Fortescue in talks to switch aging ammonia plant to renewable hydrogen

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) is currently in talks with industrial chemicals company Incitec Pivot over the conversion of a Brisbane-based ammonia production plant’s energy source to green hydrogen.

The Australian companies will conduct an engineering design study on Incitec’s Gibson Island ammonia facility that will detail the expected cost, timing and commercial opportunities of the plant conversion, with a final investment decision expected to follow.

The move would potentially rescue the plant from closure, after Incitec found that it could ultimately use up to 50,000 tonnes of renewable hydrogen a year to produce more than 300,000 tonnes of green ammonia, using Fortescue to construct and operate an onsite electrolysis plant.

That level of green hydrogen production would require electricity supplies from around 1,000MW of wind and solar capacity. It would allow for a complete replacement of the ammonia plant’s existing fossil hydrogen feedstock.

FFI chairman Andrew Forrest said the positive outcome of a technical feasibility study, instigated in October, was a step forward for the decarbonisation of a key Queensland industry.

“The announcement of this important agreement at the IPL site in Brisbane in October was a significant milestone, and I am delighted that we are now ready to confirm that we are moving to the next phase of studies to make this dream a reality,” he said.

Most of the world’s ammonia production is used as a fertiliser in agricultural production, but it’s also used as a fuel for heavy transport, as well as an effective transport medium for hydrogen.