Gi­ants look to re­new­ables to cut costs

Pilbara News - - NEWS - Peter Milne

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.

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