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ARENA supporting Australia's first biomethane-to-grid project

Australia’s first biomethane-to-gas project will see thousands of Sydney homes and businesses using renewable natural gas (RNG) for cooking, heating, and hot water. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced AU$5.9 million in funding to energy infrastructure company Jemena Ltd to trial injecting RNG into the gas network in New South Wales (NSW). Jemena has signed an agreement with Sydney Water to produce RNG at the Malabar Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), in South Sydney.

Australia’s first biomethane-to-gas project will see thousands of Sydney homes and businesses using renewable natural gas (RNG) for cooking, heating, and hot water. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced AU$5.9 million in funding to energy infrastructure company Jemena Ltd to trial injecting RNG into the gas network in New South Wales (NSW). Jemena has signed an agreement with Sydney Water to produce RNG at the Malabar Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), in South Sydney.

The AU$14 million project is jointly funded by Jemena (AU$8.1 million) and ARENA, (AU$5.9 million grant funding) and involves the installation of raw biogas cleaning and upgrading equipment that will be located at Sydney Water’s Malabar WWTP, with the infrastructure then connected to the Jemena natural gas network.

The zero carbon emission high-quality biomethane gas will be injected into Jemena’s New South Wales gas distribution network – the largest in Australia with 1.4 million customers.

The project, which is expected to produce the first biomethane for injection into the gas network in early 2022, will see Sydney Water initially supply 95 terajoules (TJs) per annum of zero-emission biomethane (aka RNG).

As Australia’s largest water utility, we’re proud our world-class products and services are central to this Australian first project to supply biomethane to the gas grid. This has the potential to supply zero-emission renewable gas to thousands of households, a fantastic demonstration of Sydney Water’s innovation to support a circular economy. Wastewater recycling also allows us to produce recycled water, electricity, and biosolids, all of which we are currently doing across parts of our network, said Roch Cheroux, Managing Director, Sydney Water.

Under a long-term agreement, this will be scaled up to 200 TJs annually, equivalent to the gas demand of approximately 13 300 homes.

Jemena Executive General Manager, Gas Distribution, Dr Jennifer Purdie, said as Australia looks to recover from the financial impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, circular economy opportunities have the potential to create jobs, support business growth, and enhance energy security, with no impact to the network or customer appliances.

This agreement will see biomethane injected into the gas network for the first time in Australia with an initial capacity of 95 Terajoules of renewable green gas per year, which is enough to meet the gas demand of approximately 6 300 homes. This has the potential to be scaled up to 200 Terajoules per year, enough to meet the gas demand of around 13 300 homes, said Dr Jennifer Purdie.

Potential for 100 percent green gas in NSW

The project will also investigate renewable gas trading opportunities linking gas users with renewable gas production facilities. Such trading mechanisms would support a highly replicable ‘green gas’ market across other gas networks.

If successful, the project is expected to support wider uptake of biomethane technology by the Australian waste industry with the application expected to have broader application than just the wastewater treatment sector.

According to Jemena, there are more than 30 000 TJs of potential biogas in the vicinity of the NSW gas pipelines, enough to supply 1.4 million households in NSW.

We estimate there is at least another 30 000 Terajoules of biomethane that has the potential to be unlocked around our NSW gas infrastructure. That’s enough to supply all our current residential customers with carbon-neutral, green gas. Our customers have told us they want to purchase verified and accredited zero-emission green gas as is currently the case for renewable electricity. We are challenging the notion that the only way to be 100 percent renewable is through electrification, and this project will introduce the first renewable gas certificates to support our call for a national renewable gas certification scheme, Dr Jennifer Purdie said.

Complementary with hydrogen

Renewable hydrogen and biomethane can be used as complementary gases to displace natural gas and reduce emissions. The injection of both hydrogen and biomethane allows for further decarbonisation than hydrogen alone due to the blending limits of hydrogen in the current gas infrastructure.

The agreement builds on Jemena’s renewable gas credentials, with the company on track to install the first electrolyser in New South Wales later this year and inject renewable hydrogen gas into the NSW gas network in early 2021.

Jemena’s Western Sydney Green Gas project in Horsley Park in western Sydney, also co-funded by ARENA, is the most comprehensive hydrogen demonstration in Australia and will test the generation of hydrogen gas from solar and wind power, the storage of hydrogen in existing pipeline assets and provide off-take gas for the vehicle industry.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said this first of its kind project would show how biomethane could help to supplement domestic gas supplies and decarbonise the gas network.

The injection of biomethane into the natural gas network is currently unproven in Australia due to a range of technical, regulatory, and commercial factors. Displacing natural gas with biomethane and renewable hydrogen is recognized as the likely pathway to decarbonise natural gas networks. With a successful demonstration by Jemena, we could see biomethane use increasing across the country, Darren Miller said.

This year, ARENA has also been developing the national Bioenergy Roadmap on behalf of the Australian Government to identify the role that the bioenergy sector can play in accelerating Australia’s energy transition, stimulating regional development, enhancing energy security, and helping Australia further reduce emissions.

The roadmap is due to be provided to the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction later this year.

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