this case natural gas, then put in place all of the other parts of the supply chain," he said.

"And then, if and when the cost of making hydrogen from renewable energy comes down, you simply replace that part of the supply chain.

"That is the logic of the process which Woodside have proposed in H2Perth.

"I don't think there is any good reason why you should not go through fossil fuels, because it might actually get you there.

"Because right now, if you made hydrogen from renewable energy, it would be so expensive no one would buy it.

"What Woodside have proposed is a way through that difficult problem."

Mr Wood said it was wrong to accuse Woodside of greenwashing over its proposed hydrogen plant.

"It [the proposal] is not what I would call green hydrogen," he said.

"But it is still very low emissions hydrogen and if they then do what Woodside have said they would do, that is that all of the C02 that is produced when it is made from natural gas is either captured and stored or offset, then it is still zero emission hydrogen.

"They can validly claim this really is low emission hydrogen.

"As the cost of producing hydrogen from renewable energy comes down, they will move to renewable energy. In the meantime they have said they will capture all of the C02 or offset it that is produced from the gas process."

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Mr Wood said there was no regulatory requirement for the company to be held to its commitment to offset emissions.

"There is no fundamental reason why what Woodside have said they will do [offset and abate] cannot be done," he said.

"But they need to be held to what they have said."

Facility will help WA go carbon neutral, premier says

Woodside planned to start community engagement on the project soon and, subject to necessary commercial and regulatory approvals and a final investment decision, construction was estimated to start in 2024.

Mr McGowan said the project would help WA move towards net zero by 2050.

"The H2Perth facility is a great example of the type of renewable energy projects we want to bring to Western Australia," he said.

"This project will boost manufacturing in the south metropolitan region and create thousands of local jobs within the construction, manufacturing and renewable energy sectors."

The announcement came just days after mining magnate Andrew Forrest said WA government red tape had held him back from making his first big hydrogen investment in his home state.

WA Lands Minister Tony Buti said the state government was finalising amendments to the Land Administration Act 1997, which would offer new opportunities through land tenure outcomes for the hydrogen industry throughout WA.

More than 30 hydrogen projects in the pipeline

WA Hydrogen Industry Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the state had more than 30 hydrogen project proposals on the table.

"It is fantastic to see a major Western Australian company like Woodside investing in hydrogen here in WA," she said.

Separately, the WA government recently gave approval for a key component of Woodside's proposed $16 billion Scarborough LNG development to go ahead.

Approval conditions included environmental management plans to minimise and monitor impact on marine fauna and coral and a comprehensive cultural heritage management plan.

The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) still slammed the approval, saying the Scarborough LNG project would accelerate climate change, damage marine biodiversity and harm unique cultural heritage.

Woodside said Scarborough gas contained negligible reservoir carbon dioxide and extensive stakeholder consultation had been completed.

The gas giant was due to make a final investment decision on that project this year.

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