Australia is standing on the verge of a renewable gas revolution that has the potential to transform the nation’s energy landscape and create a new future for gas—and an Australian firm is leading the charge.
Australian manufactured technology is helping lead the shift towards a future powered by renewable gas. In a giant leap forward for the sector, an Australian-first grid injection project in Malabar has just successfully injected Biomethane into the New South Wales gas distribution network, where it will be blended with natural gas and used by customers connected to the network.
Brisbane’s Eneraque is behind the technology for the joint Jemena and Sydney Water facility (co-funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency), with engineering, construction and project-management services by Zinfra.
Eneraque is a renewable energy engineering and manufacturing firm with a history spanning four decades, including a pioneering interest in waste gas to energy technology that stretches back to the early ’80s.
Eneraque director Jeremy Pringle, who has more than 20 years of industry expertise around renewable energy solutions, says that the success of the Malabar Biomethane Injection Plant is indicative of Australia’s readiness to follow in the footsteps of Europe and the USA, where biogas and biomethane technologies have experienced rapid uptake.
“Biogas technology is mature, working and ready to roll out at scale in Asia Pacific,” he says.
“The success of the Malabar Biomethane Injection Plant is a critical step forward for Australia’s renewable gas journey and it has cemented an already strong confidence in renewable gas projects.”
From their Brisbane manufacturing facility, Eneraque are manufacturing biogas technologies, including upgraders and power generation systems as well as flaring, scrubbing and storage technologies and CO2 liquefaction for clients across the utilities, food and beverage, and agricultural sectors.
“We take a portion of proven European technologies and adapt these specifically for the Asia Pacific, taking into account climate, regulatory and performance factors,” Pringle says.
Their Australian first Biomethane Upgrader takes biogas sourced from existing anaerobic digestion infrastructure at the Malabar Wastewater Resource Recovery Plant in south-east Sydney, and upgrades this to pipeline quality biomethane. The Upgrader is sized for 1100Nm3/hr of biogas to the inlet prior to separating the CO2 and CH4 with a patented three-stage membrane technology from Eneraque’s technology partners, Evonik.
The biomethane is then injected into the gas grid at high pressure to pipeline quality specification.
The Malabar Biomethane Injection Plant, initiated in 2020 and achieving biomethane to grid injection in June, serves as a demonstration of the technical viability and commercial potential of producing and injecting biomethane into the natural gas network.
Pringle envisions the Malabar site as just the first of many biomethane injection projects across the Asia Pacific, signalling a promising future for renewable gas in the region.
“We have been working on behind the meter landfill and wastewater gas to energy projects for decades, and we are now seeing rapid movement towards upgrading this biogas for grid injection,” he says.
According to a recent independent report from the Race for 2030 Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), Australia is ideally positioned to seize the opportunities presented by the renewable gas boom. The Race for 2030 report highlights the immense economic growth potential and low-emission energy benefits that renewable gas can offer. By harnessing its abundant feedstock, Australia could generate over half of its gas consumption through renewable sources by 2050, creating a $50 billion industry and generating more than 18,000 full-time jobs, primarily in regional areas.
As highlighted by the CRC report, the compatibility of upgraded biomethane with the existing gas infrastructure makes it a viable option for reducing emissions.
“By leveraging the established gas distribution network, biomethane can seamlessly integrate into the existing energy system, reduce infrastructure costs, and provide customers with a renewable energy choice while ensuring a reliable and efficient energy supply,” Pringle says.
Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s Firstgas are developing a Biogas Upgrading Facility, located at Reporoa on the north Island, which will take raw biogas from kerbside organic waste and upgrade this into clean, usable, pipeline quality Biomethane, to be injected into the New Zealand gas grid. When complete, the project is estimated to avoid 11,000 tonnes of CO2/year.
Eneraque is currently manufacturing an integral portion of the Biogas Upgrading System for the site, with equipment scheduled to begin arriving in New Zealand in the last quarter of 2023.
The global landscape is witnessing significant growth in the renewable gas sector, particularly in Europe, Asia, and the United States. These regions are producing green hydrogen and biomethane at scale, blending them with natural gas for use in homes and businesses. As the Race for 2030 report highlights, Australia has the potential to become a leader in renewable gas technologies, leveraging its natural resources and innovative capabilities.
Pringle says Asia Pacific is in a position to take advantage of decades of lessons from the thriving European gas market, and that policy support will be essential for continued growth.
“Implementing a Renewable Gas Target with a clear regulatory framework and support system will provide confidence to industries heavily reliant on gas, ensuring their continued operation while reducing emissions. Policy support will unlock biogas’ true potential,” he says.
“The recent amendments to the National Gas Law and Regulations, bringing hydrogen blends, biomethane, and other renewable gases under the national gas regulatory framework, signify a step in the right direction. The establishment of an RGT, coupled with a renewable gas certification scheme, will serve as key mechanisms for the sector’s growth.”
Back behind the meter there remains abundant, untapped opportunity.
“Biogas from crop residue, food and beverage production waste, landfill gas, and wastewater can provide a portion of, or the complete heat and power needs of an organisation,” he says.
“Cogeneration (CHP) systems which combine heat and power generate heat and electricity simultaneously, maximising energy efficiency, are of particular interest to our clients.”
Companies can use the electricity for their operations while utilising the waste heat for various purposes such as space heating, hot water production, or industrial processes. This integrated approach reduces energy waste and enhances the overall energy efficiency of the company’s operations.
“We’re seeing an increasing number of companies approach us to see how they can incorporate bioenergy into their onsite systems,” Pringle says.
“And because we have taken a modular approach to our designs, we can customise that equipment for each site. Not everyone wants or needs to have a full scale waste to energy system on site, nor do some require it.”
The versatility of waste gas to energy applications have also helped to solidify the technology as a great solution for both sustainability and efficiency.
For example, biogas can be stored in double membrane gas storage on site for various CHP solutions which help drive down energy costs.
“This includes running gas engines to produce power which can be used onsite as a substitute for grid connection. And off that same generator we can capture the heat off and provide more heat,” Pringle says.
Pringle says that there is a growing consumer interest in renewable gases.
“History has shown that if there are renewable options, there is a market and support for that, and change can be driven by people power. It’s an exciting time for biomethane,” he says.
The Malabar Biomethane Injection Plant is a partnership between the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), Sydney Water, and Jemena.