Energy-saving steel, wastewater hydrogen win funding

Ambitious projects to create more renewable hydrogen and produce greener steel have been granted almost $60 million after the government agency in charge of the sector expanded its funding.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) revealed on Wednesday it would invest up to $5 million in 21 projects researching renewable energy, most of them being undertaken at Australian universities.

They include using wastewater to produce renewable hydrogen, using powder to export it and electric smelting to create steel and iron ore to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia is currently the world's largest exporter of iron ore and could make a significant environmental impact by reducing pollution during production.

ARENA had initially planned to invest $25 million in the energy projects in two rounds but chief executive Darren Miller said the pool was expanded to $59.1 million due to the high quality of applications.

"Innovation starts in the lab and we have the best minds taking our decarbonisation efforts to the next level - to the benefit of Australians through jobs, lower emissions and cheaper energy," he said.

"We're backing Australian technological innovation that helps build our clean industries and underpins our ambitions of becoming a renewable energy superpower."

Darren Miller (file)
Darren Miller says the best minds are taking Australia's decarbonisation efforts to the next level.

Eight steel and iron ore projects will receive between $1.4 million and $5 million, and 13 renewable hydrogen projects claimed the lion's share of the funds with a total of $34.2 million.

The money will be issued over two stages, the first given to support core research into the projects and the second designed to help scale up and demonstrate its commercial applications.

Mr Miller said both renewable hydrogen and low-emissions metals had the potential to become "a significant export industry".

The successful projects ranged from using electric smelting furnaces in the production of iron ore and steel to "upcycling" steelmaking slag for reuse.

Hydrogen projects include Curtin University's research to export hydrogen using a powder, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology's efforts to produce green hydrogen using wastewater and improvements to the CSIRO's green hydrogen electrolyser.

ARENA's funding announcement comes one day after the Climate Council released its Seize the Decade report into cutting emissions, which found Australia could meet its environmental goals by improving the efficiency of iron and steel manufacturing.

The report, which used modelling from the University of Technology Sydney, recommended Australia seek to improve the energy efficiency of steel and iron production by five per cent in the years to 2030, as well as collecting and recycling more scrap metals.

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