Gladstone is transforming into Australia’s green hydrogen capital

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Gladstone in central Queensland is slowly transforming into Australia’s green hydrogen and energy capital, with several large hydrogen proposals in the pipeline for the traditionally industrial city, which centres around alumina, aluminium, concrete, coal power and exports.

Proposed projects include:

Andrew Forrest’s $114 million electrolyser plant

The H2-Hub green hydrogen and ammonia production complex from The Hydrogen Utility at Yarwun.

There are also more than two dozen wind, solar and storage projects proposed or under construction in the Gladstone region.

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from abc news 21.4.22

Gladstone in central Queensland is slowly transforming into Australia’s green hydrogen and energy capital.

There are several large hydrogen proposals in the pipeline for the traditionally industrial city, which centres around alumina, aluminium, concrete, coal power and exports.

Proposed projects include a $114 million electrolyser plant from Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries and the H2-Hub green hydrogen and ammonia production complex from The Hydrogen Utility at Yarwun.

There are also more than two dozen wind, solar and storage projects proposed or under construction in the Gladstone region.

With the federal election only weeks away on May 21, what are the two major political parties’ policies and legacy in relation to the emerging hydrogen and green energy industries?

The Coalition’s view on hydrogen

In the 2021-22 budget, $275.5 million was set aside by the Coalition to support the development of regional hydrogen hubs, for which Gladstone was identified as a prospective location.

At the time, the government announced it had also invested more than $1 billion to support the green hydrogen industry across the country.

In September, Flynn MP Ken O’Dowd announced the government would provide $2.17 million to Stanwell Corporation for a study into its proposed large-scale hydrogen electrolyser and liquefaction facility in Gladstone.

Speaking in Gladstone earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the government did not support green hydrogen as part of an energy transition away from coal or fossil fuels, but rather as an energy alternative.

“People get really worried when you say the word transition,” he said.

“They translate it to what it actually means to them … unemployment.

a middle-aged man in an akubra
Barnaby Joyce says the expansion of the green hydrogen industry should be led by the private sector.(ABC News: Xavier Martin)

He said the government viewed the emergence of the green hydrogen industry as something the private sector had to lead, rather than government.

“You won’t have government hydrogen plants, you’ll have private ones,” he said,

Mr Joyce said water infrastructure was key to any expanding hydrogen industry, with the government investing in projects such as Hells Gates Dam and Urannah Dam.

Green hydrogen is, simply put, made by using renewable energy to split the chemicals that make up water, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.

“You can’t make hydrogen without water and we’re investing in the dams,” he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week also announced funding for two hydrogen hubs in Western Australia.

Labor’s view on hydrogen

Labor’s spokesman for Queensland resources, Senator Murray Watt, said the party took a proposal for a hydrogen hub in Gladstone as a policy to the 2019 election.

“We’ll have more to say about hydrogen before the election and expand on the commitments that we’ve already made,” he said.

He said his party had also announced its climate and energy policy late last year, which included a proposed $15 billion national reconstruction fund.

“It’s all about rebuilding the manufacturing industry and new energy industries in places like Gladstone,” he said.

“What we said … was that we would carve out $3 billion from our national reconstruction fund, specifically to invest in some of these energy and manufacturing initiatives that are related to hydrogen.”

Murray Watt holding a press conference, gesticulating with his hands. He's wearing glasses.
Senator Murray Watt says Labor will expand on its hydrogen commitments in the coming weeks.(ABC News: Marco Catalano)

He said the emergence of the hydrogen industry in Gladstone was happening in what he perceived as an “absence of the federal government”.

What else is needed?

Earlier this month, think tank Beyond Zero Emissions, alongside the World Wide Fund for Nature, released a briefing paper into a potential Gladstone Renewable Energy Industrial Precinct.

The think tank’s Queensland projects coordinator, Dr Heidi Edmonds, said the renewable energy industrial precinct was a proposal for local manufacturers and industry, such as energy intensive aluminium and chemical production, to be powered entirely by renewable energy.

But, she said Beyond Zero Emissions’ analysis estimated that 34 gigawatts of renewable electricity and 4.5 gigawatts of storage would be needed to support these developments.

Currently, Beyond Zero Emissions estimates there are only 3.3 gigawatts of renewable energy production across Queensland’s three renewable energy zones.

“In order to power [green] hydrogen announcements, and also existing industry as it transitions to renewable energy, we’re going to need a lot of renewable energy to come through the transmission lines into Gladstone,” she said.

“We need streamlining, we need facilitating, and we need setting goals that are collective so that everyone can come together.”

A woman smiles at the camera
Amanda Cahill says a National Transition Authority needs to be established to better prepare Gladstone for emerging energy industries. (ABC Capricornia: Tobi Loftus)

A National Transition Authority is something The Next Economy’s chief executive Dr Amanda Cahill has campaigned for.

“We need that transition authority at a national level to develop targets and plans and actually provide targeted support for regions that are moving away from coal,” she said.

“It’s really a planning authority that can bring all levels of government, industry and other players together to work out how to manage change over time.

“And it means actually making sure that any new developments are good developments and actually benefit the regions.”

The organisation is currently working with the Gladstone Regional Council to help develop its policies and frameworks around how the local government will manage the emergence of industries like green hydrogen.

“We actually need government intervention to make sure as big developments like green hydrogen happen that we’re doing development the right way,” she said.

“And that actually benefits communities for the long term.

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