ENERGY infrastructure company APA has entered the “execution” phase of developing its cutting edge renewable methane plant at Wallumbilla, in the resources-rich Surat Basin.

It’s hoped the Wallumbilla Renewable Methane Demonstration Project (WRMDP) will prove the product can be manufactured and distributed on a commercial scale and become part of the “mix” of future energy sources.

Speaking at a ‘Business Enterprise’ breakfast hosted by Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE) in Chinchilla, APA’s access and approvals manager, Warren Twist, said results of the two-year methane trial project would be realised by the end of 2021.

“We’ve really seen the opportunity to get into the renewables energy market. We’ve pushed it hard,” Mr Twist said.

“We’ve invested $750 million into this sector, so it’s important to us, and we see it as a key limb for the future growth of our business.

“Everybody has seen the discussions, the debates, the literature around what’s the next fuel. I think the clearest answer to that is, there is no one answer. It’s probably a mix of fuels.

“One of the most exciting ones is the renewable methane project at Wallumbilla.”

Renewable methane can be manufactured from water and atmospheric carbon dioxide using electrolyser and methanator technology, blending hydrogen and carbon to produce methane (CH4).

The APA demonstration plant will be connected to the company’s exisiting gas network facilities at the Wallumbilla Gas Hub, and will be supported by solar energy to create a completely carbon neutral operation.

Water is a byproduct of methane production, which Mr Twist said could be re-used to create “somewhat of a closed loop”.

“The water that you create from that reaction comes back and becomes feed water for your electrolyser,” he said.

Mr Twist said the methanator technology was now undergoing a six month testing process being carried out by the University of Newcastle.

The facilities will soon be transported to Wallumbilla, where it will be connected to exisiting gas pipeline infrastructure.

Renewable energy developer Southern Green Gas has been contracted by APA to develop the project, which has received $1.1 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The project has obtained regulatory approvals and the “planning phase” is completed.

Mr Twist said the main advantages of renewable methane was that it could be supported by existing gas infrastructure in ways that hydrogen could not, and that it could be supported by solar power.

“Instead of us extracting CSG that’s taken millions of years to create, we’re actually creating it over a couple of hours or a day, we’re storing it in exisiting infrastructure and we’re burning it in exisiting facilities,” he said.

APA has invested $750 million in renewable energy, which now makes up 54 percent of the company’s total energy production portfolio.

TSBE CEO Ali Davenport said the methane project further highlighted an increase in renewable energy projects being developed across the Surat Basin region.

“It was great to have an overview around renewables and the role that APA can play in the future energy mix and how this can be produced in our region and distributed nationally,” said Ms Davenport.

APA’s gas network facilities at Wallumbilla. IMAGE SUPPLIED

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