A new research report shows the integration of solar energy into Australia’s liquid natural gas industry could dramatically reduce Australia’s carbon footprint while also creating thousands of additional jobs.
Produced by Charles Darwin University (CDU) and National Energy Resources Australia (NERA), the federally funded, independent not-for-profit set up to drive collaboration and growth in the energy resources sector, the report was also supported by Santos, Sun Cable and the Northern Territory government.
The report used the Santos-operated Darwin LNG facility as a technical case study to examine the potential to decarbonise LNG facilities at sites across the NT, Queensland and Western Australia through electrification and large-scale renewables.
The report’s authors concluded solar energy integration was potentially economically viable to offset up to 50 per cent of the plant’s emissions from electricity generation.
Additional savings of nearly three times that amount could be offset with solar energy by retro-fitting ‘helper motors’ to partially electrify the plant’s compression turbines which currently run on gas.
CDU professor and director of the Energy and Resources Institute Suresh Thennadil said: “If this integration was implemented at all of Australia’s LNG plants, the initiative could reduce Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions by around five million tonnes per annum – that’s around 1 per cent of Australia’s total emissions.”
Northern Territory Minister for Renewables and Energy Eva Lawler said the findings showed the potential of solar energy to slash the emissions of the country’s LNG sector and lower the nation’s carbon footprint.
Lawler said: “This innovative collaboration demonstrates the opportunity for the Northern Territory – and Australia – to be a leader in the journey to net zero.
“Leveraging our renewable resources to power the LNG sector could reduce the Territory’s emissions, create jobs, and position Territory exports as a low-carbon premium product.
“This opportunity complements other initiatives being advanced in the Northern Territory, including developing a carbon capture and storage hub and building a renewable hydrogen industry.”
The report also found the integration of solar energy into Australia’s LNG industry could increase the nation’s energy security by saving over 97 million gigajoules of gas a year – equivalent to more than 10 per cent of domestic demand – and create more than 1,000 construction and 868 ongoing jobs.
For Sun Cable, who are planning to develop the world’s largest solar farm and battery storage facility in the NT, the study results provide them with great assurance.
Sun Cable chief executive officer David Griffin said: “This study is an important reinforcement of the viability, impact and environmental benefits of Sun Cable’s Australia-Asia PowerLink project for the Northern Territory, wider Australia, and our region.
“The Australia-Asia PowerLink will help unlock economic opportunities by providing affordable, dispatchable, renewable electricity at scale.
“We can use our abundant levels of solar energy to remove embedded emissions in our domestic and export industries, as well as directly exporting electricity overseas, making Australia a modern renewable energy superpower.”