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Desert Bloom Hydrogen granted Major Project Status

Australian technology company Aqua Aerem Pty Ltd has announced that its breakthrough US$10.75 billion 10 GW Desert Bloom Hydrogen project has been granted Major Project Status by the Northern Territory government, paving the way for the production of commercial quantities of green hydrogen from 2023. This world first-of-its-kind project will commence works in 2022 and will produce 410 000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year for domestic and export use when at full scale.

Desert Bloom Hydrogen is being developed by Aqua Aerem, a technology company majority-owned by Sanguine Impact Investment and incorporating original project proponents, Axcentium and Ahurei. The project is based on deploying a series of modular and portable 2 MW Hydrogen Production Units (HPUs) that each generate water, heat, electricity, and hydrogen utilizing Aqua Aerem’s proprietary air-to-water technology (photo courtesy Aqua Aerem).

Sanguine Impact Investment invests in sustainable infrastructure and energy transition projects in selected emerging markets and developing economies. It is providing the capital for the project and has executed an agreement with one of Japan’s largest gas buyers and distributors to invest in the project.

An agreement with the region’s power utility Territory Generation has been signed with the intention to offtake hydrogen from the initial stages of the project.

Proprietary Aussie-developed technology

Desert Bloom Hydrogen utilizes breakthrough atmospheric water capture technology, powered by off-grid solar, to produce commercial quantities of renewable hydrogen with no impact on scarce local water resources or the environment.

Aqua Aerem co-founder and CEO Gerard Reiter said the project was “transformative” in the way it had managed to overcome water supply and solar/electrolysis integration problems that have so far held back global renewable hydrogen production.

With today’s announcement, the pathway for green hydrogen becomes a reality. Our air-to-water technology, which solves this previously intractable water supply problem, is a world first; invented and developed here in Australia. This technology will open the door for green hydrogen projects to be located where the best renewable power sources are available, which is generally in the driest areas of the planet. Within two years, Desert Bloom will supply hydrogen for power generation in the NT, and within five years, it will produce green hydrogen for export at less than US$2 per kg, said Gerard Reiter.

Initially based at Tennant Creek, close to existing gas and pipeline infrastructure that can be repurposed for hydrogen, the project will consist of a series of modular and portable 2 MW Hydrogen Production Units (HPUs) that each generates water, heat, electricity, and hydrogen.

Desert Bloom Hydrogen will comprise of approximately 4 000 HPUs at its peak.

The project has multiple competitive advantages. It uses proven technology and has its own water supply. It benefits from the world’s best solar resources, does not require large sunk costs before it begins producing, and is located at the ‘energy corridor’ of rail, road, and gas pipeline infrastructure linking directly to Darwin Port. It also offers the most direct, cost-effective route to Asian export markets, Gerard Reiter said.

Economic boost for the ‘comeback capital’

Reiter added that said these breakthroughs and the capital and operating costs savings made by the project would enable the production of green hydrogen at less than US$2/kg within five years.

It will assist in positioning Australia as a major player in the rapidly evolving global hydrogen market. Importantly, the project will be an economic boost for the Territory, creating up to 1 000 construction jobs and more than 120 full-time positions to operate and maintain the project. It will also promote skills development and education pathways and be a catalyst for new advanced manufacturing and regional development, Gerard Reiter said

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the development of projects such as Desert Bloom Hydrogen would see the Territory play a lead role in the emerging renewable hydrogen market.

Being the ‘comeback capital’ means diversifying the projects we have in the Territory – and Desert Bloom now marks the Territory’s 14th Major Project that’s in the works. Territorians will see the benefits on the ground in Central Australia and in the Top End with around 1 000 jobs and AU$1 billion a year in export revenue from this project alone – it’s good news for the Territory, Chief Minister Gunner said.

Aqua Aerem and Sanguine Impact Investment have applied rigorous environmental and social frameworks to the project, which was successfully piloted in early 2021. Professor Emeritus Barry Hart AO of the Water Studies Centre at Monash University has been appointed project adviser on water and climate issues.

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