Getting your remains incinerated in the sun remains a pipe dream but having them cremated using the same element that stars are made of – namely hydrogen – could soon be a reality.

Research conducted by Adelaide’s Centennial Park back in 2008 found that around 160kg of carbon dioxide is produced on the day of a cremation – around four times more than a burial.

As it stands, natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is used in cremation furnaces where normally two or three large burners provide heat during the process, which requires relatively high temperatures of about 800 to 850 degrees for an average of 90 minutes.

But Geelong-based company, Australian Engineering Solutions (Austeng), may have a ‘greener’ solution on the cards.

Its project ‘Ashes to Ashes – Renewable Hydrogen Cremation for Sustainable Death Care’ will investigate how a cremation furnace can be fired by a blend of hydrogen and natural gas, with the aim being to reach a 100% green-hydrogen fuelled cremator.

Austeng was one of eight recipients to receive funding under Victoria’s Hydrogen Business Ready Fund (BRF), which provides grants to busineses looking into the transition to renewable hydrogen.

A total of more than $600,000 has been announced in funding with other recipients including RMIT University, Monash University, Goulbourn Valley Water, and Green Hydrogen Coach Trial – who plan to conduct a feasibility study for the installation of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure at bus depots in Victoria.


Transition to net-zero: Only one of ‘many’ examples

Austeng managing director Ross George, who established the company more than 25 years ago, said along with plans to conduct an economic, commercial and technical study, a prototype assessment will also be undertaken to determine the feasibility of manufacturing new or modifying existing cremation burners to utilise hydrogen.

“From there, we will then benchmark the emissions reductions we achieve,” he said.

“It is a really, really interesting project.

“The opportunities for Australia’s manufacturing in this whole transition to a net-zero carbon economy are enormous, and this is just one little example of some of the great technologies and developments that Australian innovation and engineering can, and will do.”


Demonstration-ready by June

The project, which is worth around $240,000, received $100,000 from the fund to get a demonstration ready by mid-year.

“At the moment we are looking at the standards, codes, and availability of technologies which will run into February, and then we will do some consulting with suppliers in the industry which will run into March,” he said.

“We will begin constructing in April–May and all going well, be ready to demonstrate it in June.”

He while there seems to be “some nervousness in the supply chain” due to the costs associated with hydrogen infrastructure, initial plans will be focused on creating demand.

“We are in a chicken and egg scenario and there’s a reluctance from people to invest money if there isn’t a market,” he said.

“So, that’s why one of the ideas of what we are trying to do is operate initially on a hydrogen-blend, where if we blend hydrogen with gas and show that works, hopefully it creates a demand,” he said.