To date, the use of large-scale solar to supply LNG facilities has not been implemented due to questions of cost, reliability, maturing regulatory environment, and appropriately sited solar resources.
This study examined the potential for integrating solar power into existing land-based Australian LNG plants to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Since these plants have already been built, the study investigated technologies to retrofit these facilities.
The study drew on expertise from LNG plant operations, renewable developers, academia, government and regulators to identify technical and commercial barriers, and solutions.
Key objectives of the study were to:
This study aimed to increase the sustainability, social license and long-term competitiveness of the Australian LNG industry by developing a world-leading pathway to reducing emissions and lowering costs.
The outcome of this study is a world-first blueprint for LNG facilities to increase fuel efficiency and competitiveness with potential applications for other large industrial facilities, also using gas for power generation. This will provide opportunities for a huge range of businesses in the supply chain, such as renewable developers, whilst addressing key community concerns about emissions produced by the energy sector.
The study found that a considerable amount of solar PV power can be integrated into LNG plants across Australia through retrofitting. If the maximum amount of technically feasible changes identified through this approach are enacted, it is estimated that the onshore LNG plants in the NT would reduce CO2 emissions by 19%, Queensland by 18% and WA by 21% from the emissions arising due to their electricity and stationary energy demand.
That equates to around 97 m GJ per year of natural gas that could be freed up from the liquefaction process and emissions reductions of about 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year at existing production capacities (1% of Australia’s current total emissions). If all changes were able to be implemented before 2030, these emissions reductions would account for 4-9% of those needed for Australia to reach its emissions target.
The amount of new infrastructure that would be needed to facilitate the proposed solar power systems would lead to significant employment opportunities. During an installation stage of ten years, 1,890 full-time jobs would be needed, and a further 868 ongoing positions would be created for the operational phase.
Overall, the solarisation of Australian LNG plants would lead to financial, environmental, economic and employment benefits for the country.