Plans for large-scale green hydrogen production at the Australian Port of Newcastle were unveiled by a consortium including Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG) – and immediately welcomed by a developer planning large-scale floating wind in the region.

GIG and the owners of the New South Wales port – on Australia’s east coast just north of Sydney – will look at development of an initial 40MW electrolyser facility, with potential to scale to 1GW and produce 150,000 tonnes of H2 annually.

Newcastle is the world's largest coal port, with established deep-water infrastructure and export links with Japan and South Korea – both tipped as major potential markets for clean hydrogen produced at a clutch of giant H2 projects slated to be built across Australia.

GIG and Port of Newcastle will spend A$3m ($2.2m) studying development of electrolysers, and potential use-cases for green H2 including ammonia production for fertilisers. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena), Australia’s renewables research body, will provide half that funding.

Arena CEO Darren 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.”

Floating wind planned

Deep waters off Newcastle form one of two areas off the east coast earmarked for floating wind development by Australian developer Oceanex Energy.

Oceanex hopes to build around 2GW offshore north of Sydney, and the same further south, with the potential to align power supply with future green hydrogen production one of the areas of interest to the developer.

CEO Andy Evans told Recharge: “Oceanex Energy welcomes the announcement of the study which should only further highlight why Newcastle (and the Hunter Valley) will be a leader in the development of new large-scale energy and technology opportunities in Australia.

“The synergies between green hydrogen and offshore wind, underpinned by Oceanex’s Novocastrian Offshore Wind Farm, go well beyond potential electricity supply and we’re particularly excited by the alignment of supply chain and investor opportunities to help accelerate Australia’s hydrogen opportunities, especially in the Hunter and Illawarra regions.”

The Port of Newcastle announcement – which was enthusiastically hailed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison – again brought into focus the nation’s split status of perceived climate policy laggard but also host to some of the world’s most ambitious green energy projects.

Green hydrogen, along with its blue cousin produced using abated fossil fuels, was recently declared a national priority area, and Australia’s abundant land, and strong winds and solar resources, have made it home to record-scale plans such as the 50GW Western Green Energy Hub, often with the backing of green-minded state governments.

However, Morrison’s government has also attracted international and domestic criticism over policies that opponents claim entrench coal and gas, while the nation’s pre-COP26 target for net zero by 2050 was slammed for leaving fossil fuels untouched for the remainder of the decade.