Article Republished By Javier Troconis
Researchers at the University of Canterbury (UC) are developing a smart new way of making green hydrogen from woody biomass and capturing carbon in the process.
As Aotearoa New Zealand heads towards zero carbon 2050, green hydrogen is poised to play a key role in decarbonising transport, heating and industrial processes while opening up new business and export opportunities to satisfy global demand for clean energy.
UC Chemical and Process Engineers Professor Shusheng Pang and Associate Professor Alex Yip are working to refine a breakthrough technology using advanced thermochemical processes and low value wood as the raw material. This will enable green hydrogen to be produced at a commercially viable price and in combination with carbon sequestration.
Previous research, led by Professor Pang, unlocked technologies on conversion of biomass to hydrogen-rich syngas that could be synthesised as liquid fuel for vehicles.
“That project was very successful. We are now using similar technology to pull out hydrogen,” says Associate Professor Yip. “At the same time, we are also looking beyond green hydrogen and recognising that we can capture, store and even potentially re-use the carbon dioxide.”
Once commercialised, the carbon negative technology has the potential to make a significant dent in New Zealand’s current carbon emissions, equivalent to around three per cent of 2020 gross emissions according to research estimates. It could also generate an estimated $400 million annually in revenue, based on wood processing residuals/low value logs data, hydrogen production costs and hydrogen market price.
“We have already advanced beyond proof of concept, so the first stage of our programme will be to show the technology working at laboratory and pilot scale. At the end of the project, we will work with industry on a demonstration plant towards a full commercialisation pathway that will allow for rapid adoption of our technology,” Professor Pang says.
“As engineers and scientists, we are doing all we can to help achieve zero carbon by 2050.”
The research team comprises of mid and early career New Zealand researchers, renowned overseas researchers and experienced industry practitioners. Implementation partners include suppliers of woody biomass, production plant designers, fuel/hydrogen producers, distributors and advocates.