Massive Pilbara renewable export hub smashed by Feds

THE GIGANTIC Asian Renewable Energy Hub which would cover a 6500 square kilometres in the East Pilbara, and export renewable hydrogen and electricity to Singapore, has been deemed too environmentally destructive by the federal government.
Massive Pilbara renewable export hub smashed by Feds Massive Pilbara renewable export hub smashed by Feds Massive Pilbara renewable export hub smashed by Feds Massive Pilbara renewable export hub smashed by Feds Massive Pilbara renewable export hub smashed by Feds

Federal environment minister Sussan Ley.

Paul Hunt

Senior Journalist: Energy & Commodities

Paul Hunt

The consortium of developers behind the project received approval from the federal government for the massive $22 billion development last year. 

However, after a thorough evaluation, InterContinental Energy, CWP Energy, and Macquarie, resubmitted their application to build the solar and wind hybrid project with minor changes. 

Initially the project would export electricity via subsea cables. The newer application would include pipelines instead, for ammonia offloading, and other infrastructure. 

This would involve building a desalination plant intake and discharge pipelines, and ammonia pipelines and loadout, extending into Commonwealth waters to ship loadout facilities 20km offshore.

The Asian Renewable Energy Hub will generate 26 gigawatts of renewable energy in Western Australia from wind and solar. 

Around 3GW would be provided directly to large scale energy users in the Pilbara, while the bulk of the energy used to create green hydrogen for domestic and export markets. 

The project's proponents say it would not only inject billions into the local Australian economy, but help neighbouring countries with carbon-free energy, and create 7,000 full time jobs during construction and its 50-year operational life. 

Around 20,000 indirect jobs are also expected to be created during the construction phase. 

It would also provide mining companies and fertiliser producers in the north with cheap hydrogen for industrial purposes. 

However, just two days ago, the federal minister for the environment Sussan Ley refused to sign off on the project. 

"The proposed action will have clearly unacceptable impacts on matters protected by Part 3 of the EPBC Act," she said in a decision published on Tuesday. 

Energy News understands the decision by the minister was not conventional in nature. 

The proponents of the project had not yet submitted an environmental plan to the government, merely outlined the proposal. 

Usually, when a project of this size and nature is submitted in the early stages it will receive approval and then an EP will be drafted.

Furthermore, the developers had received initial approval once already from the federal government, and have Western Australian state government approvals in place. 

It was even awarded Major Project Status as recently as October. 

The federal minister's decision to not approve the revised proposal will mean operator Intercontinental Energy will have to withdraw its proposal, provide a response, and then resubmit another proposal explaining how they will mitigate environmental risks associated with the development. 

A final investment decision was penciled in for 2025. 

Australia is the second largest owner of hydrogen projects after the Netherlands, according to Wood Mackenzie, with advanced and early stage project developments groiwing by 45% in 2021 alone to 4.25GW. 

"Australia's share in the globally traded market for low-carbon hydrogen or its derivatives could reach 25-45 million tonnes by 2050, equivalent to US$50-90 billion in potential export revenue," Wood Mackenzie markets and transition head Prakash Sharma told APPEA. 

Paul-Alain van Lieshout Hunt is a broadcaster and senior journalist at Energy News Au (ENB), Mining News (MNN) and Australia's Mining Monthly (AMM). Got tips? Reach out to paul.hunt@aspermont.com