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Curtin awarded $3.6 million to develop biomass gasification project

The Australian Government, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), has awarded a grant of $3.6 million to build and operate a demonstration facility for an innovative biomass gasification technology that has been developed at the Fuels and Energy Technology Institute (FETI) at Curtin University.

Once commercialised, the technology will convert biomass, such as agricultural waste and mallee, into a clean gaseous fuel that can be fed into an engine to generate electricity.

Lead researcher Professor Chun-Zhu Li said that the technology was innovative in its ability to carry out biomass gasification in a single reactor, unlike other competing technologies that require more than one reactor system to achieve complete gasification.

“The technology that we have developed at FETI is ideal for small-scale applications,” Professor Li said. “It could be used, for example, to generate electricity in remote areas that are away from the electricity network but close to biomass resources, such as wheat straw and mallee.”

To date, the technology has been demonstrated using a purpose-built lab-scale pilot plant. The new funding will enable researchers to scale up the technology, with the aim of obtaining the data for the future design and operation of a commercial-scale biomass gasifier.

In its initial application, the gaseous fuel will be burned in a gas engine to generate green base-load electricity.

“The technology will bring significant social, economic and environmental benefits to Australia,” Professor Li said. “In addition to contributing to an increased proportion of green base-load electricity in our electricity supply mix, this technology will assist significantly with regional development.

Curtin wins $3.6 million to develop biomass gasification project.“The technology will help to realise the commercial value of mallee biomass grown in the Australian wheatbelt, making mallee planting an economically feasible means of combating the devastating dryland salinity problem,” said Professor Li (pictured alongside).

The funding was awarded to Curtin company Renergi through ARENA’s Emerging Renewables Program.

ARENA is a $3.2 billion Australian Government commitment to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia.

Other partners will include Cryofin, Verve Energy and the Oil Mallee Association of Australia. The total cost of the project will be $6.7 million.

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