Under the MOU, ORG will identify suitable sites in regional NSW near agricultural and waste sources for biomethane production, potentially producing up to 1.5 petajoules. Jemena will also conduct feasibility and preparatory work to inject biomethane into the NSW gas distribution network.
Biomethane is a renewable gas produced by the processing of biogas, which is produced by the decomposition of organic waste. It is fully interchangeable with natural gas and works with all existing gas network infrastructure, gas appliances used in homes and businesses today, and industrial manufacturing processes.
Internationally, the production of biomethane is also highlighting the advantages of a circular economy, which diverts organic waste from landfills, lowers fugitive emissions, and produces renewable energy that can be used to supplement other renewable energy sources like solar and wind power and replace natural gas derived from fossil fuels.
“We have started assessing projects in NSW to produce biomethane to inject into the gas network. Based on our work to date, we could potentially be looking at somewhere closer to 2-4 petajoules per annum,” ORG Managing Director Mike Davis said.
“Our near-term aim is to have ten grid-scale plants in production or under development nationally by 2030.”
ORG Chairman Dr John Hewson stated that implementing a circular economy optimises organic waste management, accelerates energy transition, improves regional energy security, decarbonises gas demand, and returns nutrients to agriculture.
“We’re pleased to bring to the table our long-standing energy infrastructure expertise, together with the experience we’ve developed through the Australian-first Malabar Biomethane Injection Plant which – since June this year – has been producing biomethane from organic waste in wastewater and injecting it into the New South Wales gas distribution network,” Jemena Acting Managing Director David Gillespie said.
According to Gillespie, biomethane is seen as a potential solution for Australia to reduce emissions, but transitioning the energy system to meet net-zero emission targets is a significant undertaking that requires considering all available options.
“Continuing to use Australia’s extensive, existing gas networks to transport increasing volumes of renewable gases like biomethane can complement renewable electricity, both in firming the network, and in continuing to power industries and heat homes and hot water systems,” he added.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s (ARENA) 2021 Bioenergy Roadmap highlights the potential of biomethane and other bioenergy sources in Australia’s future energy system. The roadmap predicts that by the next decade, the bioenergy sector could generate $10 billion in extra GDP, create 26,000 jobs, reduce emissions by 9%, divert waste from landfills by 6%, and improve fuel security.
Research commissioned by Jemena has identified potential sources of biomethane in the NSW network, including agricultural waste, wastewater, and landfills, which could produce up to 30 petajoules annually, compared to the 49.6 petajoules used by 386 industrial customers last year.