Oakajee hydrogen hub north of Geraldton misses out on Federal funding boost

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
The site of the proposed Oakajee Port, 22km north of Geraldton.
Camera IconThe site of the proposed Oakajee Port, 22km north of Geraldton. Credit: Claire Tyrell/Contributed

The Mid West’s long-awaited green hydrogen project proposed for Oakajee has been dealt another blow after being snubbed in a Federal funding pledge to clean energy initiatives in WA.

Bipartisan Federal support was this week given for a $140 million funding commitment towards two new hydrogen hubs in Kwinana and the Pilbara.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also pledges $40m to support the design and construction of Woodside Energy’s multi-user Burrup carbon capture and storage hub and CO2 gathering and transportation network, $20m for Mitsui E&P’s Mid West carbon capture and storage hub, and $7m for Buru Energy to “assess the potential for onshore storage” in the Carnarvon Basin.

State Hydrogen Industry Minister Alannah MacTiernan welcomed the cash commitment, but said she was disappointed Oakajee had once again missed out on Federal funding.

“We think it is one of the most amazing prospects. We suspect that because it is a purely green hydrogen project it may not have appealed as much to the current (Federal) Energy Minister, who is certainly very interested in blue hydrogen (which is hydrogen made from natural gas),” she said.

“It’s not that we are opposed to blue hydrogen, we just think that the taxpayer dollar is better invested going straight to renewable hydrogen because that is what is going to help us meet our climate goals, it is going to help us de-carbonise our economy and help us provide a de-carbonised fuel product to our trading partners.”

But Ms MacTiernan was adamant the Oakajee project could proceed of State funding alone.

“Obviously if we had that Federal money that would have helped really drive it along, but we have still got $47m that we have committed and that is going to stay with the project,” she said.

“We are continuing to work on the land allocation. . . and how to divide up the area to accommodate all those people who are wanting to operate off that site.

“We are moving forward on a number of different fronts to ensure this goes ahead.”

The State Government 12 months ago received more than 65 expressions of interest from businesses keen to invest in the project, with Ms MacTiernan said more parties had since indicated interest in becoming involved.

“We are trying to make sure we have the optimum accommodation, so that we get some very big international and national players, but then also have some ability for some of the smaller entities with very interesting technology to get involved as well,” she said.

“We have been having meetings about the land allocations, about the way the energy and water requirements for the site, a lot of work is going on in government on this and certainly over the next few months we will have some major announcements to make.”

Member for Durack Melissa Price agreed it was disappointing Oakajee had not been included in Federal funding package, but said the Government was committed to backing clean energy projects in WA.

“I can only assume that the State Government’s Oakajee submission was not as strong as these two successful applications, which is disappointing,” she said.

“Regardless, I am 100 per cent behind diversifying the Mid West economy, with support from the Federal Government of major project status to Strike Energy’s low carbon fertiliser development, Project Haber, our $49m investment in a local vanadium battery project and a $1.25 billion loan to establish Australia’s first integrated rare earths refinery at Eneabba.”

Construction of an access road into the Oakajee Strategic Industrial Area was due to begin early this year, but Ms MacTiernan said these works had been delayed.

“It is a source of immense frustration to me that the design and planning of this (access road) is taking such a long time,” she said.

“It’s a very lengthy process that has been selected and we are seeking to have that expedited.”

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