Energy retailer AGL Energy has made a deal with Andrew Forrest, an iron ore billionaire and green hydrogen advocate, to develop their coal powered stations into a green hydrogen hub in the Hunter Valley.
The ageing Liddell coal generator is due to close in early 2023, and Bayswater is expected to run for another decade or so, although many analysts anticipate an earlier closure.
The MoU is one of dozens signed in Australia and around the world by FFI as it seeks to deliver on Forrest’s highly ambitious plan to produce 15 million tonnes of green hydrogen a year by 2030. Those plans include huge electrolyser factory in Queensland, and a potential gigawatt scale solar manufacturing facility.
“Fortescue is leading the charge on the development of green hydrogen in Australia and abroad, and we are excited to bring our site and expertise in large-scale renewable generation to the fold,” AGL CEO Graeme Hunt said in a statement.
“Over the next 12 months we will undertake a feasibility study which will map key operational and commercial plans for the project and enable the development of a production timeline,” he said.
Forrest, who has built up a team of more than 500 experts at FFI, and has signed multiple early stage deals across the country (and overseas) said his goal is to turn regional Australia into the “global green energy heartland” and create thousands of jobs.
“Repurposing existing fossil fuel infrastructure with forward looking companies like AGL to create green hydrogen to help power the world, is the solution we have been looking for,” Dr Forrest said.
“Green hydrogen is the only true zero-carbon, zero-methane fuel – every other type of hydrogen requires the burning of fossil fuels.
Forrest noted that the Liddell and Bayswater coal power stations account for nearly half of NSW’s carbon dioxide emissions, and the new renewable hydrogen hub would slash those emissions, and prove the role of green hydrogen in decarbonising and “demethaning” energy and industry in Australia.
“Pending the feasibility study’s outcomes, initial renewable electricity production through new wind and solar could be 250MW, generating 30,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year or enough for a hydrogen fuelled truck to drive to the moon and back five times,” he said.
The Hunter Valley is just the latest ageing fossil fuel centre to experience a shift to green technologies. AGL is already building a big battery at the Torrens Island gas hub in Adelaide, and has also proposed a big battery at the site of Loy Yang A in Victoria.
The Hunter Energy Hub will draw on previously canvassed investments such as the 250MW Liddell battery, the big Oven Mountain pumped hydro project to the north, and an expansion of AGL’s initial push into solar thermal energy.
AGL chief operating officer Markus Brokhof said that upon completion, the Hunter Energy Hub will be the first of its kind in Australia and set a model for our other sites and industry in Australia.
“Our aim for the hub is to develop strong partnerships that enable an efficient ecosystem and create a circular economy” Mr Brokhof said.
“Liddell and Bayswater benefit from unique energy infrastructure, positioned with strong grid connectivity, established transport links, workshops and proximity to water supply and industrial activity.
“As we move towards Liddell’s closure, I want to reaffirm our strong commitment to supporting our workforce and the Hunter region.
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