Delivering the future of gas through Australia’s most comprehensive green hydrogen demonstration

The $15 million Western Sydney Green Gas project is a five-year trial that will convert solar and wind power into hydrogen gas, via electrolysis, which will then be stored for use across the Jemena Gas Network in New South Wales, the biggest gas distribution network in Australia. Zinfra, a leading engineering, project management, construction, operations and maintenance services provider, is Jemena’s project delivery partner, helping to execute the innovative project, which will explore how existing gas infrastructure can play a significant role in a greener energy future.

Jemena’s project will be co-funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) who has committed $7.5 million in funding for the project. If the demonstration of hydrogen blending in the gas network, storage and electricity generation as ancillary service is successful, the solution could be expanded and replicated across Australia.

The project is also being enabled for cylinder filling with the aim to refill tube trailers with hydrogen to be utilised off-site for public and private fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) opportunities, making renewably-generated hydrogen available to the NSW vehicle industry.

Renewable Project Manager, Jarrod Irving, from Zinfra’s Gas Projects team said that by working with Jemena on Australia’s most comprehensive green hydrogen demonstration project, Zinfra was not only able to understand the future potential integration of hydrogen within existing gas networks, but also use the experience to upskill its field force in working with hydrogen.

“We are currently going through a massive change in the energy landscape, and hydrogen could provide a solution to the energy trilemma of reliability, affordability and sustainability – through networks supplying decarbonised gas to consumers and as an energy storage mechanism,” Mr Irving said.

“This transition is well supported within Zinfra thanks to its leading capabilities across both the electricity and gas sectors, in which hydrogen will play a significant role, whether it be through intermittent storage, electrical generation or network injection.

“Given this, we wanted to ensure that the project wasn’t treated just as a trial, but as an opportunity to expand our capabilities and upskill our workforce.”

As part of the project, Jemena purchased New South Wales’ first electrolyser which converts solar and wind power into hydrogen gas through a process called electrolysis.

Hydrogen produced by the electrolyser will be stored within a 340m long, 500 mm diameter buffer store pipeline – which can store approximately 120kg of hydrogen (approximately 4MWh of onsite storage) – before injection into the secondary gas network or generation of electricity through a microturbine or fuel cell to demonstrate the flexibility of hydrogen within future energy networks.

Using industry experience to achieve the right outcomes

The facility design also offered unique challenges to overcome, one of those was the application of Australian Standards. The standards for piping, hazardous areas, already cover hydrogen, however, the Australian Standard for transmission pipelines (our hydrogen pipeline acts as a buffer storage facility) specifically excludes hydrogen.

This meant that Zinfra with the support of its engineering design consultant GPA Engineering had to utilise a hybrid of two standards for the buffer store pipeline – AS2885 for general pipeline design and ASME B31.12 for specific material and weld considerations with respect to interactions with hydrogen gas. The pipeline material used is similar to the Jemena Gas Network and will allow Jemena to understand the future implication of hydrogen within the gas network.

Construction was undertaken in partnership with Wasco Pty Ltd and commenced in early 2021 with the first green hydrogen produced in May 2021 as part of the electrolyser safety testing in the lead up to commissioning. As commissioning is completed and the facility moves to operation hydrogen will begin to be blended into the Jemena Gas Network in NSW in the second half of 2021.

Safety systems exist within Zinfra for the standard day-to-day operations around managing natural gas, however, hydrogen acts differently. Mr Irving said that by leveraging its relationship with Jemena’s project partners, the project and operations team investigated how safety systems are applied across the industry. As safety is Zinfra’s number one priority Zinfra will be applying this knowledge with the implementation of new processes and procedures developed to minimise safety risks associated with the new hydrogen facility.

“It was decided that new systems be developed, including a Hydrogen 101 training program and new hydrogen permit system, to ensure the workers we have attending hydrogen facilities understand the way hydrogen works and how to safely complete maintenance tasks on hydrogen equipment,” Mr Irving said.

“The hydrogen permitting system ensures tasks can be completed safely by allowing operational personnel experienced and trained in dealing with hydrogen to open hydrogen work permits. All training is completed and overseen by a registered training organisation with certificates provided to our personnel.”

Application of Novel Technology

The application of electrolysis is not new, however, utilising large scale electrolysers to produce hydrogen is part of an emerging industry which is supported by a developing supply chain. This was severely impacted during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and had to be managed to avoid impacting the project delivery. In addition, the Zinfra team managed lockdowns and air travel restrictions to work with the supplier to successfully complete Factory Acceptance Testing via video communication.

Zinfra prides itself on being responsive, flexible and collaborative – all essential attributes when working on a project that will feature several Australian and world firsts, including:

● The world’s first renewable hydrogen pipeline
● Australia’s first micro turbine to run on hydrogen and power the grid
● The first fuel cell in Australia to power the grid
● The first direct injection of hydrogen into a steel pipeline and natural gas blend

Mr Irving said that while Zinfra uses its experience and expertise in the power and gas sectors to deliver successful project outcomes, it also embraces continuous learning and improvement.

“Projects generally carry risks and complexity no matter how big or small, however the Western Sydney Green Gas project included some very significant challenges, in particular the application of novel technology and implementation of many firsts within Australia,” Mr Irving said.

“Thanks to the support of a strong project team and project partners including GPA Engineering and Wasco Pty Ltd across the engineering and construction aspects, we have been able to overcome these challenges and deliver a facility that is the most comprehensive green hydrogen demonstration project in Australia.”

A collaborative approach to decarbonisation of the gas network

Mr Irving said that the project showcases Zinfra’s commitment to building and maintaining genuine partnerships with its suppliers, clients and communities, as well as making a positive contribution to Australia’s energy infrastructure. This includes developing key relationships across the energy industry, including working with Endeavour Energy.

“The project has demonstrated Zinfra’s broad capabilities to manage complex stakeholder requirements while ensuring key project objectives are maintained,” Mr Irving said.

“This includes the project team working with industry partners to support knowledge sharing opportunities and lessons learnt to enhance the reputation and application of hydrogen within the energy industry to support the commercialisation of hydrogen.”

“Zinfra is committed to supporting renewable gas solutions with a dedicated team in place to work on the many emerging opportunities for renewable gases across Australia to support the energy transition.”

The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Australian Government, and the Australian Government does not accept responsibility for any information or advice contained herein.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands upon which we operate and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters, and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

Pictured: Artwork by Aboriginal artist Chern’ee Sutton from Mount Isa for our Group’s Reconciliation Action Plan.