Ark Energy claims to be hastening Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
It’s not a matter of when the nation’s hardest-to-abate industry switches to green hydrogen and zero emissions, but of who inside it goes first, according to the major Queensland-based Korean company.
The race will be to get the advantages to the home market first, then to the rest of the globe.
If that all seems too good to be true, consider the 1.2 million thin-film solar panels that line the road leading to Ark’s Sun Metals Zinc plant south of Townsville.
Change is coming, according to CEO Daniel Kim, all the way down to the company’s name, which will change from Australia Resources Korea to Australia Renewables Korea.
While Queensland’s 25-year-old Sun zinc refinery is the state’s second-largest consumer of power, it purchased a 30% share in the 923-megawatt MacIntyre wind farm near Warwick earlier this year.
The plant will meet 63% of its energy demands with renewable energy, according to parent firm Korea Zinc, which claims this “reflects our commitment to renewable energy in Australia.”
Sun paid $200 million in 2018 to construct a 125-megawatt solar farm on its Townsville site.
Sun Metals Hydrogen Hub, which is being built on the same location, is being touted as a key Australian export asset.
Its goal is to decarbonize Korea Zinc’s energy source and help it become the world’s safest and most competitive producer of green hydrogen.
Ark is going forward, according to Kim, and he wants state and federal governments to join in since demand for green hydrogen will expand exponentially, especially among Australia’s northeast Asian neighbors.
“We think Townsville and North Queensland have huge potential to play a leadership role in showcasing the opportunities that come with the new green economy,” he adds.
Others have seen an opportunity as the subsidiary prepares itself to become the first firm in the world to process and produce green zinc entirely from renewables.
Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, the iron ore tycoon, has been pushed by the massive demand for green hydrogen.
In central Queensland’s Gladstone, his Fortescue Future Industries has unveiled plans for the world’s largest green energy hydrogen production factory.
The facility will produce infrastructure and equipment such as electrolysers, cabling, and wind turbines, which will be shipped worldwide.
In the same breath, Forrest has attacked public support for gas, coal, and carbon capture for the production of hydrogen fuel, all of which are major aspects of Australian strategy ahead of the Glasgow climate meeting.
“Blue hydrogen is not clean, yet most governments are pouring tens of billions of dollars in subsidies at it,” he adds, adding that “most countries – without a scintilla of research – are throwing tens of billions of dollars in subsidies at it.”
Queensland’s maritime infrastructure are becoming increasingly important as the green era progresses.
Townsville Port Chief Operating Officer Drew Penny has claimed that development is necessary to meet the country’s main exporters’ increased renewable energy demands.
He claims that South Korea receives 22% of the departures he supervises, with China and Indonesia coming in second and third.
According to the federal government-commissioned Opportunities for Australia from Hydrogen Exports 2018 study, Japan’s hydrogen consumption is expected to reach 4,131,000 tonnes by 2040, while South Korea’s is expected to reach 2,175,000 tonnes.
“We speak about hydrogen and having a sustainable energy hub within our potential port expansion region,” Penny adds, “but that’s simply to make sure we’re not just looking at it from our own standpoint.”
“But, in the future, how might we assist people in trading in those new commodities?
“There’s a genuine tide turning, and there’s so much momentum for hydrogen… and how big of a game changer it’ll be in a variety of sectors.”
One of the port’s strategic 2050 goals is to make it easier to produce, use, and export green hydrogen.
It has set up $17 million for environmental monitoring as part of the plan, as well as a 1.6 billion expansion over 30 years to meet demand from local energy centers and defense.
Penny claims that by 2025, the port will be carbon neutral in terms of operations, thanks to the utilization of renewable energy.
Back on dry land, Ark thinks that as a market leader in hydrogen, what it generates will give a customised solution for decarbonizing the industry, as well as zinc refining and heavy haulage.
Its strategy includes pursuing deployment options for a fleet of 154-tonne hydrogen-powered trucks, with discussions with the Queensland government and the state’s co-ordinator-general already beginning.
“We’re willing to carry our own weight and show corporate leadership here,” Kim adds.
“Hydrogen produced from renewable energy is a truly green option for decarbonizing the industries in which we operate, such as zinc refining and heavy haulage, which are notoriously difficult to decarbonize.
“Of course, if we’re going to get to net zero, every industry sector needs to contribute.”