Murchison Green Hydrogen

Mar 2024Business, Stories

For many residents of Kalbarri the proposed Murchison Green Hydrogen project has been a topic of conversation. Understandably, there are some concerns about the project and what it will mean for our community.

There are still many unknowns and a lot of confusing, sometimes contradictory, information out there. That’s why Fred Porter, Chairperson of the KTT, recently took the opportunity to put some of the more burning questions to Shohan Seneviratne, the CEO of the project.

What exactly is Murchison Green Hydrogen?

The project will be a green hydrogen production facility. Green hydrogen will provide an alternative to fossil fuels (such as coal, oil and gas) which, when burnt, releases carbon dioxide and contributes to global warming and climate change. Green hydrogen is a new, clean alternative fuel the world is looking to for its future energy needs.

The onshore project infrastructure will include a wind and solar farm for renewable energy, hydrogen and ammonia production facilities, and a desalination plant. The offshore infrastructure will include a marine export buoy, pipelines and a support craft facility/tug boat harbour.

To avoid confusion, MGH is being developed by CIP (Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners) not Copenhagen Energy) and this project does not include any offshore wind turbines.

What is Murchison Hydrogen Renewables?

We recently rebranded from Murchison Hydrogen Renewables (MHR) to Murchison Green Hydrogen (MGH).

We believe MGH better reflects who we are and what we are focused on: Using the renewable energy sources of onshore wind and solar power to create clean, green hydrogen.

We believe our new name better reflects this core objective and is a better fit for the project, not to mention easier to say.

Some community members feel that it’s misleading to be called Murchison Green Hydrogen if you’re actually producing and exporting ammonia.

Hydrogen is ultimately the product we are producing and will supply to our customers. The core of what this project is about is the production of green hydrogen to replace fossil fuels as a sustainable source of energy.

However, there is currently no safe and efficient way to ship hydrogen, which is why we need to convert it to green ammonia. Converting green hydrogen into green ammonia is integral to achieving the global decarbonisation objectives, and there’s no reason or attempt to hide it. Over 150 million tonnes of ammonia is produced globally each year and of that ~20 million tonnes is shipped safely around the world.

Once it reaches its destination the green ammonia can be converted back into and used as green hydrogen or, directly as green ammonia, to replace coal in power generation or as a marine bunker fuel.

Why have you chosen Murchison House Station when there is so much land elsewhere in WA?

The primary reason for choosing Murchison House Station is the quality and complementarity of the wind and solar conditions on site—sun during the day and wind at night. Additionally, the large land parcel is needed for the generating assets and the proximity to the coast provides access to sea water for desalination (needed to make hydrogen) and transport to overseas export markets.

Will we be able to see the wind turbines?

If you’re picturing giant wind turbines and an industrial plant standing overbearingly next to the Kalbarri community, it won’t be like that.

The closest visible wind turbine will be about 20km away. On a clear day with good visibility, you will likely be able to see the turbines (mainly the blades) over the ridge. Other facilities, such as the production plant will not be visible at all from Kalbarri.

Will the community be shown visualisations of the project, so we can see what it will look like?

Yes. We will be sharing visualisations of the project soon.

The project components and layout have been provided to a specialist visual impact consultant who is currently developing life-like photomontages of what the project will look like from various vantage points in and around Kalbarri. These will be displayed in Kalbarri for the community to view.

A full visual impact study is also underway and will be assessed by the environmental regulators, as part of our Environmental Impact Assessment, before any approval for the project to proceed can be issued.

Will we be able to smell ammonia in Kalbarri?

Our current studies indicate there will be no smell of ammonia from our production facility and there is no reason to expect this to change. All emissions from the plant will be quantified and assessed by the environmental regulators, as part of our Environmental Impact Assessment before any approval for the project to proceed can be issued.

For some community members, the need for a transition to clean energy is understood but they just don’t want this project here. How do you respond to that?

We understand and appreciate that Kalbarri is a beautiful place with a great lifestyle. This development, like any change, will impact the community and the area, and for this reason we are committed to engaging with the community to understand community concerns and inform the community about all aspects of the project and related impacts.

It is also important to remember that climate change is a global problem that we are all facing (including in Kalbarri), and we all have a role to play in mitigating the damaging impacts on our environment for our kids and future generations.

A project like MGH can utilise the vast renewable resources of the region to place the Mid West at the forefront of the global energy transition. This presents an opportunity for Kalbarri and the broader community to play a significant role in the global call to action to protect our natural environment and provide a future for the generations to come.

What marine infrastructure are you building?

