Powering NZ’s green hydrogen economy

Next-generation electrocatalytic systems for energy production and storage / Kaupāpā Hauwai Kākāriki Aotearoa.

Overview

This world-leading research programme by GNS Science responds to the ambitious challenge of decarbonising New Zealand’s energy sector through the implementation of green hydrogen (hauwai kākāriki) production and storage technologies. 

This programme aims to

  • help renewable energy sources such as hauwai kākāriki become more affordable and accessible
  • reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and increase the adoption of hauwai kākāriki, particularly in power and transport applications and create new capabilities in hydrogen storage and distribution
  • drive the development of new, knowledge-intensive industries, accelerate regional innovation, and work alongside Māori businesses and organisations as part of the transition to a low emissions future
  • help Aotearoa New Zealand on its pathway to becoming a net energy exporter

To achieve these objectives, we

  • are performing fundamental research on the quantum mechanical nature of the catalysis process, and investigating novel catalytic materials that hold the promise of reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of the electrolysis process
  • are looking at ways to more efficiently generate ammonia from hydrogen using a carbon-free method, helping to make storage and distribution of hauwai kākāriki cheaper, safer, easier and more cost effective
  • are investigating the potential socio- and techno-economic impacts of hauwai kākāriki in a New Zealand context to help ensure social acceptance of this new technology

The project

Powering NZ’s green hydrogen economy

If technologies can be developed to economically produce hydrogen from water, rather than fossil fuels, the world will meet its energy needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This programme focuses on utilising renewable electricity as an energy source to generate ‘green’ hydrogen by water splitting (electrolysis) – producing a clean, emission-free variant of this key industrial feedstock for power and transport.

While hydrogen electrolysis is not new, it currently relies on high-cost, increasingly in-demand materials (principally Platinum and Iridium) to make it work well, making hydrogen production in this manner less competitive with the conventional fossil-fuel reforming.

Our research aims to stimulate the creation of next-generation technologies with an order-of-magnitude improvement in cost performance relative to existing water electrolysis-based hydrogen production systems, along with new capabilities in hydrogen storage and distribution.

A step-change in green energy production

We have several promising options currently under development that are capable of delivering a step-change in green energy production, both in the materials used for catalysis and in production process techniques. Not only is our approach more effective, we believe it will result in significant cost savings that will flow through to the New Zealand consumer.

By focusing on hydrogen production for power and transport, our programme aligns with Aotearoa New Zealand’s renewable energy, hydrogen and carbon-zero strategies/targets. It supports New Zealand’s international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and assists with our challenging 2030 emissions target.

Our programme will drive the development of new, knowledge-intensive industries, accelerate regional innovation. We will also work alongside Māori organisations and businesses as part of the transition to a low-emissions future. Our technology has a strong potential to strengthen New Zealand’s pathway to becoming a net energy exporter.

 

A Car That Runs On Just Sunlight + Water...!?

An introduction to Green Hydrogen Technology

John Kennedy Principal Scientist - Materials

Dr. John V Kennedy is a material scientist whose work focusses on new materials development for low carbon energy technologies. His research explores new technological pathways for a sustainable zero carbon economy. He uses ion beam technologies pioneered by Lord Rutherford to develop functional materials and to provide key information about the materials structure-property relationship. The results are used across the materials science community for the design of a new product, surface engineering, catalytic materials for hydrogen production and storage, thermoelectric materials for waste heat to energy conversion, energy storage materials, magnetic materials and energy efficient systems. John is an Adjunct Professor at Victoria University of Wellington. He is the programme director for MBIE advanced Energy technology platform “Green Hydrogen Technology Platform” which aims to develop new clean technologies to produce hydrogen from non-pure water and develop a technological capability for Hydrogen in New Zealand. He is also Energy & Emissions platform leader of New Zealand Product Accelerator and Principal Investigator of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology and Principal Investigator of the MBIE Endeavour funded Programme “Wirelessly Powered Transport Infrastructure for a Low-carbon Future”

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Research project details

Collaborators: Partners include the University of Canterbury, University of Otago, New Zealand Product Accelerator based at The University of Auckland, Boston University, the University of Wurzburg in Germany, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and CSIRO and the University of Newcastle in Australia.

Duration

2020–2025

Funding platform

Endeavour Fund

Status

Current

Programme leader

Dr John Kennedy, GNS Science

Funder

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE)

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