Canterbury green hydrogen projects get $4 million boost

University of Canterbury researchers will lead initiatives to advance green hydrogen energy in Aotearoa New Zealand after two projects received $4 million from the Government.

  • Rebecca Peer, Aaron Marshall, Jannik Haas

    University of Canterbury (UC) Engineering researchers are leading two collaborative $4 million NZ-German projects into green hydrogen.

Sustainable Development Goals 7 - Affordable and clean energy

In partnership with German researchers, the projects are funded through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Catalyst: Strategic New Zealand-Germany Green Hydrogen Research Partnership strategic funding scheme.

Three successful research projects were announced today with two led by University of Canterbury (UC) academics; Civil Systems Engineering researchers Dr Rebecca Peer and Dr Jannik Haas, and Chemical and Process Engineering Professor Aaron Marshall.

Green hydrogen is produced from renewable energy sources and one of the few technologies able to offer long-term energy storage, green fertilisers and green steel, so it’s a hot topic as Aotearoa strives to become a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.

UC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Ian Wright says the MBIE funding is a huge endorsement. “We’re very proud that University of Canterbury researchers are taking a leading role in this important area. Internationally there is growing interest in green hydrogen as concern rises about climate change and these projects could bring exciting and much-needed breakthroughs.”

UC Civil Systems Engineering academics Drs Rebecca Peer and Jannik Haas are leading a project that aims to develop an integrated energy system model for New Zealand that could provide sustainable transport, heating, and electricity.

The project – in partnership with one of the leading energy modelling groups in Europe, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) – will receive $2 million in funding over three years from MBIE and €300,000 (NZ$478,700) from the German Ministry of Education and Research.

Dr Haas says their work will provide scientific evidence to inform a comprehensive green hydrogen strategy for New Zealand.

“The industry and transport sectors currently emit a high proportion of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases. We want to understand the role of green hydrogen in meeting New Zealand’s net-zero goal. How much we can use it cost-effectively and what for – including its potential as a fuel for planes and ships or potentially export it to the Pacific Islands – is what our project is designed to assess and quantify.”

UC Chemical and Process Engineering Professor Aaron Marshall is leading another Kiwi-German collaborative project that has been awarded $2 million funding over three years. The project’s goal is to develop a new type of electrolyser – a tool that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen – to produce hydrogen energy in a more cost-effective way.

Currently the most effective electrolysers are also the most expensive to make, but Professor Marshall says the team has the expertise to dramatically boost the efficiency of low-cost anion exchange membrane electrolysers, making them more financially viable.

“The people involved in the project have complementary skills and expertise. We’ll be doing nano-scale imaging of electrochemical reactions to identify where gas is produced and understand what makes the reaction better. The findings from this could lead to further research into energy production and utilisation.”

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