By Peter Roberts
Fortescue Future Industries and fertiliser manufacturer Incitec Pivot have struck gold at the Gibson Island, Brisbane urea plant in their efforts to convert the facility from natural gas to green hydrogen feedstock.
The plant, which is to close in December because Incitec Pivot has been unable to secure a supply of gas, is suitable for conversion to zero carbon green hydrogen, according to initial studies by the two companies.
Based on the first phase of studies, FFI has found the project is technically feasible and issued IPL with a notice to proceed to the next phase.
This is the next step in FFI being able to demonstrate that fossil fuel infrastructure conversion is both technically and economically feasible.
The closure of the Gibson Island plant, which also produces carbon dioxide for the beverage industry, will force Incitec Pivot to source urea fertiliser from overseas at a time when urea prices are rising sharply on global markets.
This in turn will raise production costs for Australian farmers.
While this result is shocking in itself, it highlights the folly of Australian gas policies which see east coast gas exported through Gladstone while manufacturers struggle to secure gas supplies.
So much for the ‘gas-led recovery’.
FFI and IPL will now enter negotiations for an agreement to progress the project to a Front End Engineering Design study.
The study will refine cost, schedule, permitting and commercial agreements, and inform a potential Final Investment Decision.
FFI chairman Dr Andrew Forrest AO said the project would accelerate decarbonisation while also protecting local jobs in Queensland.
Dr Forrerst said: “The announcement of this important agreement at the IPL site in Brisbane in October was a significant milestone and I am delighted that we are now ready to confirm that we are moving to the next phase of studies to make this dream a reality.”
FFI CEO Julie Shuttleworth AM said this was an exciting opportunity to harness existing infrastructure at Gibson Island, fast tracking the production of green ammonia at an industrial scale.
“Pending further approvals, this project could be Australia’s first green ammonia production facility, demonstrating existing infrastructure can be retrofitted to utilise zero-emissions energy sources.”
FFI plans to construct an on-site electrolysis plant, which could produce up to 50,000 tonnes of renewable, green hydrogen per year for conversion into green ammonia, replacing the current fossil fuel gas feedstock.
The project, if successful, will safeguard manufacturing jobs in Queensland, and create a new domestic and export market for green, renewable ammonia.
Green hydrogen and green ammonia from the project could also provide a low-carbon fuel supply to the Port of Brisbane, Brisbane airport and other heavy transport users.
Picture: Incitec Pivot
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