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Low Grade Methane Capture for a Cleaner Environment and Improved Energy Security

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Publication Date: 
March 2021

Case study from: International research collaboration

Unconventional sources of low-grade methane represent both a serious environmental challenge and a significant opportunity.

Low-grade methane includes:

  • coal beds
  • agriculture
  • land-fill

Inefficient extraction and enrichment processes mean that substantial quantities of methane are either vented, oxidized, or flared.

As a greenhouse gas, methane is 30 times worse than carbon dioxide. Even if the low-grade methane is flared, a tremendous amount of energy is wasted. Capturing and using low-grade methane would lower greenhouse gas emissions directly while improving energy security, particularly in remote locations. Unfortunately, conventional processes for recovering methane from low-grade sources are inefficient and expensive.

In early 2017, an innovative Australian technology for cost-effectively recovering low-grade methane proved to work in the laboratory. The next step was to demonstrate it at an industrial scale. This would enable its adoption and use in biogas and coal bed methane projects. However, it would also require a significant level of investment and effort.

Global Innovation Linkages Program

Global Innovation Linkages (GIL) program awarded Gas Capture Technologies $983,290. They forged an initial collaboration with

  • The University of Western Australia
  • University of Melbourne and
  • DKT Energy Technology from China

to take a new Australian technology from the laboratory and prove it at scale in the real world. They achieved this by figuring out how to make tonnes of their patented ILZTM material without degrading its performance. They also optimized the process in which the ILZTM:

  • captures the low-grade methane
  • enriches it to an extremely high purity

The GCT team then conducted two large-scale demonstrations. They made over 1250 kg of ILZTM and demonstrated a low-grade methane recovery unit on a coal mine. The experiment ran in a remote part of Shanxi province, China.

Conventional processes and materials need at least three stages of purification to enrich low-grade methane. GCT’s novel technology only needs a single stage.

This cost-effective gas capture and recovery enables significant social benefits. It is especially beneficial for people living in remote locations with no natural gas grid. Warm homes in cold winters and hot meals are made possible by ‘cooking with gas.’

Efficient gas processing technologies for methane enrichment and nitrogen removal will:

  • improve the Australian gas industry’s global competitiveness
  • lower its carbon footprint by reducing the amount flared
  • encourage the increased use of carbon-neutral sources of methane in Australia such as biogas and land-fill gas

The novel technology means lower-grade energy sources can be harnessed around the world. This is particularly beneficial in regional areas with poor energy supply and security. This reduces the need to burn coal or other fuels with higher levels of pollutants and CO2 emissions.

Gas Capture Technologies’ partnerships in this GIL project have already opened new avenues for collaboration. They are currently negotiating with biogas production companies in Italy, Canada and the United States.

Team leaders

Australian Team Leaders:

  • Mitch Manning - Gas Capture Technologies (www.gascapture.com.au), Director, Business Operations
  • Dr Gang (Kevin) Li - The University of Melbourne (Senior Lecturer) / Gas Capture Technologies, Director, Chief Investigator

Collaborating Organizations:

  • The University of Western Australia (Australia)
  • Oilfield Technologies (Australia)
  • University of Melbourne (Australia)
  • DKT Energy Technology, Sichuan (China)
  • Shanxi Mingshi Coal Seam Gas Company (China)
  • East China Engineering Science & Technology Co., Ltd.(China)
  • Shanxi Jieli Gas Technology Co., Ltd. (China)

Read more

Find out more about the Global Innovation Linkages program