Review by Elliot Chichero, Sydney Water

A new paper, published in Energy Nexus and authored by Philip Woods and Heriberto Bustamante from Sydney Water and Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsoub from Sydney University, explores the validity of using treated wastewater to support Hydrogen power in the renewable energy economy and more. The paper provides a sneak peek into what the future may hold!

Hydrogen power is one of the great renewable energy opportunities available to Australia. Currently, projects using Hydrogen power are sourcing Hydrogen from existing coal-seam gas activities, which clearly isn’t a sustainable option as we move towards a greener future. To truly maximise the benefits of renewable energy, we must ensure that we’re not creating further harm to the environment in creating it.

Hydrogen car concept with auto and H2 visualization. stock photo

Water has been identified as a potential source of accessing clean Hydrogen. However, with an expected conversion rate of approximately 43L of water to produce 1kg of hydrogen, there are significant risks to be considered in balancing competing demands for water in a drying climate. How would it look if Australia was in the clutches of a drought, forcing communities to conserve water, whilst simultaneously using the little water we did have to create hydrogen? Do we keep the renewable energy economy going, or the taps running?

This is where the opportunity to use tertiary treated wastewater (already meeting strict requirements to discharge safely to waterways) can both manage these risks and support the circular economy. Wastewater treatment plants across Australia produce enough wastewater in a year to significantly contribute to the hydrogen economy, and is a rainfall independent source that is currently underutilised. Moreover, opportunities to utilise renewable energy to power hydrogen plants are already well established at wastewater treatment plants, with hydro-electric, solar and co-generation practices common-place.

Click here to read the full paper at Energy Nexus