Oil and gas supermajor BP will become the largest shareholder and take the lead role in one of the world’s most ambitious green hydrogen projects, the $36bn Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH) in Australia powered by 26GW of wind and solar.

BP has agreed to buy a 40.5% share of the project covering 6,500 sq km in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, which has plans to produce up to 1.6 million tonnes of hydrogen annually and spur 9 million tonnes of green ammonia for Australian and export markets.

Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath, BP executive vice president of gas and low carbon energy, said: “AREH is set to be one of the largest renewable and green hydrogen energy hubs in the world and can make a significant contribution to Australia and the wider Asia Pacific region’s energy transition. It truly reflects what integrated energy is – combining solar and onshore wind power with hydrogen production and using it to help transform sectors and regions.

“It also reflects our belief that Australia has the potential to be a powerhouse in the global energy transition, benefitting from both its existing infrastructure and abundant renewable energy resources.”

The AREH site offers “a highly advantaged position with access to abundant solar and wind resources with consistent output”, said BP, which has ambitions to build a 10% global share in “core hydrogen markets” and has a 50GW net renewable energy target for 2030.

The 26GW of wind and solar will be built in multiple phases to power the AREH’s electrolysis, previously put at 14GW by the project’s partners. At full capacity BP reckons 90TWh of power could be produced annually, “around a third of all electricity generated in Australia in 2020”.

BP will become largest shareholder and operator of the project from 1 July subject to approvals. Following the deal, for which financial terms were not disclosed, the AREH’s other shareholders will be InterContinental Energy (26.4%), CWP Global (17.8%) and Macquarie Capital and Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (15.3%).

The AREH plan. Photo: BP