Gladstone company receives $1m bio-hydrogen boost
A GLADSTONE company that already turns tyres into diesel is working with the nation's leading scientists to build a $7 million bio-hydrogen-generation unit.
In what would be an Australian first, Southern Oil wants to turn waste into hydrogen in an expansion to its $18 million Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant.
Southern Oil director of corporate affairs Tony Collings said they are working with a Thailand university and the CSIRO who have experimented with similar technologies.
Their goal is to produce reliable and cheap hydrogen for industrial use.
The company will hire about 30 new workers for the expansion, from engineers to tradesmen and cleaners.
Mr Collings said there was a broader benefit to businesses having access to cheaper hydrogen.
"We will have the opportunity to produce hydrogen that we can make available to other industries, meaning we'll be lowering their costs for Queensland and Australia," Mr Collings said.
"And this is all happening in Gladstone's backyard."
The initial demonstration plant will be designed to produce 20kg/hr of hydrogen to feed the 15-million litre per year hydrotreater.
Southern Oil will then design a 2000 kg/hr unit required for the one billion litre per year facility.
A bio-hydrogen unit is at Yarwun, and they are using it to explore ways to build a "robust" unit up to three times larger.
This week the State Government gave Southern Oil $1 million for its bio-hydrogen project.
But Mr Collings said one of the key parts of the expansion was that it would be self-sufficient.
"I have taken up this role in part because I think it's an amazingly cool thing we're doing," he said.
"We're demonstrating a sensible transition to renewable energy.
"For this to work it has to stack up commercially, we won't be subsidised by taxpayer's money."
Southern Oil's managing director Tim Rose is spruiking his Yarwun project in San Diego with the Queensland Premier and Gladstone's mayor Matt Burnett at the BIO 2017 conference.
"Hydrogen is an important, but expensive resource required for many manufacturing and industrial processes," Mr Rose said.
"To be able to produce bio-hydrogen sustainably using waste streams is incredibly exciting as it will reduce running costs for a range of business throughout all of Queensland."
It's hoped within 12 months the new unit will be finished.
If successful, Mr Collings said in two years he hopes to bio-hydrogen can be used by other industries.
Mr Collings said the unit would be robust enough to produce hydrogen suitable for industrial use.
The announcement comes amid heightened concerns over Australia's future energy security and where it will come from.
Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said the project was funded out of the Advance Queensland $5 million Biofutures Commercialisa- tion Program.
Ms Enoch said the BCP, part of the Advance Queensland Biofutures Roadmap, set out to increase the capability and scale of the biofutures industry in Queensland.
"We want to see the biofutures industry grow in Queensland," Ms Enoch said.
"That's why we're prepared to invest in people and companies with new ideas to get new technologies up and running."