Consortium investigates Australian P2X industry

Article by Amanda Jasi

A RESEARCH consortium led by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, Australia is investigating the potential to grow a new power-to-X (P2X) industry to benefit a range of New South Wales (NSW) infrastructure. The industry could contribute to accelerating a hydrogen economy.

P2X refers to energy conversion technology that can be used to store surplus renewable energy as chemical energy. The technologies can be used to produce clean fuels, chemicals, and feedstocks, and they are cheaper than alternatives such as battery storage.

The researchers are being led by Rose Amal, IChemE Fellow and Professor of Chemical Engineering at UNSW Sydney, as they undertake the feasibility study to assess and develop opportunities for decarbonising and growing local manufacturing capabilities.

The study is aimed at building a case for a P2X economy in NSW, as well as to identify market entry points, current and future market size, and establish potential locations in the state for eco-industrial precincts to supply P2X products to meet local and overseas demand. Work also involves mapping and engaging industry partners for their inputs in building the new P2X industry in NSW.

Amal is recognised as a pioneer and leading authority in fields of particle technology, photocatalysis, and functional nanomaterials, which are all integral to P2X. According to Amal, these processes are all energy intensive, and cheap renewable electricity would help to drive down their costs.

The opportunity to accelerate hydrogen economy is available as at the heart of most P2X processes is hydrogen production, which is achieved by water electrolysis, a process that uses electricity to breakdown water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen produced in P2X can be used directly as a final product or to make other products such as fuels and chemicals through secondary technologies.

Hugh Durrant-Whyte, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer in the NSW Government, says that a P2X industry would help to accelerate hydrogen economy, creating substantial economic value and environmental benefits. The NSW Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer is supporting the feasibility study, along with a consortium of Australian industry partners, including small- to medium-sized enterprises.

The NSW Government has identified hydrogen as a priority technology to decarbonise industries, create jobs, and grow economy.

Amal commented: “NSW has untapped renewable energy potential that presents excellent opportunities to build a P2X industry at scale – to meet domestic and export demand for green energy. P2X offers opportunities for deep decarbonisation for hard-to-abate industries, regional development and investment attraction, as well as exporting renewable energy to overseas markets via hydrogen carriers.”

According to Durrant-Whyte, in NSW and across Australia there is existing demand for hydrogen and a growing market for P2X technologies. He adds that transport, electricity, and gas industries are also actively exploring P2X to decarbonise processes and products in NSW.

Durrant-Whyte commented: “A local P2X industry could play a major role in NSW’s target of net zero emissions by 2050 and create hundreds of jobs. We need immediate, targeted and coordinated investment in these technologies to meet our economic and moral obligations to decarbonise. I look forward to the outcomes of this project under Prof. Amal’s leadership, which will help us to understand the next steps to realise this goal.”

The foundation phase of the study began in January 2020 and researchers are expected to deliver findings to the Government by the end of May. The researchers aim to complete preliminary roadmapping by the mid-2021.

The consortium will include researchers from UNSW Sydney, as well as from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency; the University of Newcastle; the University of Sydney; and University of Wollongong.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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