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APA Group’s renewable methane plant gets ARENA funding

Renewable methane plant : The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced a funding of AUD 1.1 million to natural gas transmission company APA Group to construct a modular renewable methane production demonstration plant at its Wallumbilla Gas hub located near Roma in Queensland.

The ‘power to gas’ demonstration plant will generate nearly 620kg of hydrogen annually, which will be converted into 74 gigajoules of methane. The produced methane will be injected into APA’s natural gas pipelines laid across the East Coast Gas Grid.

According to the ARENA, renewable methane can facilitate the decarbonization of the existing gas infrastructure in Australia, including the gas transmission and distribution networks and export supply chains across the country.

APA has joined forces with Southern Green Gas to develop the AUD 2.2 million renewable methane plant for the demonstration of the renewable methane process. The renewable methane project gives scope to evaluate the benefits of utilizing methane to ‘green’ gas networks, compared to other similar funded projects by ARENA that are pursuing the direct use of renewable hydrogen.

As per ARENA, the renewable methane process includes the production of renewable hydrogen from an Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM) electrolyzer.

The electrolyzer, which is powered by solar PV, makes use of water extracted from the atmosphere. The produced hydrogen is then converted to methane through reaction with carbon dioxide, which is also directly extracted from the atmosphere.

The demonstration renewable methane plant will provide cost and technical data, which will be used to evaluate the feasibility of a larger, commercial-scale, plant for producing renewable methane.

APA Group's renewable methane plant gets ARENA funding

APA Group’s renewable methane plant gets ARENA funding. Photo courtesy of Noir from Pixabay.

Darren Miller – ARENA CEO, commenting on the renewable methane plant, said: “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 decarbonisation 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.”

APA said that in the last 10 years, it has invested more than AUD 750 million in renewable energy projects across Australia, delivering 490MW of electricity generation capacity. The company said that its continued investment in natural gas assets plays a major role in delivering secure and reliable electricity by underpinning the integration of renewable energy with flexible, dispatchable power.

Commenting on the renewable methane plant, Rob Wheals – APA Group CEO and Managing Director, said: “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.”

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