Power up

Friday October 13, 2023

HYDROGEN has remained a hot topic among local politicians recently with Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell and Member for MacKillop Nick McBride throwing their support behind the proposed Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill.

The proposed bill would allow for exploration of renewable energy resources and establish an "effective and flexible regulatory framework" for the "construction, operating, maintaining and decommissioning" of renewable energy infrastructure and facilities for generating hydrogen for commercial use.

The proposed bill would "facilitate economic prosperity and benefits" for the state "through the development of an industry" in generating hydrogen and renewable energy, and "facilitate the grant of licences" to enable hydrogen and renewable energy projects to co-exist with other land uses.

Millicent Kimberly Clark Australia (KCA) mill manager Adam Carpenter said hydrogen could be a direct replacement for natural gas and as a part of paper product manufacturing, and the company used a "lot of energy in drying of the products".

Mr Carpenter said the thermal energy would be replaced with hydrogen with the company having a commitment to reducing its carbon emissions associated with its operations.

"We also have a local commitment as well, we wish to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions through to 2030, so we need to look at ways we can replace carbon-based fuels with renewable fuels," Mr Carpenter said.

"As part of the feasibility study we looked into the establishment of the hydrogen hub and the idea behind a hydrogen hub is that a third party would produce the hydrogen and they would access renewable electricity so that would be via wind farms or solar to generate the hydrogen but it would be used by other users."

He said the idea of having a hydrogen hub near KCA Millicent would be beneficial due to the mill's "large thermal energy consumption".

"We could utilise that hydrogen, but there would also be hydrogen available for other users," he said.

"It would make sense to establish an industry hub around the hydrogen hub and we applaud the support we get from the state government.

"We have had the premier on site and one of those discussions we had with him was regarding our future and how that could be supported by the government for a more sustainable option."

Mr Carpenter said KCA had also had discussions around the idea of a hydrogen hub with Mr McBride.

"Renewable energy is the way forward in the region and we have incredible natural resources in South Australia from what we can see with the wind generation here locally," he said.

"The challenge from a renewable energy point of view is being able to have it dispatched 24/7 and for major manufacturers that will always be the challenge because we need it 24/7."

Mr Carpenter said he believed the South East was a "good place for hydrogen" as it would complement some of the industries which were already in the region.

"We are also looking at moving into transport and we have a lot of heavy vehicles in the region with forestry and long haul trucks," he said.

"There are other industries which could use hydrogen as well."

Commenting on the bill, Mr McBride said better infrastructure would be needed in order to implement hydrogen in the region.

"All I can say to any government, no matter the colour of their politics, is that we do need good infrastructure across our state so it not only transports energy but is reliable and safe to use 24/7 rather than switching it off because the winds might be too high," Mr McBride said.

He said the bill gave the "opportunity to license and allow the generation of hydrogen using renewable energy".

"Two of those energies obviously are solar and wind," Mr McBride said.

"In the summer months, we do have more sunshine than in winter months and we also have some large industries which would benefit from this type of energy base if it were allowed to stack up."

Mr McBride touched on the Millicent mill and said if there were access opportunities for KCA to use hydrogen and renewable power to "substitute its high need on natural gas".

Also in favour of the bill was Mr Bell, who reiterated that he believed the South East was a good regional area for hydrogen.

"I keep promoting the South East as an ideal place for hydrogen generation," Mr Bell said.

"When you think about it, putting electricity through fresh water to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms of courts needs fresh water, and you need - if it is going to be green hydrogen - renewable energy.

"The South East is abundant in both of those categories, it has more fresh water probably running out to sea every day than nearly any other part of South Australia and with the renewable energy in solar and wind farms along our coastlines it has abundant renewable energy."

He also supported KCA being the main property for a hydrogen hub and applauded the government for "looking at many areas across South Australia" for hydrogen development.