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NZ Coal Scientists Win International Recognition

26 September 2005

New Zealand Coal Scientists Win International Recognition

Three New Zealand coal scientists have been accorded a rare honour at an international conference for their research paper on extracting hydrogen from coal.

Three applications of coal to hydrogen technology for New Zealand were considered by the trio in their paper. These were: meeting the needs of small remote communities, servicing a large industrial complex and production of hydrogen for the country’s future transport fleet.

Their paper was one of only five singled out for an honourable mention from the nearly 300 presented to the Pittsburgh International Coal Conference in mid-September. The mention in effect means New Zealand researchers are being internationally recognised as being at the leading edge of worldwide clean coal technology research.

The paper was written by Ramon Brown and Dr Tony Clemens of CRL Energy Ltd (CRL) and Dr Steven Pearce of Solid Energy Ltd.

Their work covered a major part of a hydrogen research work programme being undertaken by the Government. The $6 million investment is via the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST). Also involved in the programme are research partners IRL Ltd who are developing the fuel cell component of the technology package and sub-contractors Unitec who provide future energy demand modelling input.

The six-year research project “Hydrogen Energy for the Future of New Zealand” is designed to create the technological platform that would be necessary if the country were to move to a hydrogen-based energy economy. Trial technology for converting our low rank coals to high purity hydrogen suitable for use in fuel cells has been built and commissioning work is well advanced. In the paper the scientists described some of the features of the technology, some of the difficulties faced and means of overcoming them.

The paper also considered the likely role of coal-based hydrogen production technologies in the development of a hydrogen energy economy in New Zealand. Given that the country has significant coal reserves, but dwindling gas supplies and insufficient economically viable renewable resources to meet likely future demand, there will be several decades during which hydrogen production from coal can play a major role.

ENDS

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