WA has the potential to play a huge role in helping to meet global decarbonisation targets, thanks to its combination of world-class renewable energy sources, critical minerals, trading relationships and ingenuity, the WA Energy Club has been told.
Addressing the Club’s October dinner, BP Business Development Director Hydrogen Justin Nash said the company was “all in on WA’s energy transition”.
Mr Nash provided an overview and update on BP’s WA operations, which including the Australian Renewable Energy Hub in the Pilbara, the Geraldton Export-Scale Renewable Investment (GERI), its Kwinana transition project, and its involvement in the Browse gas project.
“Transitioning to new low-carbon energy is not without its challenges,” Mr Nash said.
“It is happening at different speeds, requires the use of different technologies, and we know it can be expensive and the returns uncertain.
“We are seeing these energy transition challenges playing out in corporate and government levels here and globally.
“Making energy mix choices is difficult. Technology is constantly changing, optionality is expensive, supply and demand vary, and no one is sure what the future will bring.
“So why do we persist? Because we must if we are to have any chance of reaching net zero by 2050.”
Mr Nash said BP’s former Kwinana oil refinery was continuing its transition to a world-class clean energy hub, including an import terminal, renewable fuels plant and renewable hydrogen production.
“Right now, parts of it look like a pile of scrap metal,” he said. “We are busy repurposing equipment, tanks and transmission lines, jetties, and pipelines to deliver a clean energy hub that brings together a range of green energy solutions.
“The old refinery hydrotreaters are the starting point for what we hope will become Australia’s largest bio-refinery, producing more than 10,000 barrels a day of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel.
“Biofuels can provide an important decarbonisation solution for the mining, heavy transport, and aviation sectors in the short to medium term and deliver up to 80 per cent reduction in carbon when compared to fossil fuels.
“The feed stock for the Kwinana renewable fuel plant will be waste based, like used cooking oil, waste oil and animal fats along with sustainably grown oil crops.
“All going well, the biofuel produced will be blended, tested, and stored on site and supplied to the market using our existing pipelines and jetties.
“The good news is that renewable fuel processing also requires hydrogen, which leads us to the next part of the hub: plans for a co-located 100MW electrolyser to supply the bio-refinery and local industry with green or renewable or hydrogen.”
The State Government supported the feasibility work for H2Kwinana, BP’s proposed renewable hydrogen project, and the Federal Government provided funding as part of its regional hubs program.
The plan was to have the first 100MW up and running by 2026 and then to scale to 1.5GW of hydrogen production that would support further domestic decarbonisation, mobility, and export opportunities.
Stage one would use existing transmission infrastructure to source green power from the South West Interconnected System and recycled water from the Water Corporation’s Kwinana water reclamation plant.
The green hydrogen generated would offset gas requirements for the bio-refinery and would significantly reduce carbon emissions.
“We are also talking to other facilities in Kwinana about supply, leveraging that great Kwinana industrial symbiosis via pipelines with a view to similar carbon reduction impacts across their operations by replacing hydrogen produced from natural gas,” Mr Nash said
Development of the GERI project – a large-scale, integrated renewables and green hydrogen project targeting sales to domestic and international markets in the early 2030s – was a lesson in listening to the locals.
“I can’t stress this point enough. Energy transition projects like these can’t happen without the support of the community,” he said.
“GERI has the potential to reach more than 10GW of renewable generation capacity to power 5GW of electrolysis for hydrogen for domestic and export customers.
“For context, that 10GW is roughly two to three times the generation capacity on the SWIS today.
“As well as paying a role in supplying green power and hydrogen for today’s industry, it could also power the region’s future processing of critical minerals, and with an abundance of magnetite potentially green iron and/or steel and underpin renewable energy exports.”
Land had been secured at the Oakajee Industrial Area as lease and purchase agreements had been secured for the potential renewable production and electrolysis activities.
