Green hydrogen hub to save steel town from wipe-out

Whyalla, the South Australian steel town once said to be destined for wipe-out, stands at the forefront of a global renewable energy race, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has declared.

Mr Albanese announced an extra $100 million alongside SA Premier Peter Malinauskas to help build the state’s first large-scale green hydrogen export terminal at Port Bonython near Whyalla, northwest of Adelaide.

The hub was situated to drive a green revolution at nearby steelworks, where a low-emissions electric arc furnace will negate the need for using polluting coking coal in the steelmaking process.

Mr Albanese prophesied a bright future for the town on the tip of the Spencer Gulf.

“It was said under a former government that Whyalla would be wiped off the map. Well, the opposite is occurring,” he said on Monday.

“We know that the world is in transition and that is why economies and indeed businesses that get ahead of shaping the future will be ones that are successful into the future.

“There is an opportunity that Australia has to be a renewable energy superpower and South Australia has been at the forefront of the transition to renewables for a long period of time.”

Mr Malinauskas in his budget last year confirmed plans to build a 250-megawatt electrolyser, a 200-megawatt power station and a 3600-tonne storage facility in the Whyalla region.

He said wind and solar resources, critical minerals, strong renewable energy penetration and well-developed industrial hubs put the state in prime position to lead the world in the burgeoning technology.

“We know that the race to decarbonise is on and for South Australia it’s a particularly important moment in time,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“We look to using our extraordinary sun and wind resource and transforming that into hydrogen, not just to export to the rest of the world but also to use domestically, as a massive economic opportunity.”

The new funding, including $70 million from the Commonwealth and $30 million from the state, will go towards developing infrastructure to enable the Port Bonython hub, which is expected to host up to $13 billion in hydrogen projects and generate as much as 1.8 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2030.

The SA government previously pledged $600 million to help develop the project.

Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of Whyalla steelworks owner GFG Alliance, says coal-based steelmaking helped to build the modern world but a rethink is needed to make it viable.

State Opposition Leader David Speirs said he supported the plans but was sceptical the funding would come anywhere near what is required.

“It just hasn’t been done anywhere else in the world,” he told ABC Radio.

“There’s just lots of questions to be answered.”


Jacob Shteyman
(Australian Associated Press)


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