Oakajee: renewable hydrogen hub is MacTiernan’s priority

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
WA Hydrogen Industry minister Alannah MacTiernan and Member for Geraldton Lara Dalton at Oakajee last September before taking up their current roles.
Camera IconWA Hydrogen Industry minister Alannah MacTiernan and Member for Geraldton Lara Dalton at Oakajee last September before taking up their current roles. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian, Geoff Vivian

WA’s first Hydrogen Industry Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, is getting serious about making the Mid West a renewable energy hub and ensuring the Oakajee industrial estate is infrastructure-ready.

The minister charged with steering this new energy frontier has promised a $7.5 million road network into Oakajee Industrial Estate is well and truly in this year’s State Budget.

She committed the funding as an election promise while public servants examined 65 expressions of interest from companies worldwide who wished to start a renewable hydrogen industry at Oakajee.

“Rather than wait around when we know there are so many interested players, let’s walk and chew gum at the same time,” Ms MacTiernan told the Geraldton Guardian this week.

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“Whatever happens at Oakajee, that road is going to be needed.

This new industry is a major opportunity for Western Australia, and if we want to get out there and be a major global player we’ve got to grab the opportunity with both hands.

While she said a hydrogen-powered micro-grid should be powering Shark Bay by Christmas, and she was excited by other WA hydrogen projects, it was clear she saw Oakajee as the main game.

“We have 4000ha and our evidence is that that can generate 1.5 gigawatts of power, yet for 25 years it’s been sitting around there as an empty paddock,” she said.

“There’s an opportunity for a huge new industry that will provide ongoing jobs.”

According to Ms MacTiernan, the jobs start with construction of the renewable hydrogen facility and its maintenance.

When production reached a suitable scale, she said it could be used to fuel a power plant.

“The potential that it has to reduce power costs over the next decade will start making it possible to look at downstream-processing minerals,” she said.

Ultimately, the production of renewable hydrogen at the scale that we’re envisaging will enable us to have enterprises such as green steel manufacture.

Ms MacTiernan said an attractive new industry creating jobs would also have an economic multiplier effect as people moved into Geraldton and surrounding areas, using a variety of services.

“If we are able to do this and start getting hydrogen into the gas network there, there’s a real opportunity for Geraldton to become a renewable energy hub,” she said.

As land at the Narngulu industrial estate is almost all taken up, she said existing heavy industries needed more room to grow.

Ms MacTiernan said locating the renewable hydrogen plant at Oakajee meant key head works also would be constructed, making it a viable location for these other heavy industries.

She said Oakajee was uniquely suited to large-scale renewable hydrogen production.

“It has high-level wind and solar but it also has a land tenure which is going to be easier to deal with than most areas of that equivalent scale,” Ms MacTiernan said.

It is already zoned industrial in an area over which the native title has been resolved.

She said the WA Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation was expected to report on the expressions of interest mid-year.

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