News and events

International hydrogen energy forum provides focus for innovative New Zealand technology

This article was published on 20 November 2014

This week Some of the world’s top hydrogen energy researchers have been meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, to share and analyse the results of a four-year project to assess the market readiness of distributed and community hydrogen energy technologies. This refers to applications for the production and consumption of hydrogen energy at a local level rather than a centralised industrial scale.

During the summit, Callaghan Innovation researchers showcased their own HyLink system, through which they have proven the feasibility of storing renewable energy as hydrogen, which has significant potential for managing intermittent renewable energy generation.

Development of this system has involved several Kiwi businesses, including Wellington’s ESG Energy and Ventech Systems, Christchurch’s Shamrock Ltd and heating company Yunca from Invercargill. More partners are being engaged to progress and accelerate its commercialisation.

Through Callaghan Innovation and MBIE, New Zealand is a signatory to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Hydrogen Implementation Agreement (HIA), formed in 1977 to foster collaborative R&D into hydrogen energy applications among its member countries. New Zealand is actively involved in HIA Task 29, which looks at the commercial readiness of hydrogen energy for distributed and community usage, such as by remote and island communities, which aren’t always attached to an energy grid.

At the summit, New Zealand business people and policy makers learned from United States, Japanese and New Zealand hydrogen energy experts about the significant commercial and technical progress that has been achieved in a range of key projects around the world.

Callaghan Innovation CEO Dr Mary Quin said it was an honour for New Zealand to host and be part of such a high level energy initiative.

“It’s great to see the significant strides this area is making towards commercial viability globally, as well as achieving key technical advances in hydrogen technology as a renewable source of energy.”

At a seminar on Wednesday 19 November, researchers outlined promising progress in the development and uptake of hydrogen energy applications around the world, including:

  • Kiwi ‘Hylink’ technology for the production and storage of renewable hydrogen that offers a way of managing the storage and use of intermittent renewable energy generation and displacing LPG for cooking and heating.
  • The use of more than 80,000 combined heat and power energy systems fuelled by hydrogen to power urban homes in Japan, with a government target of 5.3 million units by 2030. Europe and the UK are also increasingly employing this technology, with significant cost reductions and performance improvements being reported.
  • The deployment by global delivery company Fedex of more than 500 hydrogen-powered forklifts at warehouse facilities in the United States, and an estimated 3000 more in use throughout distribution centres around the world.
  • A Unitec-led collaborative project whose goal is to develop a hydrogen powered farm quad bike and other enabling technologies.

The seminar was followed by a field trip to Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour, where attendees visited Callaghan Innovation’s Department of Conservation-hosted HyLink project, the first energy system in New Zealand to be able to store renewable energy in the form hydrogen and provide useful local energy services.

Alister Gardiner, leader of Callaghan Innovation’s hydrogen research effort, said: “Our system proves the technical feasibility of safe storage and residential use of hydrogen produced from renewable sources. It shows that hydrogen energy has the potential to play a significant role in New Zealand’s renewable energy mix as the technologies mature.”

As a result of the Task 29 Committee’s research programme, a series of ‘how to’ guides will be developed for planners, architects, engineers, policymakers and businesspeople for utilising hydrogen solutions in their respective urban, remote/island, and industrial applications. The aim is to increase awareness of the market readiness level of these hydrogen technologies and support the progress of hydrogen technologies and systems through to commercialisation.