“In securing this land, we have engaged early, often, and really listened to the locals. Through that process we have learned a lot about how these projects can be designed to complement existing farming operations,” he said.
Discussions would continue “to make sure we understand how best we can coexist and not just with farmers, but other land users and the broader community”.
The Australian Renewable Energy Hub – a joint venture between BP, Intercontinental Energy, CWP Global and Macquarie – showed the power of partnerships
At its proposed full scale, AREH would be one of the largest renewable projects in the world.
“Across 6500sqkm, it could produce up to 26GW of combined solar and wind power. This is equivalent to one-third of all electricity generated in Australia. This could translate to 1.6 million tonnes of green hydrogen, with the potential to abate 17 million tonnes of carbon in domestic and export markets annually,” Mr Nash said.
“That’s about equivalent to removing the emissions of 40 per cent of Australia’s car fleet every year.
“When talking at this scale, partnerships become key and one of the most important partnerships we have in this project is with the Nyangumarta people, the Traditional Owners of the site where we propose to develop AREH.
“Nyangumarta country provides us with the key ingredient for consistent renewable power.
“The Traditional Owner’s knowledge of country is critical to ensuring this project is developed in a sustainable way and their support is crucial.
“We are also working closely with our joint venture partners. They were in the AREH long before us and have been an important part of our learning journey.”
A partnership approach with the State and Federal Governments and the towns of Port Hedland, Newman and Broome was also important.
The project has received a land allocation in the Boodarie Strategic Industrial Area in Port Hedland, close to the Port of Port Hedland.
The $3 billion Rewiring the Nation deal between the State and Federal Governments would help to address future grid needs and should avoid duplication and minimise impact to country.
“BP has been in Australia for more than 100 years, building on a long history of renewable energy supply. To continue playing that role we know we need to decarbonise that energy as well as develop new forms of energy,” Mr Nash said.
“This State could play a huge role in providing cleaner energy options not just locally but globally.
“It has world-class renewable energy resources, all the essential ores, minerals and rare earths for the transition, commercial and industrial capability, strong international trading relationships and the competence to develop new technology and diversify the energy mix.
“According to Ross Garnaut of the Superpower Institute, this opportunity for decarbonisation in Australia is more than our 1 per cent of global emissions but could be as large as 7 per cent of global emissions if we seize the opportunity that come with abundant low-cost green energy and hydrogen.
“What it needs is willing and credible collaborators who can bridge the ‘say-do’ gap. This is where we believed BP has a role to play and we are peddling as fast as we can.
“We are moving to decarbonise what we already supply, applying carbon capture and storage to gas projects like Browse so we can firm the renewables and process the critical minerals we need for batteries for the energy transition.
“At the same time, we are working on the clean energy mix of the future, which includes everything from renewables and hydrogen mega projects to biofuels and rapid EV charging.
“This integrated strategy is one BP is applying around the world: starting local, then regional and global.
“The capacity to meet domestic energy needs and the international reach to service major trade partners is an important element that brings BP to the table.”
Mr Nash said while the challenges of energy transition seemed overwhelming, change could be achieved incrementally, using the analogy of eating an elephant “one bite at a time”.
“There are challenges, of poles and wires, of port infrastructure, of water supply, of road and rail, of demand and supply, of workforce, and supply chain, but there are also immense opportunities, of decarbonisation, of a cleaner environment, of economic diversification, of energy security, of partnerships, of new industries, of local knowledge and ingenuity, of creating a sustainable future for generations to come,” he said.
“We know we need to keep innovating, investing in research and development, infrastructure, and regulatory frameworks.
“We need collaboration between government, industry, communities, academia, and countries and we need to pick up the pace while always keeping it safe and keeping our eyes on the net-zero goal.
“In the past 18 months we have learned a lot about hubs, partnerships, listening, capability and taking things one step or bite at a time.
“One thing we know for certain: if team WA gets this right, it will make a global difference.”