Exploring renewable hydrogen opportunities at the Port of Newcastle

THE Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $1.5 million in funding to support a feasibility study into the development of a 40 MW hydrogen hub located at Port of Newcastle in New South Wales.

The $3 million study will be led by Port of Newcastle and Macquarie’s Green Investment Group and supported by project partners Idemitsu, Keolis Downer, Lake Macquarie, Snowy Hydro, Jemena and project collaborators Macquarie Agriculture and University of Newcastle. It will determine a broad and comprehensive range of potential use cases for green hydrogen, including customer-led studies into mobility, bunkering, energy production, and industrial applications such as renewable ammonia at scale for domestic fertiliser use.

The project will benefit from the deep expertise of the joint developers, project partners, collaborators and globally recognised specialist consultants. The study will ultimately determine the optimal site within the Port for the hub as a springboard for renewable hydrogen to flow within the region and future export.

The study will also investigate the potential to scale up hydrogen production for export, leveraging the Port of Newcastle’s existing domestic and international supply chain links. While stage one of the project is underpinned by a 40 MW electrolyser, the study will also consider the future staged scale up of an electrolyser to around 1 GW with the ability to produce up to 150,000 tonnes of hydrogen per year for domestic and export use.

Port of Newcastle is the largest port on Australia’s east coast and currently handles about 4,400 ship movements and over 160 million tonnes of cargo annually while utilising less than 50 percent of its channel capacity. Newcastle is an ideal location for a hydrogen hub due to the existing industries, infrastructure, access to a deep-water port, and a highly skilled workforce. Port of Newcastle's existing export routes to Japan and Korea represent potential renewable hydrogen export markets in the future.

Since the release of Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy by the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) Energy Council in November 2019, the Australian Government has been advancing international collaborations, undertaking national coordination and supporting priority industry projects to grow a clean, innovative, safe and competitive hydrogen industry.

The development of clean hydrogen is one of the key stretch goals outlined in the Australian Government’s Low Emissions Technology Statement. The stretch goal is to produce hydrogen for less than $2 per kg, or ‘H2 under 2’, which is the price where hydrogen is expected to become competitive with other energy sources for industry and transport.

ARENA has also recently launched its new 2021 Investment Plan with the project strongly aligned with the strategic priority of commercialising clean hydrogen, which aims to support a viable domestic and international clean hydrogen economy. 

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said if the study proved the project to be feasible, it could enable Newcastle to become a major player in producing clean hydrogen.

“We’re excited to be a part of this feasibility study which presents an opportunity to accelerate the diversification of Port of Newcastle which is crucial as Australia starts its journey to net zero by 2050," Mr Miller said.

"Newcastle is an ideal location for this project due to existing infrastructure and skilled workforce, both of which will be so important as we scale up. With the backing of Macquarie’s Green Investment Group, Newcastle could become a hub for the production and use of hydrogen for domestic and export opportunities for Australia.”

ARENA recently approved $103 million in funding to support three 10 MW electrolyser projects through the Renewable Hydrogen Deployment Funding Round. Since 2018, ARENA has also invested $60 million to support pre-commercial activities across 36 projects, including a number of feasibility studies focusing on smaller scale deployments with domestic end-use cases. 

The project represents ARENA’s second feasibility study for a large-scale hydrogen production project. With funding previously announced for Stanwell to complete a feasibility study for a proposed hydrogen export market located in Gladstone, Queensland.



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ALGA welcomes $150m for local disaster mitigation projects

THE Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has welcomed the release of guidelines for the $150 million community infrastructure component of the Commonwealth’s $600 million Preparing Australian Program.

The program is focused on disaster preparedness and responds to recommendations of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements aimed at better preparing communities for more severe and frequent disasters.

The release of the funding guidelines comes 13 months after the Royal Commission’s report.

Under the 'Preparing Australian Communities – Local' component of the program, local governments and communities can apply for grants from $20,000 to $10 million for projects that will help them better prepare for future disasters and lessen their impacts.

ALGA president Linda Scott said the opportunity to enhance the resilience of essential local infrastructure and boost post-COVID economic recovery would be welcomed by all communities.

“Investing in betterment funding saves communities and governments millions of dollars in the long term by ensuring that our community infrastructure can better withstand natural disasters,” Cr Scott said.

“By funding local governments, the Federal Government is investing in our communities who receive additional benefits through the creation of new jobs, local economic growth, lower insurance premiums, and faster reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Cr Scott said consultation with ALGA and its members was an excellent example of the Commonwealth and the sector working together to ensure maximum impact for local governments and their communities.

Grants will be open to all local government areas at high risk of disasters (not just the 110 disaster-declared ones) and the Commonwealth has reduced co-contribution requirements. 

Projects under $100,000 will require no co-contribution, nor will planning and awareness-raising projects. For infrastructure projects over $100,000, local government’s co-contribution can be in kind.

“There is a mismatch between the amount of local government infrastructure exposed to climate change risks, and the resources we have to effectively manage these risks,” Cr Scott said. 

“Preparing for natural disaster events is a shared responsibility, and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure the Royal Commission’s disaster risk reduction recommendations are fully implemented.” 




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AWU: Shearing Contractors Assoc email proves Ag Visa a threat to regional jobs, especially women’s

A RECENT email from an employer group obtained by the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) confirms the union’s fears that the Federal Government's new Ag Visa scheme "will flood regional Australia with poorly paid foreign workers at the expense of local jobs, especially among young women".

AWU national secretary Dan Walton said the email was proof that the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia, "in cahoots with the National Farmers Federation", is basically saying, “Let’s get in on the chance for cheap labour.”

The Ag Visa scheme, hastily announced in the wake of the new Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement signed at the G7, targets vulnerable workers from South East Asia.

