Geelong company leads the way with renewable hydrogen cremation for sustainable death care

January 19, 2022

Innovative Geelong engineering company Austeng is set to play a lead role in showing how renewable hydrogen can reduce the environmental impact of the cremation process.

Austeng has received a State Government grant to investigate the feasibility of modifying or replacing crematoria furnaces, traditionally powered by gas, with hydrogen-powered alternatives.

The Geelong Cemeteries Trust is a partner in the project and will provide key insight into operational data and future requirements.

The project aims to test how furnaces and traditional gas systems can be powered by a blend of hydrogen and gas – supporting cremation infrastructure changes in the transition to using clean, renewable hydrogen.

Austeng Managing Director, Ross George, said there was great interest in the cemetery and crematoria industry, and beyond, in using hydrogen to support Victoria’s climate change ambitions and its net-zero emissions target by 2050.

“The potential is enormous,” Mr George said. “This project is specifically for the death care industry but the developments we make will be applicable to many other gas-fired industrial appliances.”

Mr George said being able to develop or modify a furnace so it could operate with a blend of hydrogen and gas would address the challenge of balancing supply and demand during the transition to renewable energy.

“It will create a demand for renewable hydrogen but if there is a supply gap in the initial stages the users won’t face any business interruption because they can still keep running on gas,” he said.

The grant is through the State Government’s Renewable Hydrogen Business Ready Fund which is helping businesses take the first steps to transition to clean energy as part of the government’s broader blueprint for growing a renewable hydrogen economy over the next five years. The project involves undertaking a feasibility study, creating a prototype demonstration tool and then rolling out a knowledge sharing program targeting industry, community and other stakeholders

Mr George, whose company has been servicing the cemetery and crematoria industry for more than 30 years, said the State Government’s support would accelerate the industry’s transition to hydrogen-powered alternatives.  Ultimately the technology can then be rolled out to other types of fuel-fired furnaces to enable users to transition to renewable energy.

“This enables us to do something much faster and much better than we would have otherwise been able to do,” he said.

Mr George said an Australian company providing a practical demonstration of using hydrogen would be a significant stimulus to local manufacturing capability and the first step toward developing export markets in this space.

Geelong Cemeteries Trust CEO Darryl Thomas said, “This project is a terrific example of collaboration between Geelong organisations toward a common goal to improve environmental outcomes for the crematoria industry and beyond.

It is also gratifying that the sector is able to take a leadership role in this context with a number of other crematoria associations both in Victoria and interstate as well the Australasian Cemeteries & Crematoria Association (ACCA – the umbrella body for the industry) providing letters of support.”

Image, L-R: Austeng’s Ross George, Managing Director & Lyn George, Corporate Director with Frank de Groot, Deputy CEO of Geelong Cemeteries Trust