Greenhill Energy, a business aiming to construct a $425 million waste-to-hydrogen plant in rural South Australia, is preparing for a capital raising to advance the project which will also produce fertiliser and synthetic fuels.

Managing director Nicholas Mumford, a former executive with Santos, said the group had successfully completed trials in Europe of the gasification process, and was heading into the next stage of the Riverbend Energy Hub project.

Mr Mumford is one of the shareholders in the project which aims to be up and running with its first stage by 2025 operating a facility capable of processing up to 60,000 tonnes of biomass and landfill waste.

He said Greenhill Energy had signed a memorandum of understanding with agribusiness group Elders as a potential future customer. “Clearly their interest is in the fertiliser side of things,” Mr Mumford said.

Greenhill Energy had also signed preliminary agreements with Solo Resource Recovery, and Peats Soil and Garden Supplies, a large composting company.

Mr Mumford, who worked as a commercial manager and strategy adviser with oil and gas giant Santos for nine years until 2015, said the group had signed a long-term lease covering 20ha of land near Tailem Bend, about 85km south-east of Adelaide.

He said the location was close to existing electricity transmission lines, a gas pipeline, rail line and a major freeway for road transport to Melbourne. The gasification process to be used at the plant utilises heat, steam, and oxygen to convert biomass to hydrogen and other products such as urea.

Mr Mumford said the facility would be constructed in stages and at full capacity was aiming to produce about 100,000 tonnes of urea fertiliser.

“The fertiliser industry knows they need to green up,” he said. “It will be a clean, green product.”

He declined to name the company with which Greenhill Energy had been conducting trials in Europe. “They’ve got a number of different sites around the globe,” he said. The trials had used a gasification plant in Poland.

Mr Mumford said the group was conscious of keeping costs as low as possible at a time when inflation had pushed up the price of renewable energy “kit” and would use local metal fabrication where realistic.

The Tailem Bend region is also the site of The Bend car racing complex which has been constructed by the Shahin family, the owners of the On The Run convenience store and fuel retailing business, which is being acquired by Viva Energy in a $1.15 billion deal.

Mr Mumford said Greenhill Energy’s project was underpinned by the increasing push by the community and policymakers to reach a point where waste was not going to landfill, but also needed to stack up financially.

“The commercial realities are clear,” he said.

The SA government is pushing hard to make the state a substantial player in the hydrogen industry. The SA government in late October named global giants ATCO and BOC Linde as preferred contractors to build a $593 million hydrogen plant and storage facility near Whyalla, just 6km from billionaire Sanjeev Gupta’s Whyalla steelworks.

The two foreign players, which represent a larger consortium, were chosen from a field of 29 proposals for the plant, to be owned by SA taxpayers and operating by early 2026.

Extracted in full from:  https://www.afr.com/companies/infrastructure/ex-santos-exec-fires-up-425m-waste-to-hydrogen-plan-20231214-p5ernh

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