MELBOURNE, June 17 (Reuters) - Interest in using hydrogen in
gas-fired power plants is growing in Australia, where one
project last month got the go-ahead, which could drive early
demand for green hydrogen, General Electric Co executives
GE in May won a contract to supply a turbine for a A$300
million ($229 million) expansion of a gas-fired plant owned by
Australia's third-largest power retailer EnergyAustralia, which
will be the country's first commercial power plant able to use
both gas and hydrogen.
"What we're effectively doing through this project is
kicking off the hydrogen economy in Australia," GE's Australia
head, Sam Maresh, told Reuters in an interview.
"There's a lot of talk about hydrogen. But here the rubber
hits the road with this project."
A bigger project, a A$1 billion gas-fired plant planned by
mining magnate Andrew Forrest, is also looking to be able to run
on hydrogen, but has yet to reach a final investment decision.
Maresh and GE Gas Power Asia Pacific head Aaron Scott
declined to comment on whether GE is in talks with Forrest's
Australian Industrial Energy on that project.
"Virtually every customer that we are working with is asking
about hydrogen," Scott said. "There is significant interest
right across the industry."
Australia's gas producers who are working on plans to
produce hydrogen say one of the big challenges is to ensure that
there is demand for the product.
Projects like EnergyAustralia's Tallawarra gas plant
expansion, which will take 200 tonnes a year of hydrogen, will
help spur demand, which in turn will help drive down prices for
the product which is currently uncompetitive with gas.
"The challenge from an industry perspective is that hydrogen
as a fuel is still expensive at this point in time. So the focus
needs to be on growing the volume of hydrogen available, but
also being able to deliver that hydrogen at a competitive
price," Scott said.
($1 = 1.3113 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Christopher Cushing)