Joint media release: Albanese Government backs world-first renewable hydrogen project at Yarwun

The Hon Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Climate Change and Energy

Senator for Queensland The Hon Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Education, Assistant Minister for Regional Development

The Albanese Government is backing a world-first renewable hydrogen project at Yarwun Alumina Refinery in Gladstone to help reduce emissions for the long-term future for Australia’s jobs rich alumina industry.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is investing $32.1 million in the ground-breaking $111.1 million Yarwun renewable hydrogen calcination trial by Rio Tinto and Sumitomo Corporation.

Alumina is a critical part of the aluminium supply chain, a metal used in countless products across the economy – from kitchen utensils and food and drink cans to window frames, cars and aircraft parts.

Alumina refining accounts for about 3% of Australia’s emissions and is an energy-intensive process, consuming more than twice the energy used by Tasmania.

Using renewable hydrogen could eliminate emissions from the calcination process, which represents up to 30% of alumina refining emissions.

This critical investment will help install a 2.5 MW onsite electrolyser, a hydrogen storage facility, and a hydrogen-capable burner to retrofit one of the refinery’s 4 calciners – which are the large industrial ovens used in alumina refining.

The project is expected to be commissioned in 2025 and will form a key role in the wider transformation and decarbonisation of Gladstone's industrial hub.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, said innovative technology like this was critical for decarbonising heavy industry.

“The Albanese Government’s announcement today is about backing the future of our jobs rich aluminium industry, which brings in around $14 billion in export revenue each year and employs more than 17,000 Australians.

“Australia is the world’s largest exporter of alumina and cutting emissions from our alumina refining will ensure this industry can continue to thrive in a decarbonising global economy – where 139 countries have net zero by 2050 commitments.

“This technology could also pave the way for other hard-to-abate sectors to reduce their emissions,” Minister Bowen said.

Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Senator for Queensland, Anthony Chisholm, said this kind of industrial and economic opportunity will be a significant driver of future prosperity in Central Queensland.

“While reducing our emissions in heavy industry, investment in Central Queensland’s hydrogen capabilities means the region can make and export everything from renewable energy to green alumina.

“One of Australia’s biggest opportunities for growth and economic success is the global shift to clean energy,” Assistant Minister Chisholm said.

This announcement is in addition to the $1.4 billion the Albanese Government has committed to support hard-to-abate sectors, such as alumina, steel, cement and more through the Powering the Regions Fund.

The Albanese Government is also investing in Australia’s renewable hydrogen industry through the $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart program announced in the 2023-24 Budget, and over half a billion dollars in regional hydrogen hubs.