Principal scientist

John Burnell: Energy Futures

BSc (1st Class Hons); MSc (Distinction); PhD Mathematics from Victoria University, Wellington, NZ

John is a numerical modeller who has made a significant contribution over many years to the New Zealand science system. John joined GNS in 2014 and he now oversees the organisation’s commitment to helping New Zealand move towards a low-carbon energy future.

Working alongside a group of 50 scientists and researchers, John’s role is to develop strategies and determine research priorities that identify and address New Zealand’s future energy needs, challenges and opportunities. His current priorities include developing a greater understanding of high temperature geothermal energy – work which builds on New Zealand’s international reputation; green hydrogen production and its potential value for New Zealand business, industries and communities; and exploring new materials and devices that have energy applications, for example, wireless charging of EVs, battery re-use and materials that can convert heat to electricity.

John is passionate about geothermal systems and for the past 35 years, he has actively researched and developed models of geothermal systems around the world. He continues to advise businesses, communities and government agencies on the efficient and sustainable use of geothermal resources.

John has developed ground-breaking models of geothermal systems throughout the world and has made a notable contribution to the energy sector, both in New Zealand and overseas. His significant contribution to the sector has been recognised with numerous awards and citations. He is currently the New Zealand Convenor of the International Partnership for Geothermal Technologies (IPGT) Reservoir Modelling Group and has served on the NZ Geothermal Association Board over two six- year periods.

John Burnell Energy Futures Theme Leader

John is a numerical modeller who has over 30 years experience working on a wide range of energy related projects. His main focus is geothermal reservoir modelling, undertaking both research and consulting. He has developed models of geothermal systems throughout the world, for both consenting purposes and resource planning. He has worked on models of: Ngawha, Wairakei, Rotokawa, Rotorua, Tauhara, Kawerau, Mokai, (New Zealand), Mt Apo, Bacman (Philippines), Kakkonda, Uenotai, Sumikawa (Japan), and Luiese (Papua New Guinea). He has long-standing involvement in the resource consent process in New Zealand, both developing models to assess environmental impacts and appearing as an expert witness at consent hearings. He is able to develop new software for solving modelling problems, and is the developer of a commercially available Tough2 pre-processor. John is currently the NZ convener of the IPGT Reservoir Modelling Group, and has served on the NZ Geothermal Association Board. In addition to geothermal modelling, John has worked on models of gas reservoirs, heat exchangers, heat transfer in reformer furnaces, casting furnaces, heater design, heat transfer in coolstores, biofilm growth and electroosmotic flow

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