Construction begins on a pioneering hydrogen production facility in Adelaide

Source: press release, 2 December 2019

Australian Gas Networks has begun construction of its HyP SA hydrogen production facility at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide
Australian Gas Networks has begun construction of its HyP SA hydrogen production facility at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide (photo: AGN)

Construction has begun on a pioneering hydrogen production facility in Adelaide, which will play a major role in South Australia’s bid to become a global leader in certified green hydrogen.

The AUD 11.4 million HyP SA facility is being built at the Tonsley Innovation District and is expected to start renewable hydrogen production around mid-2020.

The Australian Gas Networks facility will house a 1.25 MW electrolyser – the first Australian demonstration project of its scale and size – with small quantities of renewable hydrogen produced and blended into the local gas distribution network from next year.

The ground-breaking ceremony coincides with the release of a report by national science agency, CSIRO, that maps the research steps Australia must take to realise a potential 7600 jobs and AUD 11 billion a year by 2050 from the burgeoning hydrogen industry.

Adelaide-based AGN is part of Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) and received a AUD 4.9 million grant from the South Australian Government’s Renewable Technology Fund to build and operate the project.

Using a 1.25 MW proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyser, renewable electricity will be used to split water into oxygen and hydrogen gas.

The renewable hydrogen will then be blended with natural gas and supplied to 710 customers in the adjacent suburb of Mitchell Park via the existing natural gas network.

AGN Chief Executive Officer Ben Wilson says the HyP SA project represented the first step towards decarbonising South Australia’s gas networks.

“Commercial hydrogen production is achievable and can decarbonise Australia’s energy mix while at the same time accessing export markets,” he says.

“Developing the hydrogen economy will also play a key role and the momentum around hydrogen is building with burgeoning research and development underway. When burnt, hydrogen does not release any carbon emissions, only water and heat so it is essentially just another gas we can use in place of, or blended with, natural gas to provide energy and heat. There is no additional cost to customers receiving the blended 5 per cent renewable gas and the change will not impact any arrangements these customers have with their existing natural gas retailer,” Wilson adds.

South Australia is already a world leader in wind, solar and battery storage to the point where excess renewable energy is often shed during peak production periods.

The South Australian Government released its Hydrogen Action Plan in September in a bid to use that cheap renewable energy to generate hydrogen, which can be used as fuel or to generate electricity at a later time and place.

Other key hydrogen projects utilising State Government funding underway in South Australia include:

  • An AUD 8.7 million facility at the University of South Australia’s Mawson Lakes campus incorporating a solar installation, flow batteries, a hydrogen fuel storage cell stack and thermal energy storage to demonstrate the value of hydrogen storage paired with other new storage technologies.
  • H2U is developing a 30 MW water electrolysis facility near Port Lincoln using wind and solar to generate up to 18,000 tonnes of green ammonia a year to supply local agriculture and industrial sectors. The plant will also feature two 16 MW open-cycle gas turbines operating 100 per cent on hydrogen at the site to provide electricity generation to the grid during periods of low wind or solar output.
  • Neoen Australia is investigating the introduction of a 50 MW hydrogen super hub to produce about 25,000 kg of hydrogen a day at its proposed Crystal Brook Energy Park in the Mid North of the South Australia.

Australia’s current hydrogen research footprint includes 23 institutions actively exploring hydrogen in various technology and research areas as well as another 23 hydrogen-specific demonstration projects and research facilities around Australia.

CSIRO Research Director Dr Patrick Hartley says the national science agency was on a mission to bring together industry, government and other research organisations to fast-track emerging hydrogen technologies.

“This isn’t limited to the domestic industry development – we’ll link Australian expertise with international projects,” Dr Hartley says.

“The overall focus will be on enabling Australia’s domestic and export hydrogen industries. Importantly, solving the challenges identified can have a multiplier effect that boosts demand for hydrogen – particularly in large scale industrial settings – and encourages further hydrogen supply cost reductions through improvements in efficiency and economies of scale,” he adds.

Geoscience Australia released a report in September showing prospective hydrogen production regions of Australia. This map showed many parts of South Australia as being highly suitable for hydrogen production and export.

By Andrew Spence