Fifty-one years after the Roma to Brisbane Pipeline transporting natural gas 438km between Wallumbilla and Brisbane was opened by then-Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, a project is underway to see if it and other pipelines can cope with renewable methane.
The elements involved in producing renewable methane and the technicalities around moving it through existing infrastructure were shared with attendees at a sold-out Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise breakfast at Chinchilla last Thursday.
Black and white news footage of the historic gas transmission in 1969 shown by APA's access and approval manager north east, Warren Twist highlighted the modern project's own pioneering aspects.
The $2.2m Wallumbilla Renewable Methane Demonstration Project is being jointly developed by Southern Green Gas and APA Group and also aims to prove the commercial viability of moving renewable methane in existing infrastructure.
The project will use solar-generated electricity, water and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is described as 'greening' gas pipelines.
"It's an exciting trial," Mr Twist said, explaining the carbon neutral closed circle process of producing the methane.
"We've got the regulatory approvals and we've done the project planning.
"We'll put the plant together in the next nine months at Newcastle then bring it to Wallumbilla.
"We want to prove it, then ensure it's commercially viable."
The demonstration plant will produce approximately 320 kilograms of hydrogen per year, converting it into 32 gigajoules of methane, which will then be injected into APA's gas engine fuel line at Wallumbilla.
Mr Twist said a key benefit was that once it had been converted into methane it could be used in exactly the same form as conventional gas.
"Instead of coal seam gas that's taken millions of years, it's created in a couple of days," he said.
He explained that it was different to hydrogen in the way it could be stored and transported, saying he saw a clear advantage over the hydrogen market thanks to renewable methane's stability.
Looking into the future, Mr Twist said renewable energy generation was overtaking gas generation, with the former now accounting for 54 per cent of activity.
"We've invested $750m in this sector so we see it as a key limb," he said.
The Wallumbilla renewable methane project is supported by the federal government's renewable funding agency, ARENA through a $1.1 million contribution.
It's expected to be operational by late 2021 and will produce renewable methane for injection into APA's gas pipelines for up to 12 months.
TSBE CEO Ali Davenport said Thursday's presentation from APA provided an outlook to the future of renewable energy production across the region.
"It was great to have an overview around renewables and the role that APA can play in the future energy mix and how this can be produced in our region and distributed nationally," she said.