The developer of Australia’s largest clean hydrogen hub has agreed to pay $30 million to US manufacturer Babcock and Wilcox to build a biomass-to-hydrogen project at the site.

As governments and business spend more in developing the nation’s nascent zero-emissions hydrogen economy, Port Anthony Renewables is bringing the technology of New York-listed Babcock and Wilcox for hydrogen production from waste timber to its hub 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 releases only water, is hailed as a critical growth technology in the fight against global warming because it has the potential to decarbonize sectors of the economy that are difficult to electrify, such as a variety of industrial processes. Eventually, it is envisioned that clean hydrogen would serve as an exportable storage medium for renewable energy generated in Australia and supplied to Asian customers.

“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 utilization of leftover wood that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills is deemed carbon-neutral because the carbon dioxide generated during combustion was previously absorbed from the atmosphere during the life of the plant. While biomass is employed in some steelmaking processes in Brazil, it accounts for less than 1% of global steel output at the moment.

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.

Nedim Husomanovic

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