One of the world’s first industrial-scale renewable hydrogen projects is on track to begin operations in the Pilbara in Western Australia in 2024.
Project Yuri, a partnership between utility company ENGIE, and major ammonia producer Yara Pilbara Fertilisers, has been touted by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as a pioneer for renewable hydrogen in Australia.
Among the customers for the project is Yara Pilbara Fertilisers’ nearby Karratha liquid ammonia plant, one of the largest ammonia production sites in the world. Currently, Yara’s ammonia is made using hydrogen produced by fossil fuels. Yara Clean Ammonia president Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, says the Yara plant will be the first in Western Australia-and one of the first in the world-to use green hydrogen molecules to produce clean ammonia.
Currently, ammonia production makes up about 1.8 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions each year, producing around 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
According to ARENA, Yuri could be the project that changes the path of ammonia production. “The Yuri project is Australia’s first really substantial renewable hydrogen project, and it is one of the largest so far in the world,” ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, says. “It is a huge export opportunity for Australia to provide clean energy and emissions-free materials to the rest of the world.
This is going to be important if we are to achieve zero net emissions in the decades ahead. “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. “As the largest hydrogen project of its kind so far in Australia, and one of the largest in the world, this project will help us understand the opportunities and challenges for producing renewable hydrogen at scale, offering valuable insights into the technical complexities, economics and supply chain considerations for future commercial scale hydrogen electrolyser projects in Australia.
”The $87 million project will include a 10 MW electrolyser, powered by 18 MW of solar PV, and battery storage. It will be capable of producing up to 640 tonnes of green hydrogen each year.
Project Yuri will produce hydrogen using Steam Methane Reforming Technology, where renewable electricity powers the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. ARENA awarded a grant of $995,000 to Yarra to support a feasibility study into the renewable hydrogen facility in 2020. The Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Fund also backed the project with $2 million in grant funding.
The feasibility study was completed in October this year, on the heels of the announcement of $47.5 million conditional funding for the project through ARENA, and an agreement with Japanese company Mitsui, which acquired a 28 percent stake in the joint venture.
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US engineering company KBR and Belgium engineering firm Tractebel, an Engie company, were appointed owner’s engineer for the project this month. The announcement was the signal for construction to start on the existing Yara Pilbara lease alongside the ammonia production facility.
Yara Pilbara general manager, Laurent Trost, says Project Yuri is a“transformational” project for Yara. “Yuri is a key step in the decarbonisation of our operations which already supply markets in Asia and Australia,” Trost says.
Project Yuri is the first green ammonia project to receive pre-certification under the Smart Energy Council Zero Carbon Certification Scheme. The feasibility study into the project found that while it was difficult to predict how quickly the 200 million ton Australian ammonia market would transition to renewable ammonia, a premium market for the product was expected to be developed in the next five to ten years.
The study also notes that Project Yuri could add to the Pilbara Hydrogen Hub, with the potential to blend hydrogen into the natural gas pipelines, supply hydrogen to road transport and mining trucks, and export liquified hydrogen to Japan and broader Asia once technology and market demand are further developed.
WA Hydrogen Industry Minister Alannah MacTiernan says Yuri will demonstrate WA’s ability to produce renewable hydrogen on an industrial scale. “The Yuri project is a real example of how renewable hydrogen can be harnessed to reduce the emissions of carbon intensive sectors, and across global economies.”
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