WA dishes out land for $70 billion of Pilbara green megaprojects

International appetite to harness renewable energy capacity in WA’s Pilbara region has been revealed by the allocation of industrial land for mainly hydrogen-related projects to companies including BP, South Korean steelmaker POSCO and Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Mining Group.

The WA government announced on Friday it had earmarked land for seven projects collectively valued at $70 billion at two heavy industrial estates near the Pilbara coastal towns of Port Hedland and Onslow.

Port Hedland - the world’s largest port by tonnage - could export more than iron ore in the future if green investments go ahead.
Port Hedland – the world’s largest port by tonnage – could export more than iron ore in the future if green investments go ahead.Credit:Pilbara Port Authority

WA state development minister Roger Cook said providing the land for projects including hydrogen, ammonia and green iron ore would help transform the two sites into globally competitive, multi-product industrial precincts.

BP, POSCO, Fortescue, Alinta Energy and UK firm Tees Valley Lithium were allocated land at the 4000-hectare Boodarie strategic industrial area south of Port Hedland where most of Australia’s iron ore exports are loaded.

BP secured the land to support the $53 billion Australian Renewable Energy Hub it has operated since it bought a 40 per cent stake in June 2022.

BP plans to progressively develop 26 gigawatts of wind and solar energy – about half the capacity of the East Coast National Electricity Market – at a remote 6500-hectare site 250 kilometres from Port Hedland.

The electricity would be used to produce green hydrogen and then transform it into more easily transported green ammonia for export.

In 2021 then-environment minister Sussan Ley rejected a proposal to build an ammonia export jetty near the hub citing possible impact on coastal wetlands.

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It is understood BP now plans to export ammonia from Port Hedland and the need for industrial land indicates it is likely to also be manufactured there.

If BP transmits the green power to Port Hedland it could connect to the transmission system and supply the region’s vast iron ore business that the big three operators Rio Tinto, BP and Fortescue want to decarbonise.

South Korea’s largest steelmaker POSCO, which also secured land at Port Hedland, plans to use hydrogen to make high-quality pellets of iron called hot briquetted iron that when used in electric-powered steel furnaces removes highly polluting coal from the process. POSCO works closely with Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting which owns miner Roy Hill that ships iron ore out of Port Hedland.

An Alinta Energy spokesman it was considering producing green hydrogen at Boodarie where it already has a gas-fired power station.

Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue was allocated land at Port Hedland as well as near Onslow, a 530-kilometre drive south of Port Hedland, at the 8000-hectare Ashburton North strategic industrial area where Chevron and Woodside have gas plants.

A Fortescue spokeswoman said it was considering producing and using green hydrogen at both sites. The iron ore miner that has diversified into green hydrogen is seeking environmental approval for a 5.4-gigawatt wind and solar farm at Uaroo cattle station south of Onslow that could supply power to the Ashburton North site.

Tees Valley Lithium which plans to spend $444 million to build Europe’s biggest lithium hydroxide plant in northern England was also allocated land at Port Hedland.

Its owner, UK-listed Alkemy, announced in August 2022 it would build a lithium sulphate plant at Port Hedland that from 2024 would feed its UK plant that will supply European battery manufacturers.

Small private company Western Gas that bought the Equus offshore fields from US-major Hess in 2017 is considering using the gas to manufacture ammonia and methanol near Onslow.

It is the only project of the seven not driven by the world’s move to cleaner energy, but Western Gas said it would progressively incorporate renewable energy into the plant to lower its carbon intensity.

Western Gas is also considering sending Equus gas to Woodside’s North West Shelf liquified natural gas plant to be exported.

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Source: Thanks smh.com