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World’s first project to turn biogas from sewage into hydrogen and graphite takes shape

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The world’s first project to turn biogas from sewage into hydrogen and graphite has received substantial financial backing from the Australian government.

The venture forms part of Australia’s efforts to develop hydrogen as a clean alternative fuel source. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has approved up to $9.41 million (€5.78 million) in funding to Hazer Group for the construction and operation of a ‘ground-breaking’ hydrogen production facility in Munster, Western Australia.

Hazer is seeking to build a $15.8 million (€15,800,000), 100-tonne per annum facility to demonstrate its hydrogen production technology. The process will convert biomethane from sewage to renewable hydrogen and graphite using an iron ore catalyst. It will create an alternate hydrogen pathway to the traditional approaches of steam methane reforming and electrolysis.

The firm is planning to sell renewable hydrogen for industrial application. It is currently also exploring markets for graphite including carbon black, activated carbon and battery anode applications. It is hoped the facility will be operational by January 2021.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said: “Renewable hydrogen is typically produced by splitting water molecules using renewable electricity. However, Hazer’s process represents an alternative way to produce hydrogen using biogas sourced from wastewater treatment plants.

“If successful, this project will offer opportunities to replicate the technology across other treatment plants and landfill sites across Australia.”

Geoff Ward, Hazer’s managing director, added: “There is very significant interest in the potential for hydrogen to play an important role in the Australian economy through providing energy storage, services in grid support and resilience, in direct use as a transport fuel, and as a source of low emission heat and power.”

ARENA has pledged its support to several renewable hydrogen projects in Australia, including a refuelling project in Queensland and Toyota’s hydrogen centre in Altona. In 2018, ARENA awarded $22.1 million (€13.5 million) to 16 hydrogen research projects.