Tallawarra B’s dual-fuel hydrogen future

Aerial shot of proposed Tallawarra B site
Aerial shot of proposed Tallawarra B site

Energy Source & Distribution takes a look at EnergyAustralia’s Tallawarra B project, which is set to lead the world in dual-fuel hydrogen power.

EnergyAustralia’s Tallawarra Power Station resides on the shores of Lake Illawarra, on the traditional Country of the Dharawal peoples.

It is a combined cycle station with fast-start capability, which produces less carbon emissions than conventional coal-fired power stations. The gas-fired power station’s generation capacity is 435MW—enough power to supply up to 200,000 homes. 

Before the Tallawarra gas-fired power station commenced operation in January 2009, the site was a 320MW coal-fired power station which operated between 1954 and 1989. 

With fast start gas required to balance New South Wales’ electricity grid, EnergyAustralia has responded with the Tallawarra B project.

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Tallawarra B is the development of a fast-start open cycle power station, which in peak periods will deliver reliable power to an additional 150,000 New South Wales homes. Its construction will contribute $300 million to the economy and create 250 jobs.

The project will deliver Australia’s first net-zero emissions hydrogen and gas capable power plant, with direct carbon emissions from the project offset over its operational life. The Tallawarra B project will be ready for the summer of 2023-24, ahead of the scheduled retirement of the Liddell power station.

World-first dual-fuel hydrogen power plant

In 2023, Australia will become the first country in the world to power up one of GE’s 9F hybrid gas-hydrogen turbines for grid electricity. The project will help Australia to de-carbonise power generation during the 2020s.

According to GE Australia country leader Sam Maresh, Tallawarra B sets a new benchmark for how gas generators can reach net-zero emissions by 2050, using green hydrogen and offset residual emissions.

“Hydrogen has two advantages. First, it can be made from wind and solar power using electrolysis. This is called ‘green hydrogen’. Second, hydrogen plants are ideal for dispatchable power. Like gas plants, they can be powered up quickly to balance variable output from renewables.

“For EnergyAustralia, the solution is hybrid power plants. These plants can use a blend of natural gas and hydrogen. This allows the generator to adjust the fuel intake, depending on the cost and availability of hydrogen. In turn, this creates an expanding market for hydrogen.”

The challenge was finding reliable technology for this new type of plant. EnergyAustralia turned to GE, which has invested heavily in adapting its gas turbines to new fuels, including hydrogen.

“We have decades of experience running our gas turbines safely on varying levels of hydrogen,” Maresh says. 

“Our turbines can burn fuels with hydrogen levels that vary from 5 per cent up to potentially 100 per cent in the future.”

In May 2021, EnergyAustralia signed a contract with GE to purchase the company’s 9F gas-fired turbines for the new Tallawarra B power station. The turbines will power Australia’s first dual-fuel, gas-hydrogen power plant. The plant will be used to stabilise the grid, firing up rapidly to meet peak demand.

According to Maresh, Australia will become the first country in the world to adapt the 9F turbine to a blend of natural gas and hydrogen for civil power generation. This will put Australia at the forefront of the transition to hydrogen power. It will also help kickstart industrial-scale hydrogen production in Australia.

“The Australian Government has been on the front foot with hydrogen for some time,” he says.

“There is clear guidance at state and federal level. This makes Australia an ideal candidate to pioneer hybrid gas-hydrogen power turbines.”

The New South Wales Government and Australian Federal Government contributed $83 million to support the Tallawarra B power project. All state and territory governments are taking concrete actions to develop Australia’s hydrogen industry. Australian Government support for the hydrogen industry is now worth approximately $A2.8 billion, according to the Government’s State of Hydrogen 2021 report.

Kickstarting the Illawarra’s hydrogen hub

EnergyAustralia chief operating officer Liz Westcott says the company is proud of its commitment to deliver Australia’s first net-zero emissions hydrogen and gas-capable power plant.

“The Tallawarra B project has the potential to launch demand for green hydrogen in Australia,” she says. 

“It will contribute to Australia becoming a renewable energy superpower. And it will deliver jobs and economic growth in the Illawarra.”

GE also expects the plant will act as a trigger for hydrogen production in Australia.

“This is a significant step forward for hydrogen transition in Australia,” Maresh says.

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“The project demonstrates the substantive role gas technologies can play in reducing carbon emissions and ensuring reliable electrical supply.

“Today, we are finding new ways to enhance the reliability of the energy grid while ensuring consumers have access to affordable, reliable and sustainable power.”

PROJECT SNAPSHOT

  • EnergyAustralia’s Tallawarra B power station will be powering New South Wales homes and businesses in time for summer following Liddell’s retirement
  • The peaking power station will be capable of using a blend of green hydrogen and natural gas, with the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions to be fully offset over its operational life
  • The new power station will deliver reliable power to around 150,000 homes1, contribute hundreds of millions to the economy and create 250 well-paid jobs during construction.