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Fortescue forges ahead on massive hydrogen electrolyzer for “world first” green ammonia plant – EQ Mag Pro

Fortescue forges ahead on massive hydrogen electrolyzer for “world first” green ammonia plant – EQ Mag Pro


Fortescue Future Industries is moving ahead on plans to deliver Australia’s first commercial-scale renewable ammonia plant via a “world-first” conversion of an existing Queensland production facility to run on green hydrogen.

FFI and Incitec Pivot Limited (IPL) said on Friday they would progress planning for the conversion of the Gibson Island ammonia facility, in Brisbane, which also promises to deliver one of the world’s largest renewable hydrogen electrolysers, at 500MW and capable of producing up to 70,000 tonnes a year.

FFI and Incitec Pivot say planning for the conversion of the ammonia plant will move to its final stages, making a start on front end engineering design while also preparing the groundwork for a final investment decision (FID).

FFI CEO Mark Hutchinson says front end engineering design (FEED) will firm up technical specifications and cost, underpin procurement, and prepare the project for FID, which is targeted for 2023.

Applications for planning approval for the project will also be submitted soon and Hutchinson says that – all going to plan – first production of the electrolyser could be expected by 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,” Hutchinson said.

“This collaboration aims to put Queensland and Australia ahead of the pack,” he added, not only in terms of scale of production of green hydrogen and ammonia, but also by demonstrating that projects like this are feasible.

A grant from ARENA to kick things off

To kick off the crucial $38 million FEED process, the federal government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency has kicked in grant funding of $13.7 million, also announced on Friday.

ARENA says the process will examine the development of the electrolyser and potential integration into the ammonia plant. The Agency says the entire process will need about 1GW of renewable energy contracts and that also forms part of the FEED study.

“Having the ability to reutilise ageing assets and repurposing them to use renewable energy will not only help to keep costs down in the future, but also ensure skilled workers are retained,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller.

“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.”

A step change in scale

In a LinkedIn post on Friday, FFI’s director of East Australia and NZ Aotearoa, Felicity UnderhilI, welcomed the news that the project was moving ahead with the support of ARENA.

“At around 500MW of electrolysis, this is a step change in terms of scale for green hydrogen projects, with first production targeted for around 2025,” Underhill said.

“It will also underpin investment in new renewable developments around the state, contributing to Queensland’s bold new renewable targets.

“The collaboration and urgency with which the parties are approaching this project is, in my view, exactly what is needed if we want to have a hope of combating climate change.”

A lifeline for Gibson Island ammonia production
Ammonia is vital for fertiliser production and is used in explosives to mine several materials, including Australia’s rare metals, demand for which is soaring in line with demand for energy storage and electric vehicles.

Plans to convert the Gibson Island ammonia facility to use hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources rather than fossil gas, as is currently the case, were first flagged in December of last year, after a study found the conversion technically feasible.

The prospect of retrofitting the facility with an onsite green hydrogen supply offered a lifeline to the ammonia plant, with IPL just a month earlier announcing plans to cease manufacturing operations at Gibson Island, due to the unsustainable high cost of fossil gas.

As of the news this week, Gibson Island facility will cease traditional fertiliser manufacturing early in the new year, in line with IPL’s decarbonisation strategy and FFI’s goals to help heavy industry decarbonise.

A world first

IPL managing director and CEO Jeanne Johns says the Brisbane ammonia manufacturing and port facility conversion will be a world first.

“The potential conversion of Gibson Island to green ammonia shows our commitment to pursuing opportunities to help create a more sustainable world in the new and emerging opportunities stemming from green ammonia,” Johns said on Friday.

Johns says that by virtue of running on green hydrogen, the Gibson Island facility could ultimately produce up to 400ktpa green ammonia.

This green ammonia can then be exported to international markets as well as used in fertiliser or to help decarbonise local industry through its potential use as a low-carbon fuel source for ports, airports and heavy transport.

The largest electrolyser built to date

Federal climate and energy minister Chris Bowen says the Brisbane project promises to make Australia a world leader in renewable hydrogen production, and provide valuable insights into the cost of production.

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

“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.”

Around 100 jobs will be supported across the project in the lead up to a final investment decision, with first production expected around 2025.

Source: reneweconomy
Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network