South Korean energy giant Kepco is pushing ahead with plans to commence hydrogen and ammonia production at the Port of Newcastle's clean energy precinct in 2028.
A delegation of 18 representatives travelled to Newcastle last week to meet with local water and energy suppliers and port representatives.
The clean energy precinct will be situated on a 220-hectare parcel of port land, which is earmarked to play a vital role in positioning the region as a leading clean energy production, storage and export hub.
Work to establish the precinct is being supported by a $100million federal government grant.
Port chief commercial officer Simon Byrnes said the coming months would be spent preparing a market study to identify the cheapest source of renewable energy for the precinct.
"We're not just competing with other projects around Australia, it's an international competition," he said.
"KEPCO is looking at projects in the Middle East, America and Chile. We need to be able to show that we can be cost competitive on that scale."
At the same time, Kepco is working on a feasibility study for the production of hydrogen and ammonia.
"Together we are going to work on the market solution for electricity supply," Mr Byrnes said.
It is hoped that a final investment decision will be made in the first half of 2025, with hydrogen production to commence in 2028.
A global shortage of electrolysers and the need to secure a suitable recycled water supply are among the challenges that will need to be addressed in the short to medium term.
In the longer term Mr Byrnes said it was hoped Hunter would develop a local electrolyser manufacturing capacity.
"The university is doing great work with the Trailblazer program. They are working with companies like Siemens, which are looking at potentially having some manufacturing capacity in the region, he said.
"A company like Ampcontrol would also be a fantastic partner for that kind of work."
Conexa, which supplies recycled water to Kooragang Island, has advised that its current wastewater treatment plant is at capacity. However, it does have the capability to expand.
Mr Byrnes said the port, Conexa and Hunter Water were working together to identify a new recycled water supply.
"There's a range of different options there and those will be firmed up over the next couple of months," he said.
Kepco, which had previously proposed a massive coal mine in the Bylong Valley, is the lead partner in the clean energy precinct.
Senior manager of Kepco's hydrogen and renewable business team Sungwon Park said the Port of Newcastle green hydrogen project was symbolic for the Hunter's clean energy economy as well as for achieving KEPCO's carbon neutrality target.
"As we have just started the feasibility study, this workshop was highly productive for us to discuss a comprehensive study plan and build a strong partnership. This event was even more meaningful thanks to the participation of our advisors," he said.
"We will do our best to finish the Feasibility study in time and execute the 'Development Agreement' in the first half of next year. I look forward to visit Port of Newcastle again soon."
Other partners include Japanese giant Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Fortescue Future Industries, Energy Estate, energy transmission and storage company Lumea, Orica, Origin Energy and Dutch clean energy technology venture firm Platform Zero.