The West Australia government has put out a call for expressions of interest to develop a massive new 1.5GW renewable energy hydrogen hub in an industrial estate some 435kms north of Perth.
The EOI was announced late on Friday by the McGowan Labor government, which is looking for proposals for the Oakajee Strategic Industrial Area (SIA), just north of Geraldton, which it says could host up to 1.25GW of wind power, and up to 270MW of large scale solar at globally competitive prices.
It is looking for interest from both producers – possibly with an eye for the domestic market or the export market – and consumers. “Oakajee is recognised for its world-class wind and solar energy potential, which is ideal for the production of renewable hydrogen for commercial uses including advanced manufacturing, energy storage and transport, and for future export of clean energy,” it says.
The Mid-West region of W.A. – as the area is known – is already the host of numerous wind and solar farms, despite a relatively weak transmission link to the main population centre of Perth, and has also already attracted some very big renewable hydrogen development proposals.
A consortium led by German industrial giant Siemens has talked of a 5GW renewable hydrogen hub in the region, BP has talked of a 1.5GW hydrogen hub, while oil and gas explorer Pilot Energy recently announced it was looking at a renewable hydrogen hub in the area, but largely based on the offshore wind potential of its exploration leases.
On top of this, there is a proposal for a truly massive 15GW wind and solar hydrogen hub further north in the Pilbara, put forward by CWP, Vestas and Macquarie, while some of the big iron ore producers in the Pilbara are also looking at hydrogen, as are energy consumers such as fertiliser and ammonia plants.
“The area has already received attention from forward thinking organisations that see the potential this region provides,” the government notes in a statement. “The government is calling for Expressions of Interest from organisations across the world to identify the infrastructure requirements, operational frameworks and interested parties to activate Oakajee as a premium location to establish a hydrogen project.”
Regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan said in the statement that interest in renewable hydrogen is rapidly accelerating, and the State Government is putting in place the framework to make WA a world leader across the hydrogen supply chain.
“Renewable hydrogen has the potential to be a major economic driver for the State, and the Oakajee Strategic Industrial Area could truly transform the Mid-West region,” she said.
The W.A. government says the potential is vastly more than 1.5GW, given the abundant land available in the area.
“The EOI will be targeted at international and Australian commercial groups including industrial proponents wanting to produce commercial quantities of hydrogen; hydrogen users such as transport, metals refining and ammonia-manufacturing companies; hydrogen industry component manufacturers; and power and other infrastructure providers,” the statement said.
The accompanying EOI says the area’s wind and solar resource are among the best in the world, and within 11 days – via shipping – of most major markets in Asia.
Curiously, it suggests the levellised cost of energy – wind and solar, backed up by gas – would be less than 10c/kWh, which translates into $100/MWh.
This is a surprisingly high guidance, given it is known that wind farms in the area producing wind at close to $40/MWh, and it’s not clear what role gas would play in a hydrogen hub – unless there was a major energy consumer located in the industrial hub. But to compete on the export market, with high shipping costs, any Austraian hydrogen project would need to deliver a significantly lower LCOE to be competitive.