Porsche-backed e-fuels company plans big plant in Tasmania

Chilean e-fuel company HIF Global, which is backed by German car-maker Porsche, has applied to build Australia’s first large-scale e-fuel plant in Tasmania.

In an announcement today, the company said it would produce up to 100 million litres of fuel a year, reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by about 260,000 tonnes and decarbonising some 52,000 vehicles. It hopes to start work in 2024.

E-fuels (electricity-based fuels) are carbon neutral fuels made by splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen by electrolysis, a process powered by renewable energy. The hydrogen is then mixed with carbon dioxide drawn from the atmosphere to produce synthetic methanol, which is converted into e-fuels that have the same chemical properties as fossil-based fuels.

HIF Global chief executive César Norton said the company’s broader ambition was to produce over 8 billion litres of e-fuels a year in plants around the world, enough to decarbonise 5 million vehicles.

“Australia has exceptional renewable energy resources that can be transformed into liquid fuels and used in existing engines,” he said.

“Today, we begin the first step in Tasmania to produce hydrogen from renewable energy, capture carbon dioxide from a biogenic source and produce highly competitive e-fuels that will be the carbon neutral energy of tomorrow.”

The plan is to produce the hydrogen using 250MW of electrolyser capacity.

In September last year, Porsche and Siemens announced that they were collaborating on the Haru Oni project near the Chilean side of the Straits of Magellan (see further reading). That scheme aims to produce around 130,000 litres of e-fuels by the end of 2022. In two further phases, capacity will be increased to about 55 million litres by 2024, and around 550 million litres by 2026.

Porsche has invested in HIF Global alongside majority shareholder Andes Mining & Energy (AME) of Chile, American finance house EIG, engineer Baker Hughes and asset manager Gemstone Investments.

The company commented in an April press release that it was investing $75m in HIF as part of a funding round “in the low nine-figure US dollar range” was flowing into HIF Global. It added that the additional capital would be used to develop industrial e-fuel facilities in Chile, the US and Australia “which have large supplies of renewable energy”.

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