The Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemical and Process Engineering (CPEC) Club UWA organised a group of enthusiastic students to participate in the Chemeca 2023 Student Hackathon, sponsored by Future Fuels CRC and Fonterra. The challenge was to conceive and present an innovative infrastructure solution that could replace natural gas in dairy plants with cleaner alternatives such as hydrogen, biomethane, or a blend of similar fuels.
The UWA team of Raymond Lee Gileno, Janna Isabela Delos Reyes, Marko Ljubcic, Deetya Sheryl Charles, Ayrton John Albuquerque, and Jayashini M Patmanathan, proposed the production of low emission synthetic methane through the creation of green hydrogen partnered with carbon capture and utilisation.
The UWA team competed against 21 other highly competitive teams from around the world and placed in the top 5. In the preliminary phase, the team produced an A3 infographic on their proposed solution. Their proposal centred on the establishment of a cutting-edge facility in the Harvey region of Western Australia. This facility would harness CO2 emissions from neighbouring industries, drawing energy from large-scale solar farms, and utilising the existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure for product delivery.
Image: A3 Infographic depicting the innovative design for low-emission synthetic gas production, click here for full resolution.
The team's initial design considered transforming organic waste from the dairy industry and nearby local sources into fuel, powering the methanation reaction where produced green hydrogen and captured CO2 will produce synthetic natural gas. This solution was preferred because it leverages against existing natural gas infrastructure, which reduces capital costs for the dairy industry and downstream customers.
The team's proposed solution qualified them as finalists and provided them the opportunity to travel to Auckland, New Zealand to present their solution. The finalists were composed of teams from the University of Auckland, University of Waikato, University of New South Wales, and University of Queensland.
As part of the hackathon, all finalists had the opportunity to attend the Chemeca Conference. The forum broadened the UWA team's horizon with highly intriguing presentations and offered an invaluable network to mingle with chemical engineers while seeking advice to build upon their proposal.
Image: From left: Ayrton Albuquerque, Janna Delos Reyes, Raymond Lee Gileno, Marko Ljubicic, Deetya Charles, and Jayashini Patmanathan presenting the proposal on stage to Chemeca 2023 attendees. Photo courtesy of IChemE.
In addition to their conference attendance at the Hilton Auckland, the UWA team had the privilege of visiting the nearby Fonterra headquarters. This enlightening visit shed light on the pivotal role of the dairy industry in New Zealand and showcased the significant impact chemical engineers have on production processes and environmental considerations.
The UWA team reported that they enjoyed all aspects of the Chemeca hackathon and were excited to present their idea on stage. Despite multiple days and nights of preparation for their infographic, it was heartening for their work to be recognised by the wider Chemical Engineering community.
The extraordinary journey of these students has kindled a newfound enthusiasm within the Department of Chemical Engineering and CPEC, prompting them to organise a team for the 2024 round. This endeavour promises to offer a significant national platform for students to showcase their talents to esteemed Chemical Engineers and further enrich their educational journey.