Waste materials, including municipal solid waste, food processing wastes and sewage, are typically treated by anaerobic digestion processes which produce gas that has a typical composition of 50% carbon dioxide mixed with 50% methane.  Because of the ubiquitous nature of these wastes, biogases make significant contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and consequently contribute to global warming.   Methane, the major component of landfill gases is a potent greenhouse gas, having 23 times the negative impact as carbon dioxide.  Traditionally this problem has been managed by capturing the landfill gas and flaring it to produce carbon dioxide.  Although flaring decreases the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent released to the atmosphere, it is still a waste of potential fuel or feedstock for refining processes. It is significantly more advantageous to capture the energy value of the methane during this conversion, since this then also provides a (partially) renewable energy resource.  Currently only a small fraction of biogas produced from waste is collected and utilized for energy production. Moreover, the technology available for energy production, namely electricity generation using modified and detuned engines, is very inefficient and substantial heat losses occur to the exhaust gas.

An attractive route for utilization of biogas is to convert it to synthesis gas through CO2/CH4 reforming, and then using the syngas as a feedstock for methanol production.  

Uses of Methanol

Methanol is a very versatile industrial chemical and has a ready international market. Applications are illustrated in the diagram to side.


Details of project

The project takes a new approach to the direct production of methanol from the principal biogas compounds (CH4 and CO2) that are continuously released from the many waste digestion and treatment plants. The key step is the direct CO2 reforming of CH4 into syngas (CO and H2) which can then be used to synthesize methanol.  The syngas is then reacted to methanol using a new low pressure process.

The results obtained using UQ/BioAust catalyst technologies are the most promising reforming properties of alloy type catalysts so far developed in any part of the World. The results show that methanol can be produced at low pressure with low cost catalysts. These nanoscale catalysts and the overall methanol production process are the platform technologies that are to be commercialized by this project using biogas as the raw material.

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BioAust Hydrogen – Leading Edge Development

BioAust Pty Ltd is a company dedicated to the development of technology beyond the current accepted paradigms. Even as a young company, BioAust Pty Ltd has jointly patented with the University of Queensland patented technology that is commercially viable and market based. This has been spun off into a new entity BioAust Hydrogen Pty Ltd. Most major governments and many philanthropic investors are targeting hydrogen as the best environmental fuel alternative. This makes investment in these technologies viable on a number of fronts and determines a ready market for genuine technology advancements. BioAust Hydrogen is ready to take its advancements to the market through either self- branded market entry or JV with existing marketing companies.

Technologies - Hydrogen: BioAust has developed in conjunction with the University of Queensland ARC Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, a series of new approaches to the use of hydrogen as a renewable, environmentally sustainable fuel to replace fossil fuels. The work is being conducted by Dr Xiandong Yao, Prof Max Lu and Assoc Prof Yinghe He. These inventions and developments put BioAust well ahead of any published work on hydrogen and well ahead of the target figures set up by various governments. Our major focus is on the perfecting of hydrogen fuel cells so that they can be used in more simple forms to fuel all types of engines. The key is to link our technology to a fuel cell that can be used safely in motor vehicles.

BioAust has a focus in three defined areas of this technology;

  • Early commercialisation of low-pressure hydrogen storage technology developed between BioAust Pty Ltd and the University of Queensland Centre for Functional Nanomaterials for use in a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle.
  • Catalytic production of hydrogen from biomass using new low temperature and pressure catalytic processes under an R&D program with the Centre for Functional Nanomaterials.
  • Catalytic production of hydrogen from water at low energy inputs using new UV-nanocatlyst technology that is cost effective.
  • Development of a modified fuel cell based on the direct feed of atomic hydrogen from the hydrogen storage technology that is to be commercialised.

End Products: Application of the technologies under different operating conditions results in end products for:

  • Fuel cells that can be used to replace hydrocarbons
  • Catalytic science to make the production and use of hydrogen highly efficient
  • Technology that allows hydrogen to be used in a cost effective manner
  • Highly efficient fuel cells that allow quick filling and repletion of the hydrogen
  • Development of hydrogen powered vehicles to start the commercialisation process
  • Commercialisation of all facets of the developed technology
  • Completion of international patents for these technologies

Investment Opportunities

BioAust is currently working with VentureAxess, a Sydney based VC company, raising venture capital to expand the R&D work and commercialize the existing technology.