Jemena and Sydney Water have partnered up to develop biomethane at the Malabar Wastewater Treatment Plant in South Sydney, which will power Sydney homes and businesses using renewable green gas.  

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 $14 million project is jointly funded by Jemena ($8.1 million) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), who provided $5.9 million in grant funding. 

Jemena Executive General Manager, Gas Distribution, Dr Jennifer Purdie, said as Australia  looks to recover from the financial impacts of COVID-19, 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 95TJ of renewable green gas per year, which is enough to meet the gas demand of approximately 6,300 homes,” Dr Purdie said.

This has the potential to be scaled up to 200TJ per year, enough to meet the gas demand of around 13,300 homes. 

“We estimate there’s at least another 30,000TJ 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 per cent 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,” said Dr Purdie. 

Bioenergy is derived from plant and animal by-products, agriculture, farming, forestry and  human wastes. When converted into biomethane, it is a reliable and responsive carbon neutral energy.  

Bioenergy and waste-to-energy projects are widespread in the US and Europe, with Bioenergy Australia estimating in 2016, that the total contribution of the US biofuels industry was $459 billion, employing 4.65 million direct and indirect workers. 

Globally, more than a million terajoules of biogas were produced in 2014, about 1.5 per cent of the international renewable energy supply. 

In Australia, it’s estimated the biofuels industry could provide 250,000 jobs, mostly in regional areas, and has the potential to avoid up to nine million tonnes of CO2 emissions.  

The Malabar biomethane project is expected to remove 5,000 tonnes of carbon emissions – the equivalent of around 4,500 cars off the road – and potentially 11,000 tonnes if scaled up to its full potential, making it a significant contributor to the NSW Government’s Stage 1, Net Zero Plan, to cut emissions by 35 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. 

The facility is expected to produce the first biomethane for injection into the Jemena Gas  Network in 2022.  

The agreement builds on Jemena’s renewable gas credentials, with the utility on track to install the first electrolyser in New South Wales in late-2020 and inject renewable hydrogen gas into the NSW gas network in early 2021.  

Jemena’s Western Sydney Green Gas project, 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. 

Just a few months ago, Jemena also signed an MOU to supply hydrogen gas to Hyundai’s hydrogen car refueller at Macquarie Park.

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