Power plants can kickstart Australia’s hydrogen economy, GE says

The logo of the US company General Electric is pictured on February 5, 2019 on the premises of the company’s energy division in Belfort, France. REUTERS / Vincent Kessler / File Photo

MELBOURNE, June 17 (Reuters) – Interest in using hydrogen in gas-fired power plants is growing in Australia, where last month gave the go-ahead to a project that could fuel the early demand for green hydrogen, General Electric Co early (GENE) Executives said.

GE won an A $ 300 million ($ 229 million) contract in May to supply a turbine for the expansion of a gas-fired power plant owned by Australia’s third largest electricity retailer, EnergyAustralia, which will be the country’s first commercial power plant capable of using both gases and hydrogen.

“What we are effectively doing with this project is to boost the hydrogen economy in Australia,” said GE boss Sam Maresh in an interview with Reuters.

“There’s a lot of talk about hydrogen. But this is where rubber comes out on the streets with this project.”

A larger project, a $ 1 billion gas-fired power plant planned by mining tycoon Andrew Forrest, is also said to run on hydrogen, but has yet to make a final investment decision.

Maresh and GE Gas Power Asia Pacific CEO Aaron Scott declined to comment on whether GE is in discussions with Forrests Australian Industrial Energy on the project.

“Almost every customer we work with asks about hydrogen,” said Scott. “There is great interest across the industry.”

Australia’s gas producers, who are working on plans to produce hydrogen, say one of the big challenges is making sure there is demand for the product.

Projects like the expansion of EnergyAustralia’s Tallawarra gas-fired power plant, which will use 200 tons of hydrogen per year, will help boost demand, which in turn will help bring down prices for the product that is currently uncompetitive with gas.

“The challenge from the industry’s point of view is that hydrogen as a fuel is still expensive at this point in time. Therefore, the focus must be on increasing the amount of available hydrogen, but also being able to deliver this hydrogen at a competitive price, ”said Scott.

($ 1 = 1.3113 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Arrangement by Christopher Cushing

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