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Could water utilities play a key role in the growth of Australia’s hydrogen industry?

Jacobs and Yarra Valley Water have partnered to deliver a thought leadership paper that asks ‘what if’ the growth of Australia’s hydrogen industry could be supported by co-located hydrogen production at wastewater treatment plants?


The broad utilisation of hydrogen has the potential to play an important role in our journey towards a decarbonised, sustainable future. But in Australia, cost remains a major barrier to adoption.

Building on the suggestions made in our original thought leadership paper in 2019, our latest release uses Yarra Valley Water’s Aurora wastewater treatment plant as a case study to explore the relationship between both outputs from electrolysis: hydrogen and pure oxygen.

Specifically, the high-level analysis explores whether using oxygen in wastewater treatment processes could create enough savings for the wastewater treatment plant to effectively subsidise the cost of hydrogen production and increase its commercial viability.

“Together with Yarra Valley Water, our paper starts a conversation about a possible future role for water utilities in Australia’s hydrogen industry, which supports both decarbonisation and the commercial readiness of this emerging industry,” said Jacobs’ Senior Vice President, Global Operations Patrick Hill.

The findings from the case study indicated that implementing a type of treatment technology that allowed for the efficient use of pure oxygen at the Aurora wastewater treatment plant could deliver net capital and operating cost savings to Yarra Valley Water, compared to other types of treatment options tested.

At the same time, the guaranteed demand for oxygen at Aurora was instrumental in enabling the co-located hydrogen facility to be commercially viable, while selling hydrogen within a competitive price range of AUD$2-$6/kg.

Importantly, this result was achieved for ‘sustainable hydrogen’ – produced using recycled water and renewable energy – highlighting the opportunity for decarbonisation without compromising the nation’s drinking water resources.

“Embracing renewable energy is a significant focus for our business,” Yarra Valley Water Managing Director Pat McCafferty said.

“It’s been fantastic to partner with Jacobs to explore how the water sector could play a bigger role in developing an effective and commercially viable hydrogen industry in Australia.”

While the results are specific to the unique circumstances of the Aurora wastewater treatment plant and possible caveats are highlighted, the conservative nature of the analysis suggests the findings are promising and point to a pivotal role for water utilities in accelerating the development of Australia’s hydrogen industry.

The implications for the water industry and the Australian Government’s hydrogen strategy present an exciting opportunity to enable more rapid decarbonisation of the world’s most emissions-intensive industries.