Queensland innovators turn waste into renewable energy in an Australian first

Mon, 22/02/2021 - 11:15

Never in history has sustainability become more critical. With the world producing more than 2 billion tonnes of waste annually, finding renewable energy alternatives is paramount.

One way forward is converting waste into hydrogen and that’s exactly what Queensland company Wildfire Energy plan to do with support from the Ignite Ideas Fund. 

This Queensland company is helping reduce landfill and associated emissions by recycling waste into hydrogen with their MIHG gasification technology.

The technology takes waste and efficiently converts it intogas from which hydrogen is extracted. The hydrogen can then be used for fuel cell vehicles such as cars and trucks or can be injected into the natural gas grid to decarbonise our energy system.

We caught up with Wildfire Energy to discuss their innovation and how they plan to use their grant from Round 7 of the Ignite Ideas Fund.

What inspired you to start your business?

Some years ago, the founders of Wildfire Energy recognised that there was a huge opportunity to simultaneously address our unsustainable waste management practices while also producing renewable energy products that are desired by consumers. We were inspired to channel our engineering experience gathered from the energy industry to develop a sustainable solution that can have a very meaningful impact across the globe. 

What milestones have been reached?

We’ve built a pilot plant that has proven our MIHG concept and used it to process a wide range of waste feedstocks. We’ve also secured early customers and recently been awarded two government grants to further develop our waste to hydrogen technology. Wildfire has also been accepted into the Brinc global cleantech accelerator program and the team at Brinc have been helping us refine our value propositions. 

What achievements are you most proud of to date? 

Building the MIHG pilot plant and confirming that it works as envisaged gives us a great sense of satisfaction. The founders of Wildfire Energy are engineers, so we get a kick out of building new things and making them work! 

What are your business goals over the next 12-24 months?

Our primary business goal is to build our MIHG commercial demonstration project and operate it in an industrial environment. This is a critical step to support the further roll out of our technology in Queensland, across Australia and ultimately around the world. We’re seeing growing interest in our MIHG product offering and are working to build and sell units around the world, from our base here in Queensland. 

How will you use your Ignite Ideas funding?

We will use the funding to further develop and commercialise our MIHG waste to hydrogen technology. The activities will include producing hydrogen in our pilot plant and then using the hydrogen to power a vehicle or fuel cell. This will be the first time in Australia that industrial waste will be converted into hydrogen. We’ll also be using the funding to help identify and work with potential customers to develop a pipeline of commercial projects. 

How will this funding assist your business to grow and/or create jobs?

There’s no better way to sell a product than showing it working! The funding will assist us to upgrade our existing pilot plant to turn waste into hydrogen. This is a critical step for securing commercial customers. The funding will support our engineering team and will also enable us to build our sales and marketing team and develop our supply chain.

Why would you recommend applying for Advance Queensland programs such as the Ignite Ideas Fund?

We’ve had a great experience with the Advance Queensland programs and the Ignite Ideas Fund in particular. In fact, we secured an earlier grant in 2017, which helped us build our original pilot plant and secure some early customers.

What other support have you received from Advance Queensland or the Queensland Government?

The Queensland Government has provided wonderful support to Wildfire Energy over the past four years. We completed an Advanced Queensland Ignite Ideas Fund grant in 2017/18 and have also entered into a funding agreement for our commercial demonstration project under the Waste to Biofutures program.

Additionally, the Queensland Government has been progressive in adopting best practice waste policies with the introduction of the waste levy and a strategic policy on Energy from Waste. These policies encourage more re-use and recycling of wastes and support the production of renewable energy products such as hydrogen and biofuels, from residual wastes destined for landfill. 

Why is it important to support Queensland businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs?

For entrepreneurs, Queensland is a great place to start and develop a business, as it has great infrastructure, a talented workforce and a growing and diverse economy. To achieve long-term success and reach scale, often early-stage businesses, like ours, need some support to catalyse growth to provide well-paying and rewarding careers for employees.

What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs and businesses starting out on their innovation journey?

Seek out all the information you can and network with your industry peers and the relevant government departments, industry agencies, tertiary education institutions and start-up ecosystems. When you start looking, there are fantastic resources available which can help immensely to improve the chances of success. Networking and reaching out to potential customers as early as possible is very important to validate your business value proposition. 

Last updated 22 Feb, 2021
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