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Major power and gas player Origin Energy aims to start front-end engineering design work in 2021 for a green liquid hydrogen plant at Townsville.

The company is collaborating with Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki Heavy Industries on the North Queensland project, and they completed a feasibility study this year.

“This project is one of the largest and most advanced hydrogen projects in Australia, with a 300MW electrolyser and the potential to scale up,” Origin general manager of future fuels Felicity Underhill said.

“It will use renewable energy and sustainable water to produce 36 kilotonnes a year of liquid hydrogen for domestic and export markets.”

Ms Underhill said Townsville held tremendous promise for a potential home-grown green hydrogen industry because of its abundance of zero-emissions solar and renewable energy, as well as proximity to export markets in Asia.

Townsville zinc refinery operator Sun Metals Corporation is also working to establish renewable hydrogen production in the area.

Hydrogen will be produced using a 15MW alkaline electrolyser powered by the refinery’s existing 125 MW solar plant under the Sun Metals proposal, with additional power potentially sourced through development of a wind farm.

The electrolyser will have capacity to produce up to 5000kg of hydrogen per day, with the product to be used as a diesel fuel replacement including for heavy vehicles, off-grid remote power generation, and a gas blending trial with LPG within the zinc refinery process.

Origin’s update on plans for a Townsville plant followed its announcement last week that it would conduct a $3.2 million feasibility study into building an export-scale green hydrogen and ammonia plant in Tasmania’s Bell Bay.

It is also collaborating with Jemena on the Western Sydney Green
Gas Project to produce green hydrogen and demonstrate connection across
gas and electricity grids.

“Hydrogen will be one of the key fuels in helping the world decarbonise,” Ms Underhill said.

“It is incredibly versatile and can be used to decarbonise transport, industry and power generation, and in many cases existing plants can be adapted to use it. 

“There is an established hydrogen industry and so there is knowledge and experience available to ensure it is produced and transported safely. 

“We expect customers, many of which will be from countries that heavily rely on coal today, to be a continued driver of progress.”