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Hydrogen refuelling trial underway in 2019 - Hiringa Energy

Tuesday 19th March 2019

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The first of three hydrogen refuelling stations planned for warehousing and trucking operations should be operating within 12 to 18 months, Hiringa Energy chief executive Andrew Clennett says.

The firm is currently screening 20 potential locations around the country for the trial sites, which will ideally include a forklift operation and a nearby truck stop. One of the sites will be in Taranaki.

Clennett says the initial three sites are likely to cost about $30 million including fuel supply. The project “scales very well” with subsequent sites likely to get underway for about $4 million and eventually less than $2 million.

Costs are falling as manufacturing volume builds, he says, but lead times for equipment delivery are already increasing due to growing global demand for hydrogen-related equipment.

“So the sooner we make a decision the better,” he told BusinessDesk.

The refuelling and distribution project is one of 11 either underway or expected to start within the next year. It will draw on two hydrogen supplies: a 'green' product made using renewable energy and a 'grey' net-zero carbon product sourced by cleaning up flue emissions from a major industrial site. 

It was listed in the H2 Taranaki Roadmap released by Hiringa, New Plymouth District Council and Venture Taranaki last week.

The 68-page document provides an outline on where hydrogen technologies and usage are at globally and how Taranaki could use its energy and petrochemical expertise to start developing local capability in hydrogen-powered transport and industry in partnership with local firms.

The Provincial Growth Fund contributed $50,000 toward the roadmap’s $190,000 cost. The fund has also provided Hiringa $950,000 to develop hydrogen infrastructure in the region.

Among other projects listed is work Hiringa has underway with Ballance Agri-Nutrients evaluating the potential to use renewable energy to make hydrogen and ‘green’ ammonia at that firm’s Kapuni plant.

Other projects envisage trials of hydrogen blends in gas pipelines and involvement by the region’s district councils in hydrogen car-sharing, public transport trials and the use of hydrogen fuel cells to power activities at remote locations.

Clennett says there is “already a bit of momentum” across the projects.

Formally establishing an H2 Taranaki group to coordinate the various projects, ensure they stay on track and that parties don’t duplicate the work of others in isolation, will help.

Clennett says firms can already see how hydrogen is being used globally. The issue is how to commercialise it in New Zealand and to test technologies and business models at the least cost.

“They need to build upon each other,” he said of the roadmap projects.

“We really don’t want to be spending money just on demonstrations. You need to make sure that projects we are doing have got tangible outcomes.”

A string of companies is investigating the potential use of hydrogen, either as a zero-carbon supplement to natural gas supplies, trucking fuel or longer-term as an export to Asia.

Refining NZ is considering the potential of a hydrogen hub around Northport and Ports of Auckland plans to test its suitability as a fuel for its straddle carriers and tugs. Pouakai NZ last year sought a loan of up to $20 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to test the feasibility of a combined power, hydrogen and fertiliser plant in Taranaki.

In February, Concept Consulting said hydrogen may have a role in niche freight and heavy transport operations, but was unlikely to be competitive against gas or electricity in other local transport or industrial applications.

That was largely because it was cheaper to use renewable electricity directly in cars, electrode boilers and heat pumps than to use it to make hydrogen. Opportunistically using surplus solar or wind generation to make hydrogen did lower the electricity cost but that was offset by the extra storage that would require.

Clennett says hydrogen costs are falling rapidly and it is important firms and policymakers keep their minds open to the best available options long-term.

He cited the cost of fuel-cell electric buses, which have fallen sharply. They are now comparable with battery-electric vehicles and don’t face the same range, weight and passenger count restrictions.

Clennett says the country is going to need a “suite” of renewable solutions to meet its climate change targets, including battery-electric vehicles, hydrogen, wind, solar and geothermal.

The key is to let the technologies play to their strengths, understand their full system costs, and avoid looking for “silver bullets.’’ 


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