Australia a global first with dual-fuel hydrogen power plant

2 February 2022

In 2023, Australia will become the first country in the world to power up one of GE’s 9F hybrid gas-hydrogen turbines for grid electricity. The project will help Australia to de-carbonise power generation during the 2020s.

In this case study, GE Australia Country Leader, Sam Maresh explains:

  • Why Australia is a good place to invest in clean power generation
  • How the new gas plant will help trigger demand for clean hydrogen.

Power transition: from coal to gas to hydrogen

EnergyAustralia’s Tallawarra B project will provide over 300 MW of dispatchable capacity for New South Wales (NSW) customers. It will be ready to step up in the summer of 2023–24. This coincides with the retirement of the Liddell 1.6 GW coal-fired power plant in the Hunter Valley, NSW.

Tallawarra B sets a new benchmark for how gas generators can reach net zero emissions by 2050: it will use green hydrogen and offset residual emissions.

Hydrogen has two advantages. First, it can be made from wind and solar power using electrolysis. This is called ‘green hydrogen’. Second, hydrogen plants are ideal for dispatchable power. Like gas plants, they can be powered up quickly to balance variable output from renewables plants.

Australia is on track to become a major global producer of green hydrogen. This is thanks to abundant high-quality, low-cost wind and solar resources and a well-established and regulated energy market.

Prospects look excellent. The share of renewable energy in Australian power generation is set to rise from 28% in 2020-2021 to 79% by 2030 (Source: Australian Energy Market Operator, Draft 2022 Integrated System Plan, December 2021). But the hydrogen-manufacturing industry can’t grow quickly without major investment. And to attract investment, the hydrogen industry needs industrial-sized customers.

EnergyAustralia leads transition to green, dual-fuel plants

For EnergyAustralia, the solution is hybrid power plants. These plants can use a blend of natural gas and hydrogen. This allows the generator to adjust the fuel intake, depending on the cost and availability of hydrogen. In turn, this creates an expanding market for hydrogen.

The challenge for EnergyAustralia was finding reliable technology for this new type of plant.

GE is one of the major global suppliers of industrial gas turbines. The company’s products generate approximately one-third of the world’s power. GE has invested heavily in adapting its gas turbines to new fuels – including hydrogen.

‘We have decades of experience running our gas turbines safely on varying levels of hydrogen, says Maresh. ‘Our turbines can burn fuels with hydrogen levels that vary from 5% up to potentially 100% in the future.’

In June 2021, EnergyAustralia signed a contract with GE to purchase the company’s 9F gas-fired turbines for the new Tallawarra B power station. The turbines will power Australia’s first dual-fuel, gas-hydrogen power plant. The plant will be used to stabilise the grid, firing up rapidly to meet peak demand.

Why Australia for hydrogen power?

According to Maresh, Australia will become the first country in the world to adapt the 9F turbine to a blend of natural gas and hydrogen for civil power generation. This will put Australia at the forefront of the transition to hydrogen power. It will also help kick-start industrial-scale hydrogen production in Australia.

‘The Australian Government has been on the front foot with hydrogen for some time,’ says Maresh. ‘There is clear guidance at state and federal level. This makes Australia an ideal candidate to pioneer hybrid gas-hydrogen power turbines.’

The New South Wales Government and Australian Federal Government contributed A$83 million to support the Tallawarra B power project. All state and territory governments are taking concrete actions to develop Australia’s hydrogen industry. Australian Government support for the hydrogen industry is now worth approximately $A2.8 billion, according to the Government’s State of Hydrogen 2021 report.

Tallawarra B hopes to kick-start the Illawarra’s hydrogen hub

Chief Operating Officer for EnergyAustralia, Liz Westcott, says the company is proud of its commitment to deliver Australia’s first net zero emissions hydrogen and gas-capable power plant.

‘The Tallawarra B project has the potential to launch demand for green hydrogen in Australia,’ she says. ‘It will contribute to Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower. And it will deliver jobs and economic growth in the Illawarra.’

GE also expects the plant will act as a trigger for hydrogen production in Australia.

‘This is a significant step forward for hydrogen transition in Australia,’ says Maresh. ‘The project demonstrates the substantive role gas technologies can play in reducing carbon emissions and ensuring reliable electrical supply.

‘Today, we are finding new ways to enhance the reliability of the energy grid while ensuring consumers have access to affordable, reliable and sustainable power.’

Find out more about investing in Australia or contact Austrade for more information.