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First Nations green hydrogen project wins federal grant

Marion Rae -

Plans to export green hydrogen and ammonia to Asia from massive production facilities in the Kimberley region of Western Australia have won federal backing.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency grant announced on Tuesday will contribute $1.7 million to phase one of a five-month feasibility study that will begin immediately.

Securing the feasibility funding is a crucial milestone for the Aboriginal Clean Energy Partnership that is targeting a final investment decision in 2025, hydrogen production in 2028, and Australia's first commercial-scale ammonia exports.

Pending approvals and finance, the East Kimberley clean energy project comprises Australia's largest solar farm at 1000-megawatts of generation paired with 850MW of electrolysis capacity to produce 50,000 tonnes of green hydrogen a year.

The hydrogen would be piped underground to the north-western Australian coast, with existing Ord River hydropower and water from Lake Argyle used to produce around 250,000 tonnes per annum of renewable ammonia for export.

The Ord hydro plant was built to power the now closed Argyle diamond mine as well as the nearby towns of Wyndham and Kununurra.

Under the proposal, shipments from Wyndham Port would go to key trading partners in Asia as well as being available as a feedstock for making fertilisers for domestic agriculture and explosives for mining.

The agency said the project would create one of the world's largest renewable hydrogen and ammonia production facilities with an estimated capital cost of $2.7-3.2 billion.

Chief executive Darren Miller said the project would also demonstrate how First Nations groups can have a greater say and a larger stake in Australia's renewable energy.

In a world-first business model, traditional owners are shareholders and not merely stakeholders in the joint venture.

"The old ways of making energy and of doing development have often not been good for First Nations people," one of the partners, Balanggarra Ventures, said. 

"We know there is a better way to do this and we are excited to be leading it."

Native title representative holders Yawoorroong Miriuwung Gajerrong Yirrgeb Noong Dawang Corporation, Balanggarra, Kimberley Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and climate investment firm Pollination formed the partnership two years ago - each with a quarter share.

"This project will show it is possible to design a future where economic prosperity, Indigenous empowerment and caring for country work hand-in-hand," KLC chairman, Anthony Watson said.

MG Corp executive chair Lawford Benning said the partnership could provide opportunities to participate in a "greener and cleaner way of working, utilising our own natural resources here in the East Kimberley".

The grant also sends a signal to the market that the federal government is keen to see the project succeed, with the global hydrogen race well underway to supply big-emitting industries with an alternative to fossil fuels.

Members of the partnership will pitch the project to investors on Wednesday at the Climate Investor Forum in Melbourne.

Marion Rae - AAP


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