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Duynhoven launches hydrogen to electricity project

Associate Energy Minister launches ‘hydrogen to electricity’ project

Associate Energy Minister, Harry Duynhoven, will today launch the first step in a multi-million New Zealand research project designed to produce hydrogen from coal for electricity generation, via fuel cells.

The Minister will feed the first coal into a pilot gasifer which generates hydrogen gas for use in an alkaline fuel cell for electricity production.

Hydrogen can be produced from water (using electricity) and from coal or natural gas. With more than 10 billion tonnes of coal reserves, the equivalent of 50 original Maui gasfields and almost all ideal for hydrogen production, New Zealand is positioned to be a leader in the development of the hydrogen energy economy.

The research project commenced in June 2002 with a $6 million Government investment through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) to CRL Energy Ltd, which has expertise in coal gasification and gas clean-up, and Industrial Research Ltd, with expertise in gas clean-up and fuel cells. Unitec and the University of Canterbury’s Department of Chemical and Process Engineering are sub-contractors to the programme. Coal producer, Solid Energy New Zealand is providing additional support.

Solid Energy and the Coal Association of New Zealand have also initiated and invested in related areas of advanced technological and environmental issues. These include developing a hydrogen roadmap for the coal industry and technologies and options for managing the CO2 by-product of hydrogen production from coal.

The next step in the research project is to prove the technology, small scale, through a 50kW plant that could meet the electricity needs of 10 to 20 houses or a small-scale commercial operation. A natural extension of the programme would be to incorporate the technology into a coal-fired power station, along with the technology to capture CO2 at the point of emission and store it in underground reservoirs such as depleted oil and gas well and deep coal seams.

The launch of the hydrogen project will take place at 5.30pm today (23 February 2004) at CRL Energy Ltd, 68 Gracefield Road, Lower Hutt. Other speakers include Solid Energy Chief Executive Officer, Dr Don Elder and CRL Managing Director, Dr Rob Whitney.

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