APA Group has received $1.1 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to construct a modular demonstration plant for sustainable methane production at its Wallumbilla Gas hub near Roma in Queensland.
The demonstration plant ‘power to gas’ would generate about 620 kilograms of hydrogen each year, turning it into 74 gigajoules of methane which can then be pumped across the East Coast Gas Grid into APA’s natural gas pipelines.
Renewable methane may be used to decarbonize the current gas infrastructure in Australia, including gas transmission and distribution networks and supply chains for exports.
APA has partnered with Southern Green Gas to build a $2.2 million renewable methane project to demonstrate the technology.
The project offers the opportunity to evaluate the benefits of using methane to ‘natural’ gas networks compared to other similar projects supported by ARENA which aim to directly use renewable hydrogen.
The renewable methane process involves the extraction of renewable hydrogen from an electrolyser called Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM). The electrolyser uses atmospherically extracted water, and is powered by solar PV. The created hydrogen is then converted to methane by reaction with carbon dioxide, which is also directly removed from the atmosphere.
“Renewable methane is in effect indistinguishable from the methane that currently fills our natural gas pipelines. The gas network is expected to play a key role in supporting the decarbonization of Australia’s energy system.
“This project will demonstrate the viability of producing renewable methane from solar power. Through a new and innovative approach, the project will capture moisture in the air to produce renewable hydrogen as a precursor to renewable methane.
“At scale, renewable methane has the potential to be a significant source of Australia’s future natural gas requirements all through the deployment of solar energy and capturing the water from the atmosphere. Renewable methane is compatible with Australia’s developing hydrogen sector in that known technologies can convert methane to hydrogen and vice versa.”Darren Miller, CEO ARENA.
“ARENA’s support means we can work to understand the costs and benefits of generating renewable methane for use in the existing East Coast Gas Grid. This is a great example of government support for innovation in the Australian energy industry. APA is excited about its part in this process.
“We know the science of producing methane. This unique project is the first step in testing whether it is possible on an industrial scale to create methane, using solar-generated electricity, water and CO2 from the atmosphere.
“With this project we’re aiming to determine whether this carbon neutral process might be part of the green energy solution of the future, and if our pipelines can be used to transport pure renewable energy domestically or to be exported.”Rob Wheals, CEO and managing director APA Group.