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The Western Australian Government has recently announced a $216,000 study grant to assess the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline’s (DBP) potential to boost the state’s hydrogen economy.

The funds will support an 18-month study to determine if and how the DBP can introduce hydrogen into its feedstock mix to contribute to the transition by WA’s energy sector to a lower carbon footprint.

Natural gas markets in the Perth metropolitan areas, and the State’s Peel, Pilbara and Mid-West regional precincts will be the focus of the study’s commercial and technical assessments of safely blending small volumes of hydrogen into the pipeline’s mainstream delivery network.

Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture and Food, and Ports, Alannah MacTiernan, said the funding had been provided under the WA Government’s Renewable Hydrogen Fund, part of the Australian Gas Infrastructure Group (AGIG) which will contribute a further $234,000 to the study’s estimated total cost of $450,000.

It is anticipated outcomes of the feasibility study will help both inform AGIG’s investment decisions that meet the Fund’s objectives, while servicing emerging demand from other energy sector players in WA keen to participate in hydrogen-based development and supply chain initiatives.

AGIG’s Chief Executive Officer, Ben Wilson, said that the DBP was strategically located to store and transport hydrogen produced in the Pilbara, Gascoyne and Mid-West regions into the commercial and industrial hubs of the greater Perth and Peel regions.

“Project Developers have already approached AGIG requesting to blend hydrogen into our pipeline,” Mr Wilson said.

“AGIG generally supports these projects but we must only proceed in a manner that ensures public safety is maintained, and there is currently no pre-defined method of introducing hydrogen into such large-scale assets as the Dampier to Bunbury link.

Mr Wilson said that work has already been completed on studying the compatibility of low-pressure gas distribution networks with blended hydrogen – particularly through AGIG’s current pioneering HyP SA project in Adelaide where first blended gas will be introduced into a local suburb in mid-2020.

“However, gas transmission pipelines offer greater challenges due to the diversity of gas users and higher operating pressures,” Mr Wilson said.

“AGIG is prepared to invest therefore in a number of studies to determine the best manner of introducing hydrogen into the DBP.”

The study will assess two possible methods of introducing hydrogen into the DBP and its laterals, including actual allowable volumes and ensuring no impact.

The aim is to accelerate the timeline for including and transporting initial low concentrations of hydrogen into the DBP – either initially in engineering approved sections or along its whole route – to enable growth of WA’s hydrogen production industry.

“AGIG recognises that we have a responsibility to de-carbonise natural gas transmission assets. This study will be a pre-requisite for the mooted gradual introduction of hydrogen, potentially at several different concentrations, into the DBP,” Mr Wilson said.

In addition to the study’s technical assessments, AGIG also intends to develop a roadmap to assist in the development of regulations for hydrogen blended gas within WA.

The Group proposes to seek alternate funding arrangements for a third and separate study that will deal with higher hydrogen concentrations and more dynamic operating scenarios.

WA’s current Engie/Yara green hydrogen plant and the Murchison Renewable Hydrogen Project have already flagged their interest in utilising the DBP’s blended hydrogen potential.

Mr Wilson said successful integration of hydrogen into the pipeline could help expand the number of remote area hydrogen applications, since the DBP is the primary gas transmission line supplying remote northern western Australia, while supplying both remote and Perth metropolitan area customers with gas blended with hydrogen.

The DBP feasibility studies are due for completion in June 2021.

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