The Pilbara region will host Australia’s first large-scale renewable hydrogen plant following a 2019 feasibility study by the Australia Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) costing $995,000 (A$1.52m).

The $87m project, supported by a $47.5m grant from the Australian government and overseen by Yuri, a subsidiary of independent power company Engie, will produce 640 tonnes of renewable hydrogen in Pilbara per year.

A 10MW electrolyser will be powered by an 18MW solar PV system, supported by an 8MW lithium-ion battery system, to provide renewable hydrogen to Yara Pilbara Fertilisers, a neighbouring liquid ammonia facility, says ARENA.

The project is expected to commence construction in October 2022 and be completed by early 2024.

“The Yuri project is exciting because fertiliser production is a significant existing end use for hydrogen and one where we can make an immediate difference because we are replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy to make hydrogen,” said Darren Miller, CEO of ARENA, at the project’s announcement. He added that building the first hydrogen projects at scale is an important step on Australia’s journey to becoming a major exporter of renewable hydrogen.

“We see enormous potential in hydrogen,” said Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in a speech at the Sydney Energy Forum in July 2022. “Australia has all the ingredients needed to become both a major hydrogen producer and a global exporter. We currently have over 70 hydrogen projects in the pipeline with over 91% of production planned to be green hydrogen.”

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Underpinning this is an expectation that renewables will account for 82% of the National Electricity Market by the end of the decade, Albanese added.

Australia urgently needs investment in generation, storage and transmission to avoid reliability gaps in electricity supply in the next ten years, warned the Australian Energy Market Operator in a report on 31 August.