Planning consent issued for solar methanol plant in Port Augusta

Solar Methanol 1 (SM1), the proposed solar thermal-powered plant that will produce green methanol in Port Augusta, South Australia, has received planning consent.

Illustration only; Courtesy of Vast

The facility, which is being developed by Australian renewable energy company Vast in cooperation with Germany’s Mabanaft, will have the capacity to produce 7,500 tonnes per annum of green methanol.

According to the partners, the plant has the potential to decarbonize shipping through methanol produced using Vast’s concentrated solar thermal power (CSP).

As explained, the project will combine a Leilac calcination plant from Australian technology company Calix to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) produced in the making of cement and lime, an electrolysis plant to produce hydrogen, and a methanol plant.

The project will be powered by VS1, a co-located 30 MW / 288 MWh CSP plant, which will utilize Vast’s CSP v3.0 technology to provide renewable heat and renewable electricity to produce green fuels.

In February 2024, Vast and its project partners announced the signing of funding agreements for SM1 for up to AUD $19.48 million (US$12.89 million) from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

Additional funding of up to €12.4 million has been granted to project partner Mabanaft by Projektträger Jülich (PtJ), a partner of the public sector in Germany in science, industry, and politics. That funding is part of HyGATE, a collaboration between the Australian and German governments to support real-world pilot, trial, and demonstration projects along the hydrogen supply chain.

With the planning consent in place, the facility is now one step closer to the final investment decision (FID).

Craig Wood, CEO of Vast, said: “Planning consent is an important milestone for this major project for Port Augusta and South Australia. SM1 will produce low-cost green fuels, which can play an important role in decarbonising the global maritime industry. The combination of technologies can be scaled rapidly, acting as a catalyst for a green fuels industry in Australia and around the world.”

Calix CEO and Managing Director Phil Hodgson stated: “Capturing and using unavoidable emissions from cement and lime is an exciting option to help decarbonise multiple hard-to-abate industries. It is pleasing to see this innovative and collaborative project achieve another important milestone, bringing a world’s first solar methanol plant one step closer to being realised.”

Volker Ebeling, Senior Vice President New Energy, Supply & Infrastructure at Mabanaft, added: “After evaluating the effectiveness, we expect larger scale projects to be developed that would serve other markets, including Europe.”

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