The Future Fuels Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) reflects the vision of Australia’s gas and pipelines sector, focusing on the pivotal role that new fuels and the existing gas infrastructure will have to play in a low carbon economy.

APGA is the largest industry partner in this new CRC.

The Future Fuels CRC will enable the Australian gas and pipeline industry to provide a competitive, low carbon energy alternative for residential, commercial, industrial and transport sectors to complement and support intermittent renewable electricity generation.

Significant opportunity exists to adapt existing gas infrastructure for the production, transport, storage and use of more sustainable future fuels such as hydrogen, biogas and liquid derivatives like ammonia and methanol that can meet a significant part of local demand and generate export opportunities.

Gas infrastructure can also increase the use of renewable generation by storing clean gas manufactured during periods of surplus generation for later use.

Being able to use existing energy network infrastructure, which can store huge amounts of energy and which currently services five million homes, 130,000 businesses, and powers mining and manufacturing, represents a major economic national benefit.

The Future Fuels CRC will develop solutions for current infrastructure and equipment to use low carbon fuels today and well into the future. Collaborating with more than 60 companies, six universities, the energy market operator and two regulators, low carbon fuels offer increasing potential to store and deliver reliable, clean, secure, and affordable energy to Australian consumers.

The Future Fuels CRC will be supported by $26m cash from the Commonwealth Government under the CRC program and about $65m of cash and in-kind funding from industry and universities over its seven-year life.

Research

The Future Fuels CRC will have three research programs.

Research Program 1: Future fuel technologies, systems and markets 

Program 1 focuses on the understanding of the technical, commercial and market barriers to, and opportunities for, the use of future fuels.

Research will generate tools to model production and delivery systems for future fuels like hydrogen, biogas, methanol and ammonia. The tools will incorporate current plans for Australia’s energy market, consistent with abatement targets, to generate scenarios to meet its commitments at the lowest total cost to consumers.

Techno-economic models of fuel production processes and supply chains will be developed to identify major technical or cost hurdles to the commercial uptake of low carbon fuels. Transformational technology will then be developed to solve these issues. Policy reforms necessary to enable implementation will be identified and presented to government.

The CRC will leverage demonstration projects planned by industry participants, including pilots demonstrating the injection of hydrogen into gas networks and ‘Power to Gas’ technology that utilises surplus renewable electricity. Research is required to develop, prove and exploit these technologies for Australian conditions.

Research will characterise the properties of low carbon fuels and determine how they will impact residential, commercial and industrial customers, and solutions will be developed to address these impacts.

Research Program 2: Social acceptance, public safety and security of supply 

Program 2 studies the social and policy context, including public acceptance and safety, for technology and infrastructure associated with future fuels. 

Early and effective engagement with communities builds public understanding and acceptance of major infrastructure investments. Research will assist industry to understand and effectively address community-based issues and develop appropriate engagement solutions.

This program will produce outputs that will sustain the world’s best practice safety and reliability performance of the Australian gas sector as it decarbonises. Research will focus on technical, social and organisational factors that support excellence in learning and decision-making.

Ensuring public safety requires not just excellence in the energy industry but excellent oversight from the regulatory system. Therefore, research will explore regulatory best practice in other jurisdictions and adapt these to the Australian environment.

Research Program 3: Network lifecycle management 

Using outputs of Programs 1 and 2 as well as known technical issues, Program 3 will design new cost effective integrity systems to enhance operations of the infrastructure carrying both existing and future fuels. It will exploit developments in allied disciplines, such as big data integration, new materials, and additive manufacturing to enhance current asset management practices.

Vital components of the energy transfer infrastructure will be studied from concept to end of life. Research will address novel materials, design, installation, operations and maintenance, and re-purposing or decommissioning requirements. Solutions will be provided to asset owners on the suitability of metallic and polymer pipe materials for the transport and storage of existing and new fluids.

Vision 

Established in 2018, the Future Fuels CRC supports Australia’s multibillion-dollar energy sector to transition to low-carbon fuels. These fuels will be delivered through both new and repurposed infrastructure to meet the needs of the whole energy market – electricity, transport, agriculture, mining, building, industrial and residential sectors.

Opportunity 

Australia must develop affordable, reliable low carbon energy sources and effective solutions for its total energy needs. Gas and future low-carbon fuels can provide energy directly in the form of heating and indirectly as a fuel for electricity generation, and as an alternative energy storage option.

The more than 120,000 km of existing pipeline networks provide a large and cost-effective facility to deliver and store future fuels, such as hydrogen, biogas, and synthetic natural gas.

Leveraging existing infrastructure and industry know-how to reliably supply clean energy makes economic sense. The Future Fuels CRC is essential to this process and provides long term advantages not only to its partners but the broader Australian community.