Giants look to renewables to cut costs
Two of the biggest players in WA’s gas-propelled economy, Woodside Petroleum and Alcoa, are starting to look to renewables to slash their gas use as doubts rise about how big a role the fossil fuel will play in the transition to clean energy.
The Woodside-operated Karratha Gas Plant consumes 7 per cent of the gas it gets from offshore to generate power to run itself, and this creates about 70 per cent of the plant’s carbon emissions.
Chief executive Peter Coleman told the oil and gas industry last month cutting the amount of gas used for fuel by combining solar panels and batteries with gas generation would increase LNG exports and made environmental and economic sense.
Mr Coleman expects power generation at the North West Shelf Venture’s KGP and Woodside’s Pluto to be significantly different by the mid-2020s.
Concentrating solar thermal generation, where mirrors allow the sun to heat a liquid that produces steam 24 hours a day to generate power, could eventually also be used.
Alcoa, the State’s biggest gas consumer, is a partner in a $15 million research effort at the University of Adelaide into the use of CST in alumina production. University of Adelaide Centre for Energy Technology director Professor Gus Nathan, who is leading the research, said the team would have a good understanding of the preferred technology to use for the first stage and its economic and technical feasibility by the end of this year.
If successful, the full three stages of the research program could cut Alcoa’s gas use by up to 45 per cent.
Meanwhile, the backers of the Asian Renewable Energy Hub in the East Pilbara, who aim to send power to Indonesia, have added 1.2 gigawatts of capacity for the Pilbara market to their plans at a cost of $5 billion.
As big industrial users work to lessen their dependence on gas, the Public Utilities Office is considering the best fuel mix for the State’s power grid. Sustainable Energy Now chairman Ian Porter said the State should take care not to sign long-term contracts for power it may not need.
The group’s analysis showed 85 per cent of the South West grid could be supplied with renewable energy by 2030 at a similar cost to maintaining the current mix of coal, gas and renewables.
The change would reduce the power generated by gas to one-third of current levels.
The North West Shelf Venture's Karratha Gas Plant.