Project to turn biogas from sewage into renewable hydrogen and graphite wins ARENA backing

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A new way to produce green hydrogen while managing waste products developed by Perth-based renewable energy company Hazer Group has won the backing of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). The $9.4 million funding commitment for the construction and operation of a large-scale plant to turn bio-methane from sewage into green hydrogen and graphite is subject to conditions, including the developer raising the remaining capital of around $6.4 million necessary to deliver the project.

Originally developed at the University of Western Australia, 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 process aims to achieve savings for hydrogen producers, as well as provide green hydrogen to be used in a range of clean energy applications and large chemical processing industries.

In what will be the first large-scale fully integrates deployment of the Hazer Process, the developer is looking to deliver a 100 tonne per annum low emissions  hydrogen production facility. The $15.8 million Hazer Process Commercial Demonstration Project is proposed to be located at the Water Corporation’s Woodman Point Waste Water Treatment Plant in Munster, Western Australia. Hazer has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Water Corporation for the supply of biogas and to provide the project site for construction.

The design and construction phase of the project is scheduled to be completed in December 2020, with operations running from January 2021 to December 2023, according to the company’s statement to the ASX. The developer plans to sell the renewable hydrogen for industrial applications and is exploring markets for graphite including carbon black, activated carbon and battery anode applications.

Conditional commitment 

ARENA’s funding is subject to conditions including a biogas supply agreement, a hydrogen offtake agreement and Hazer securing sufficient finance for the completion of the project. The funding will account for 41% of the total costs ($7.9 million), including a contribution to operating costs ($1.5 million). Financial close on the project is expected by the year’s end.

“We are delighted to have progressed through ARENA’s process and been selected for funding. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Australian Government through the important phase of commercial development for this novel Australian technology,” said Hazer Managing Director, Geoff Ward.

Typically produced by splitting water molecules using renewable electricity, renewable hydrogen is seen as Australia’s golden opportunity. The nation’s potential to become the world’s largest producer and exporter of green hydrogen has been widely reported by CSIRO, ARENA, chief scientist Alan Finkel and the International Energy Agency as demand for hydrogen rises in Asia. 

“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,” Ward says. “The completion of the Hazer Commercial Demonstration Plant is a key step to demonstrate the robustness and value of our technology and position Hazer to capture opportunities in this important growth market.”

Noting that Hazer’s process represents an alternative way to produce hydrogen, ARENA CEO Darren Miller said that if successful, this project would offer opportunities to replicate the technology across other treatment plants and landfill sites across Australia. “This technology could help set up Australia as an exporter of hydrogen, and open up new market opportunities from the graphite that is produced as a by-product of the hydrogen production process,” Miller said.

ARENA has thrown its weight behind Australia’s increasing focus on hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. The agency recently announced $950,000 in funding for gas company BOC for a renewable hydrogen production and refuelling project in Queensland. It has also supported Toyota’s hydrogen centre at their former car manufacturing plant in Altona, ATCO’s hydrogen microgrid in WA and Jemena’s power-to-grid gas demonstration in western Sydney. Last year, ARENA awarded $22.1 million to 16 hydrogen research projects.