WA project to covert wastewater biogas into hydrogen and graphite

A project to produce low-emission hydrogen and graphite from sewage at a wastewater treatment plant in Western Australia has been given the green-light.

According to Water Minister Dave Kelly, Western-Australian based technology company Hazer Group plan to use biogas for its hydrogen and graphite production process.

“Excess gas produced during the wastewater treatment process is currently burned off but this innovative technology will instead use it to create low-emission hydrogen and graphite,” he said.

“This will help decarbonise the Water Corporation’s operations to further support its sustainability objectives, while generating additional revenue and staff training opportunities.”

The three-year operation at Woodman Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in Munster will produce around 100 tonnes of fuel-grade hydrogen and 380 tonnes of graphite each year, Kelly said, with potential for expansion.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the technology will capitalise on biogas waste product – primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide – which is released during the wastewater treatment process as solid matter (biosolids) breaks down.

“While most of this renewable fuel is currently used to produce electricity for the treatment plant, the excess is usually burned off – now it will be converted into valuable materials using an iron ore catalyst,” she said.

Hydrogen has a wide range of industrial and commercial uses, including vehicle fuel and chemical feedstock. Additionally, graphite has potential for a number of industrial applications, such as the production of lithium-ion batteries, water purification and advanced materials.

“Hydrogen is an increasingly important renewable fuel source, and this world-leading project will showcase our state’s capability in the hydrogen industry through the commercialisation of a technology developed right here in WA,” MacTiernan said.

“This initiative represents an important first step towards kick-starting renewable hydrogen production capacity and driving the use of zero-emissions transport fuel for buses, heavy trucking, waste collection and light vehicle fleets.”

The technology was developed at the University of Western Australia before being acquired by Hazer Group.

In partnership with the City of Mandurah, Hazer Group is also exploring plans to establish Western Australia’s first refuelling infrastructure hub, with a grant from the Western Australia Renewable Hydrogen Fund.

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ARENA to fund biogas to hydrogen plant

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has approved up to $9.41 million in funding for the construction and operation of a hydrogen production facility in Western Australia.

An ARENA media statement said renewable energy company Hazer are seeking to build a $15.8 million 100 tonne per annum facility.

The facility will use hydrogen production technology to convert biogas from sewage treatment into hydrogen and graphite.

“The Hazer Process is an innovative technology that converts bio-methane to renewable hydrogen and graphite using an iron ore catalyst, creating an alternate hydrogen pathway to the traditional approaches of steam methane reforming and electrolysis,” the statement reads.

“Hazer will sell the renewable hydrogen for industrial applications and is exploring markets for graphite including carbon black, activated carbon and battery anode applications.”

According to the statement, Hazer aims to take advantage of waste or low value biogas streams such as from wastewater treatment plants, landfill sites and other industrial locations to produce higher value hydrogen and graphite.

“Hazer has identified the proposed location for the project at the Woodman Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, owned by the Western Australian Water Corporation,” the statement reads.

“Hazer has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Western Australian Water Corporation for the supply of biogas, and to provide the project site for construction.”

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said Hazer’s project represents a new and innovative way to produce renewable hydrogen, which aligns with ARENA’s new investment priority focussed on accelerating hydrogen.

“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,” Mr Miller said.

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

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Fuel cell powered waste collection vehicle in development

Commercial vehicle manufacturer Scania has teamed up with Swedish waste company Renova to develop a fuel cell powered refuse truck with a fully electrified power train and compactor.

The two companies aim to reduce emissions and noise to make the electrified vehicles an attractive alternative when working in residential areas at early hours of the morning.

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Renova and other waste handling companies have previously carried out trials with electric refuse trucks, however this will be the first with fuel cells.

Scania Electric Powertrain Technology Project Manager Marita Nilsson said the company is highly interested in gaining more experience of fuel cells in actual customer operations.

“Fuel cells constitute a promising technology in the needed decarbonisation of transports,” Ms Nilsson said.

Renova Head of Development Hans Zackrisson said electrification using fuel cells fuelled by hydrogen is a highly appealing alternative for heavy commercial vehicles such as refuse trucks.

“The trucks benefit from all the advantages of electrification while maintaining some of the best aspects of fossil-fuel operations, namely range, hours in service and payload,” Mr Zackrisson said.

Scania has also previously partnered with Norwegian food wholesaler Asko to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology for its production plant.

The project is being implemented in cooperation with the Swedish Energy Agency and Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology. The fuel cell refuse truck is expected to be delivered in the end of 2019 or by the beginning of 2020.

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