Korea Zinc buys Australian wind, solar developer to fuel hydrogen ambition

  • Ark acquires 9 GW of early stage solar, wind projects
  • Renewables to help make green metals, hydrogen
  • Ark plans to export green hydrogen to South Korea

MELBOURNE, Dec 23 (Reuters) - An arm of Korea Zinc (010130.KS) said on Thursday it will buy out an Australian wind and solar energy developer with a big pipeline of projects to help decarbonise its zinc metal processes and to power green hydrogen production.

The South Korean zinc giant's Australian clean energy arm Ark Energy said it would take over Epuron Holdings, acquiring 4.2 gigawatts (GW) of proposed wind and solar developments and a portfolio of sites with 4.8 GW of capacity.

The companies did not disclose the acquisition price.

"This is our opportunity to put our foot on a very significant portfolio of high quality, albeit early stage projects," said Ark Energy Chief Executive Daniel Kim.

Korea Zinc set up Ark this year to decarbonise its energy supply and says it aims to be the world's most competitive green hydrogen producer. Ark eventually wants to export green hydrogen from Australia to South Korea.

Green hydrogen is produced by using renewable energy to power electrolysers to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be used in processing zinc ore and to fuel heavy trucks.

"We're chasing that potential premium for green zinc. But it also is about us remaining a preferred supplier to our customers, who are increasingly hard-wiring sustainability into their procurement policies," Kim told Reuters.

Hydrogen is seen as a key fuel to decarbonise sectors that cannot be electrified, such as metals processing, heavy transport, and shipping.

If they are all developed, Epuron's projects could supply all the energy needed to power up to 4 GW of electrolysers, producing enough hydrogen for Ark to export to its parent company and others in South Korea.

Ark could begin construction on its first renewables project in 2023, with generation to begin in 2025, Kim said.

Developing the full 9 GW of capacity would cost billions of dollars over many years, he said.

Ark expects to start producing green hydrogen by the end of 2022 for use in fuel cell trucks at Korea Zinc's Sun Metals refinery in Queensland state, with a 1 megawatt electrolyser, backed by state and federal grants and loans. read more

($1 = 1.3870 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Stephen Coates and Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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