The developer of the largest clean hydrogen hub in Australia’s south-east has struck a $30 million deal with United States-based manufacturer Babcock and Wilcox to deliver a biomass-to-hydrogen project at the site.

As governments and industry step up investments in building the nation’s nascent zero-emissions hydrogen economy, Port Anthony Renewables is bringing New York-listed Babcock and Wilcox’s technology for producing hydrogen from waste timber to its hub at Port Anthony in Victoria’s Gippsland region.

“The Port Anthony area has always been a cornerstone of the offshore energy industry,” Port Anthony Renewables managing director Ben Anthony said. “This jointly developed Babcock and Wilcox project represents not only accelerated growth of the Port Anthony Renewable Hydrogen precinct, but sees us well on our way to 25 tonnes a day of hydrogen just in the next two or three years – ultimately leading to the decarbonisation and repurposing of the Bass Strait oil and gas sector.”

Hydrogen, which burns cleanly and emits only water, is touted as an important growth technology in the push to arrest global warming due to its potential to decarbonise parts of the economy that cannot be easily electrified, such as a range of industrial processes. Eventually, it is hoped clean hydrogen could also become an exportable store of renewable energy produced in Australia and shipped to customers in Asia.

“The need for clean energy and decarbonisation solutions in the Asia-Pacific region is significant,” Babcock and Wilcox chairman Kenneth Young said. “Our ... technologies will play a key role in the growth of our business here.”

The use of waste timber, which would otherwise go to landfill, is considered carbon-neutral because the carbon dioxide released during combustion would initially have been absorbed from the atmosphere during a plant’s lifetime. Biomass is used in certain steel-making process in Brazil, but presently it is used in less than 1 per cent of steel production globally.

Port Anthony Renewables, an Australian company run by the Anthony family which has owned and operated the port for 20 years, is targeting production of more than 6 million kilograms of hydrogen over the next five years.

Last week, the NSW government unveiled a strategy to provide $3 billion by 2030 to incentivise the manufacturing of green hydrogen – the fuel produced when a renewable energy-powered electrolyser is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen – for both domestic use and export.

In Gladstone, Queensland, mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has recently committed $115 million for the first phase of what he says will be the country’s largest clean-hydrogen manufacturing hub with 2 gigawatts of electrolysers.

This article originally appeared in the The Age

October 19th, 2021