Thanks to an international research grant, the development of safe, low-cost, environmentally friendly hydrogen storage materials derived from New Zealand resources has advanced.
Professor Sally Brooker of the University of Otago’s Department of Chemistry and Dr. Paul Jerabek of the Institute of Hydrogen Technology, Helmholtz Zentrum Hereon are co-leading a German-New Zealand Green Hydrogen partnership.
The alliance, which is sponsored for five years by German and New Zealand money, was created to promote networking and outreach and to construct a research center at Otago. It intends to promote green hydrogen research and industry partnerships between the two countries, thereby creating considerable investment opportunities and attracting high-quality industrial and research partners.
It has been received a three-year research funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) to study safe, inexpensive hydrogen storage materials derived from New Zealand resources.
“After a lot of planning, our team is thrilled to be able to move forward with our investigations into producing green hydrogen storage materials from New Zealand resources,” Professor Brooker says.
The MBIE grant is co-led by Professor Brooker and Dr. Jerabek, in partnership with Aimee Kaio (Awarua Runaka and Te Rnanga o Ngi Tahu) and Dr. Linda Wright (NZ H2 Council), and supports a New Zealand-wide research team consisting of Associate Professors Nigel Lucas and Michael Jack and Dr. Anna Garden (Otago), Dr. Chris Bumby (Robinson Research Institute, Victoria), Associate
As a significant commodity chemical and carbon-free fuel, green hydrogen has the potential to become a crucial vector for transporting and storing renewable energy, but it is difficult to store compactly.
Currently, it is stored through either high-pressure compression or liquification via cryogenic chilling. Due to system leakage losses, safety concerns, and expense, neither is suitable for large-scale, long-term storage.
Dr. Jerabek explains that the research program aims to support the transformation of New Zealand and Germany into green hydrogen economies by focusing on the development of commercially viable metal alloy materials capable of safe and compact hydrogen storage at pressures and temperatures close to ambient.
“Metal hydrides are an extremely safe, versatile and technically very attractive option for hydrogen storage. However, to make them commercially competitive with alternative storage methods, new cost-effective sources of these metals are required.”
Professor Brooker explains that the highly collaborative research project aims to combine scientific, engineering, and economic expertise to determine if New Zealand resources, such as ilmenite, can be used to generate these metal alloy materials in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner, while retaining the benefits in the region.
“This will enable wide-spread uptake of new hydrogen technologies by various sectors, including electricity, transportation and industry, with outcomes intrinsically linked to, and aligned with, the Māori worldview of kaitiakitanga,” she says.
Professor Richard Blaikie, Otago’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, says the University is “fully committed to deepening our partnership with iwi on important project such as this, and to meeting our ambitious sustainability goals”.
“It is exciting to know that new researchers will be trained in the course of this project, contributing to New Zealand’s future workforce needs in this rapidly evolving energy sector.”
Tā Tipene O’Regan, Kaumtua of Ngāi Tahu and Upoko of Awarua Runanga, asserts that the Murihiku/Southland region offers substantial export and employment potential for green hydrogen.
“It’s important that we make wise investments now for the future of our region and we act in the national interest. Green hydrogen will allow us to continue to make our contribution both to the New Zealand economy and support the fight against climate change.
“The future conversion of existing Manapouri hydro and development of new renewable energy projects to support a large-scale green hydrogen plant for both export and domestic use in Awarua is a ‘no brainer’.”