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A report released by Charles Darwin University (CDU) and National Energy Resources Australia (NERA has revealed integrating solar energy into Australia’s liquid natural gas (LNG) industry could dramatically reduce emissions to meet 2030 targets.

The report, produced with support from Santos, Sun Cable and the Northern Territory Government, used the Santos-operated Darwin LNG facility as a technical case study, to examine the potential to decarbonise LNG facilities at sites across the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia via electrification and large-scale renewables. 

 The report’s authors concluded solar energy integration was potentially economically viable to offset up to 50 per cent of the plant’s emissions from electricity generation.

Additional savings of nearly three times that amount could be offset with solar energy by retro-fitting ‘helper motors’ to partially electrify the plant’s compression turbines which currently run on gas. 

CDU Director of the Energy and Resources Institute, Professor Suresh Thennadil, said the initiative could reduce emissions to meet the country’s 2030 targets. 

“If this integration was implemented at all of Australia’s LNG plants, the initiative could reduce Australia’s CO2 emissions by around 5m tonnes per annum,” Mr Thennadil said.

“That’s around one per cent of Australia’s total emissions up to nine per cent of the reductions required to meet Australia’s 2030 targets.”

Northern Territory Minister for Renewables and Energy, Eva Lawler, said the findings showed the potential of solar energy to slash the emissions of the country’s LNG sector. 

“This innovative collaboration demonstrates the opportunity for the Northern Territory – and Australia – to be a leader in the journey to net zero,” Ms Lawler said.

“Leveraging our renewable resources to power the LNG sector could reduce the Territory’s emissions, create jobs, and position Territory exports as a low-carbon premium product. 

“This opportunity complements other initiatives being advanced in the Northern Territory, including developing a Carbon Capture and Storage Hub and building a renewable hydrogen industry.” 

CEO of NERA, Miranda Taylor, said that given the massive potential emissions reductions, government investment is needed. 

“With net zero goals being set globally, the LNG industry must explore all opportunities to decarbonise if it wants to stay relevant and sustainable for the decades to come,” Ms Taylor said. 

“The Australian LNG industry has historically been a relatively high-emissions industry, so seeing how the integration of renewable, solar energy – of which Australia has an abundance – can make dramatic reductions is a big step forward.”

The report also found that the integration of solar energy into Australia’s LNG industry could increase the nation’s energy security by saving over 97m GJ of gas a year – equivalent to more than ten per cent of domestic demand – and create over 1,000 construction jobs and 868 ongoing jobs. 

Sun Cable, who are planning to develop the world’s largest solar farm and battery storage facility in the Northern Territory, said the study results provide them with great assurance. 

Sun Cable CEO, David Griffin, said the study is an important reinforcement of the viability, impact and environmental benefits of Sun Cable’s Australia-Asia PowerLink project for the Northern Territory, wider Australia and the region. 

“The Australia-Asia PowerLink will help unlock economic opportunities by providing affordable, dispatchable, renewable electricity at scale,” Mr Griffin said

“We can use our abundant levels of solar energy to remove embedded emissions in our domestic and export industries, as well as directly exporting electricity overseas, making Australia a modern renewable energy superpower.”

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