We understand that marine infrastructure is of concern to the community, especially the fishing and rock lobster community. We are not building a large export harbour for ships with huge breakwaters and births or anything of the kind.

The marine export infrastructure will be located immediately adjacent to Murchison House Station. The green ammonia will be piped from the production facility, underground and under the seabed, before rising to connect to a CALM (Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring) buoy some 2.5km offshore. Incoming ships will be connected to the buoy and held in place by tug boats, while the ammonia is pumped from the pipes into the ship. The tug and line boats will be housed in a small support craft facility/tug boat harbour.

If the ammonia is being piped to ships in the ocean, isn’t there a risk of ammonia leakage into the water?

The strictest safety and design standards will be used for the construction and operation of all hydrogen and ammonia production, storage and export infrastructure used for the project.

These facilities will be monitored at all times, will have an automatic safety valve shut-off system and be highly regulated by the State safety regulator.

Despite how unlikely such an occurrence would be, we are currently doing studies to understand the potential impacts of an ammonia leak. Findings from these studies will be assessed by the environmental and safety regulators before any approval for the project to proceed can be issued.

What about the desalination plant: Where does the concentrated salt water (brine) go?

The brine from the desalination plant will be discharged back into the ocean and dispersed through a diffuser. This system will ensure that naturally occurring (baseline) salt concentrations and water temperatures are reached within a specified distance from the diffuser, as set by the environmental regulator. Any impacts of brine on marine life will be assessed by the environmental regulator before any approval for the project to proceed can be issued.

What about exclusion zones?

Marine exclusion zones will be set and managed by the Mid West Ports Authority. The exact location and size of these exclusion zones are still to be determined.

It is likely a smaller permanent exclusion zone will be put in place around the CALM buoy and a larger exclusion zone will apply during the loading of ships. The exclusion zone will also encompass the path the pipeline takes from the shore to the CALM buoy. It is anticipated that there will be a maximum of four vessels per month when the project is at full production capacity in 2030/2031 and that the loading of a ship will take approximately 36 hours.

We will continue to work with the fishing and rock lobster groups, with the aim of minimising disturbance to fishing grounds and coastal access.

Why is a foreign company building a hydrogen facility in WA to just export the product overseas?

Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) is the leading renewable energy fund focused on greenfield project development. CIP currently manage over €26 billion in investor commitments across 11 funds, including the world’s largest dedicated renewable energy fund, and the largest clean hydrogen fund.

Some of CIP’s largest investors are pension/superannuation funds. Currently two Australian superannuation companies are investing in the fund developing the Murchison Green Hydrogen project.

As to why we are exporting our product: The market for green hydrogen is not yet established in Australia. At the same time, highly industrialised economies, especially in South East Asia, have high energy demands and need an alternative green fuel to decarbonise. Unable to produce renewable energy at scale for themselves (due to the lack of wind, solar and land), these economies are looking for partners like Australia to export green hydrogen to them.

Like our minerals and mining industries, utilising our resources will help keep our economy strong and will assist some of the largest users of fossil fuels in the world to shift to a clean energy source. We have a unique opportunity in Western Australia to make a difference on the global stage when it comes to decarbonisation.

Again, the global issue of climate change transcends geographical boundaries. Our atmosphere is all connected meaning that carbon dioxide being emitted elsewhere in the world will ultimately impact us here in Australia and vice versa.

In what way will the community benefit from this project if it goes ahead?

There are a variety of ways in which the Kalbarri and wider community will benefit. The employment and career opportunities will provide opportunities and enable the younger generation to stay, live and work in the community. The significant investment this project represents will help stimulate economic growth in the region and create more opportunities for businesses and residents alike.

Additionally, the project and our funding partner CIP are dedicated to sharing the benefits of the renewable energy development with local communities. To do this we’ll be designing a Community Investment Program to guide the project’s investments with representatives from the community.

We are currently looking for community members and industry representatives to join one of two advisory groups. If anyone would like to help with designing the Program, we invite them to get in touch with us.

There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there, how are you handling it?

We recommend anyone in the community looking for information about the project or wanting to clarify information to contact us directly or visit our website.

We’ll be increasing our communications and engagement activity throughout 2024, and community members can keep up to date with the latest news by subscribing to our newsletter.

Is there anything else you wanted to share?

We just wanted to thank those community members who continue to engage with us and provide invaluable feedback. I would also like to again remind any interested community members to sign up to our project updates as, through these, we will continue to release further information as it comes to hand.

The MGH team can be contacted through their website or by phone on 1800 921 515.

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