In the email to its members, the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia (SCAA) said it envisaged members “accessing some of the 700 ‘Non-skilled’ workers from an ASEAN country -- most likely Indonesia but that is to be confirmed -- who will arrive over summer”.

“The workers will be paid Shed Hand Award wages (not the higher rates),” the letter said. “This is not the only opportunity to engage overseas workers, just the first opportunity. Once the system is established, it’s likely you can engage the workers directly and therefore at a lower cost.”

Mr Walton said what the AWU has feared – that the Ag Visa will simply be used as a way for unscrupulous employers to cut wages and conditions – is now happening.

“This email is just like an order form: How many cheap workers do you want? Put in your request now so you can pay them a much lower rate,” Mr Walton said.

Stef Mackey, a roustabout and shed hand working in a contracting team near Young, NSW, said more than 80 percent of the nation’s roustabouts were young women.

“These Ag Visas will not only take jobs from young Australians in regional towns with high unemployment, they will also target young women and deny them a foot in the door of the shearing industry,” Ms Mackey said.

“And every single shearer on our team started out rousting, so if they don’t get that opportunity because it's no longer there, we’ll soon run out of shearers.”

Mr Walton said he could not see how the Federal Government, NFF and SCAA could justify claims of a shearing-industry labour shortage.

“What shortage? We have had two years of pandemic, wool prices are up, total wool production is up and the flock was shorn, even though they said it couldn’t possibly be done without overseas workers,” he said.



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Infrastructure procurement inquiry turns for home

KEY PRIVATE INVESTORS, small to medium enterprise groups, and government departments will be among the final bodies to appear as part of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities infrastructure procurement inquiry, in a series of videoconference public hearings on Wednesday November 10, Tuesday November 16 and Thursday November 18.

The committee will examine the enormous opportunities and challenges presented by the Australian Government’s $110 billion commitment to major infrastructure projects over the next decade, and the central role this pipeline will play in Australia’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

Committee Chair John Alexander OAM MP said, "These nation-building infrastructure projects will be challenging to deliver given their scale, so it’s critical that we’re smart in sequencing and coordinating our capital investment. We also need to get more innovative in our project and contract management to ensure that small to medium Australian businesses have the opportunity not just to contribute but to thrive in delivering infrastructure. That’s why we’ll be focusing on investors and small to medium business groups in these hearings.

"And finally, it’s vital that we also hear from Infrastructure Australia and key government departments to test the ideas generated so far by this inquiry."

Groups appearing on November 10 include IFM Investors, Plenary Group Holdings Pty Ltd, and Hughes et al, while the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman and Apricity Finance Group Pty Ltd will feature in an afternoon panel discussion on 'Small and Medium Enterprises'.

Taking centre stage on November 16 will be the Business Council of Australia, JNT Consulting, Mace Group, the Australian Institute of Building, and North Projects, followed by a panel discussion on ‘Sustainability and renewables’ involving the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia, the Green Building Council of Australia, and Tindo Solar.

On November 18, the committee will hear from Infrastructure Australia, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, and the Department of Finance.

The terms of reference and submissions received are available on the committee’s website.

Public hearing details

Date: Wednesday, 10 November 2021
Time: 11am to 3.15pm
Location: Videoconference

Date: Tuesday, 16 November 2021
Time: 9.15am to 3.30pm
Location: Videoconference

Date: Thursday, 18 November 2021
Time: 10.00am to 4.15pm
Location: Videoconference

Programs for the hearings are available on the Committee’s website.

Due to health and safety concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, this hearing is not currently scheduled to be open for public attendance. Interested members of the public will be able to view proceedings via the live webcast at aph.gov.au/live.


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Local protest calls for NSW Planning Minister to reject Kurri Kurri fossil fuel power plant as decision looms 

HUNTER VALLEY locals protested outside NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes’ office today as concerns mount over the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels and the lack of long-term economic economic benefits the Kurri Kurri gas plant will bring to the Hunter Valley community. 

The protest was led by the Gas Free Hunter Alliance and local constituents - starting at 10am at 1725 Pittwater Road, Mona Vale - and presented Mr Stokes with a 55,000 signature petition calling on him to reject planning approval for the outdated and polluting Kurri Kurri gas plant. 

It comes as a recommendation by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment is expected “imminently” on the Kurri Kurri gas plant. 

Mr Stokes is then likely to then rapidly make a decision based on that recommendation, as the project has Critical State Significant Infrastructure status.

“Kurri Kurri needs jobs with a future, like renewable energy, not to be fobbed off with only a handful of ongoing jobs created using last century's technology and more than $600 million of public money,”  Kurri Kurri local Janet Murray said. 

Just this week over 100 countries, excluding Australia, signed up to a global methane pledge aimed at curbing methane emissions at COP26 in Glasgow, due to the immense global warming effect of the gas. The type of gas that would be burnt at the proposed Kurri Kurri power station is predominantly made up of methane.

At the event, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the world that Australia was tackling climate change, however, the Morrison Government continues to push ahead with its gas-fired recovery by subsidising fossil fuel projects, like the outdated and polluting Kurri Kurri gas peaking plant.

The Gas Free Hunter Alliance are calling for the Morrison Government and the NSW Government to make urgent plans to invest in more clean renewable energy projects in the Hunter Valley to generate electricity and create new jobs, instead of funding new fossil fuel projects. 

GFHA co-coordinator Carly Phillips said she had concerns about carbon emissions from the gas plant.

“The building of any new gas infrastructure is entirely incompatible with NSW and Federal Government targets of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, never mind the fact that very few local jobs would be created,” Ms Phillips said. 

“The conservative International Energy Agency has categorically stated that no new gas infrastructure can be built around the world if we are to align with Paris Agreement climate commitments of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2050.”


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