A New Zealand research project is looking at ways to produce hydrogen in Antarctica to reduce carbon emissions.
A four-month New Zealand project is investigating whether hydrogen could be generated, used and stored at Scott Base, its Antarctic research facility, to reduce its reliance on carbon-based fuels. Those fuels are currently used for transportation, cooking and heating. A special grade fuel is shipped in on ice-breakers.
Surplus power from wind turbines at Scott Base could be used to generate green hydrogen for hydrogen fuel cells that produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
The hydrogen initiative is a collaboration between Antarctica, New Zealand, a government scientific body, and the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. The project started in August and will finish this month.
The project faces some obstacles, including geographic isolation and extreme weather. Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and driest continent. In 1983, a temperature of minus 89.2 degrees was recorded.
Brendon Miller, a consultant chemical engineer, says it is an ambitious plan.
“We would like to demonstrate that we can use hydrogen effectively as an energy source to replace fossil fuels. It is a very challenging environment to do it in Antarctica. But, actually, there are some things going for it because the alternates like batteries are quite awkward to use for long-term storage particularly at very cold temperatures,” Miller said.
New Zealand’s work in Antarctica focuses in large part on global warming. Experts have said the world’s southernmost continent was very sensitive to rising temperatures, and it also influenced the global climate system. Earlier this year, the New Zealand government said it would spend $200 million to guarantee the future of its scientific hub at Scott Base.
Scientific projects in Antarctica are highly collaborative, bringing together researchers from around the world.
Twenty-nine countries, including Australia, China and the United States, operate bases in Antarctica.