Australia’s Origin Energy has unveiled plans for a potential hydrogen hub in one of Australia’s key coal regions.

Origin unveiled plans on Monday for a potential hydrogen hub in the Hunter Valley, in the Australian state of New South Wales, aimed at delivering a commercial scale green hydrogen supply chain in the Newcastle industrial and port zone. The port of Newcastle is the world's largest coal export port.

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The proposed hydrogen hub would initially produce green hydrogen from a 55-megawatt electrolyser powered by renewable energy from Origin’s own portfolio, while the design will allow the facility to be scaled up, offering further expansion opportunities.

It is anticipated clean hydrogen produced at the hub could be used for fuel trucking and passenger bus operations in the Hunter, Central Coast and Greater Sydney regions, as well as to help transform industrial and manufacturing processes.

Origin has also signed a memorandum of understanding with fellow Australian company Orica to carry out a feasibility study into the viability of the proposed green hydrogen production facility.

In addition to exploring the supply of hydrogen for heavy industry and transport, Orica noted the study would also look at converting the hydrogen into green ammonia for use at its own existing Kooragang Island manufacturing facility, blending hydrogen into natural gas pipelines, and the potential to stimulate Australia’s hydrogen export industry.

Origin added that future stages of the Hunter Valley Hydrogen Hub would also include investigating the feasibility of converting the local gas distribution network to 100% hydrogen to further support a hydrogen supply chain in the area.

“By collaborating with Orica and other partners, we have an invaluable opportunity to further explore how green hydrogen could help to power a cleaner future for manufacturing, transport and industrial customers in Australia,” said Origin chief executive Frank Calabria.

“Reducing emissions from Australia’s manufacturing sector will be key to achieving the nation’s ambition to be net zero emissions by 2050, and this will only be achieved if the energy industry, customers and governments work together to support the development of hydrogen as a future energy source.”

In addition to the MoU with Orica, Origin said several heavy vehicle and transport users had offered support for the project, including Red Bus Services, Aluminium Revolutionary Chassis Company (ARCC) and ComfortDelGro Corporation Australia (CDC).

The unveiling of the hydrogen hub comes after Origin unveiled plans earlier this month to accelerate its exit from coal-fired power generation, including the potential early retirement of the Eraring Power Station in 2025, which is located in the Hunter region.