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Ships complete hydrogen supply chain

‘‘Green’’ hydrogen has taken centre stage in the energy debate as the most achievable non-battery solution to storing and transporting intermittent output from solar and wind facilities.

Australia is graced with abundant renewable resources to play a key role in developing green hydrogen as an export sector – and aspires to be a major global participant by 2030.

The potential is not lost on various levels of government and the private sector, with numerous ‘‘hydrogen hubs’’ planned for the sun-kissed Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia.

Global energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimates the seaborne trade of hydrogen will grow to 150 million tonnes by 2050.

The imperative for efficient energy storage beyond batteries is keenly felt in Europe, which faces an energy crisis as Russian oil and gas supply is curtailed.

Europe alone is expected to import 10 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2030. To meet that demand, ports are being specially designed to feed into dedicated hydrogen infrastructure across the Netherlands and into Germany.

Amid the rush to develop hydrogen facilities, the overlooked imperative is how the lightweight gas – the first element on the periodic table – can be stored and transported across the seas in a competitive and efficient way.

That’s the focus of the ASX-listed Provaris Energy (ASX.PV1) – recently renamed from Global Energy Ventures (GEV) – which has developed the design of two proprietary gaseous hydrogen (GH2) gas carriers.

With a capacity of 26,000 and 120,000 cubic metres, the ships have won approval in principle from the American Bureau of Shipping, and the company is now in a position to engage with ship owners, other regulators and industry stakeholders.

The GH2 carriers are the final leg of the company’s proposed integrated compressed hydrogen supply chain, with a project proposed for the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory.

This project will integrate a 2.8 gigawatt solar farm with a 30 kilometre transmission line to an existing port, where an electrolyser (to produce the hydrogen) would be built. It also includes a compression facility, a loading terminal and the fleet of ships to deliver the precious molecules to Asian customers.

The venture is expected to export up to 100,000 tonnes of green hydrogen from 2026.

“In essence, the project would be the country’s first price-competitive, zero-emissions and fully integrated green hydrogen export supply chain exporting pure gaseous green hydrogen, not in either a liquid or cryogenic format,” says Provaris managing director Martin Carolan.

Founded in 2016, Provaris Energy initially aimed to commercialise a compressed natural gas shipping supply chain. But given the emergence of net zero emissions mandates, the company shifted its focus to green hydrogen in 2020.

“We managed successfully to develop that program over the past two years and now expect a key shipping approval, called Class,” he says.

Compression is the seaborne iteration of an existing onshore storage method, but on a grander scale. Containerised storage of hydrogen using compression at 500 bar can store between 800 kilograms and one tonne of hydrogen, with the tanks built with high-carbon steel to mitigate the risk of leakage.

The patented, low-cost Provaris solution integrates two 130-metre-long tanks into the ship’s structure, which also provides stability for the vessel.

The common shipping alternative is to produce ammonia (NH3) or liquefaction, as used to export natural gas as LNG. The trouble is, the hydrogen needs to be chilled to minus-253 degrees – even cooler than LNG. If that’s not energy ineffective enough, the liquefied gas then needs to be reconverted to a gas on arrival.

“There’s a lot of energy and capital being spent to convert the product into a much higher density liquid, purely to get the shipping costs down,” Carolan says.

He says the proximity of the Tiwi Islands to target markets should ensure a competitive delivered price.

Carolan adds the company has received permissions for feasibility activities, with strong support from the local Munupi landowners and the Northern Territory government.

The company expects to start building the ships next year, with the evaluation of the Tiwi Islands project running in parallel.

“We expect it will take up to three years to build a fleet, providing sufficient lead time to construct the solar generation, electrolysis and compression facilities,” Carolan says.

While the Tiwi project initially is focused on Singapore as its key market, Provaris Energy is currently working with Austrade to establish offtake and investment connections in Japan and Korea.

Beyond Asia, the bespoke Provaris Energy GH2 gas carriers would be suitable for European supply chains, such as shipping hydrogen produced in Norway, Portugal or Morocco to ports in the Netherlands.

“We have just returned from the World Hydrogen Summit in Rotterdam, where we heard the clear message that compression is the ideal alternative to ammonia to transport gaseous hydrogen well before 2030,” Carolan says.

He adds that, with a modest market valuation of around $40 million, Provaris offers plenty of upside to investors as it cements its unique position in the emerging green hydrogen sector.

Source: Provers Energy / Financial Review eEdition

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