Australia's largest independent oil and gas company Woodside Petroleum is pressing ahead with renewable hydrogen projects and studying prospects for large-scale export of hydrogen as ammonia.

Woodside has started the process of securing a contractor to design and build a renewable hydrogen plant on the island state of Tasmania. The proposed H2TAS project is a renewable hydrogen project in Bell Bay Advanced Manufacturing Zone, a heavy industrial precinct north of Launceston.

The proposal involves a 10-megawatt pilot project producing 4.5 tonnes per day of hydrogen for domestic use, targeting the transportation sector.

The project participants are operator Woodside and Countrywide Renewable Energy.

Briefing on H2TAS project

Contracting sources said Woodside hosted an Expression of Interest briefing in early September for companies interested in being considered for a combined contract, covering the front-end engineering and design followed by the engineering, procurement, construction and installation of the hydrogen plant.

Up to 25 companies participated in the briefing including major oil and gas engineering and construction names such as Advisian, Clough, Doris, GHD, TechnipFMC and Wood.

The next step is that Woodside will select a handful of companies to bid for the FEED-EPCI package, said contracting sources.

Badgingarra project

In addition to the H2TAS project, Woodside is participating at a very early stage in the Badgingarra renewable hydrogen project to be located at the Badgingarra wind and solar farm in Western Australia.

That project intends to use 100% renewable power to produce hydrogen for use in power generation, transport and industrial applications, and is a joint venture between operator APA Group and Woodside.

Peter Coleman, Woodside's chief executive, has said he was "pleased with the progress in new energy opportunities and the development of markets and supply chains for future projects, particularly hydrogen and ammonia".

Studying large-scale export

As well as the two Australian hydrogen projects, Woodside has an agreement with Japanese companies Jera, Marubeni and IHI Corporation to do a joint study on the large-scale export of hydrogen as ammonia to decarbonise coal-fired power generation in Japan.

The consortium received approval from Japan’s New Energy & Industrial Technology Development Organization for a feasibility study covering the whole hydrogen-as-ammonia value chain, Woodside said. It will examine the construction and operation of world-scale ammonia facilities and optimisation of supply chain costs.

As part of the study, Woodside will investigate the transition from blue to green hydrogen for export. Blue hydrogen is produced from gas using steam methane reforming, with related carbon emissions offset. Green hydrogen is made with renewable energy using electrolysis.

Funding round

Woodside's two hydrogen projects are currently seeking funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena).

Woodside is one of seven companies shortlisted for the A$70 million Renewable Hydrogen Deployment Funding Round.

Other contenders are BHP, Engie, Atco Australia, Macquarie Group, Australian Gas Networks and APT Management Services.

Arena has said it expects the successful projects to be among some of the largest electrolysers in the world, and the applicants will need to prove the project will be powered by renewable electricity, either directly or through a contracting approach.

The successful projects will also be expected to reach financial close by late 2021, with construction beginning in 2022.

Arena expects to select its preferred applicants by mid-2021.