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Global markets are emerging for hydrogen fuel technologies, including heavy equipment and transport

New Zealand buoyed by Japan hydrogen partnership – By Iain MacIntyre

A ground-breaking memorandum of cooperation (MoC) on hydrogen reached between the governments of New Zealand and Japan is expected to enhance mutual development and deployment of the alternative energy source, and potentially attract local Japanese investment.

The first of its kind in the world with Japan, the October-signed MoC underscores the two countries’ commitment to transitioning away from a reliance on fossil fuels, says Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods.

“I consider hydrogen as one of the potential tools that will help assist us to reduce global emissions,” says Ms Woods. “New Zealand has an abundance of renewable energy that could be used to produce hydrogen as a next-generation fuel in a sustainable way. There is already cooperation between New Zealand and Japan in this space, with the planned construction of a pilot hydrogen production plant between Japan’s Obayashi Corporation and Tuaropaki Trust in Taupo, using geothermal energy.

Japan’s Obayashi Corporation and the Tuaropaki Trust in Taupo are planning construction of a pilot hydrogen production plant that will use geothermal energy

“I hope this agreement will spark interest among Japanese corporates to consider New Zealand as a partner in their development of alternative fuel sources.”

Transforming the transport sector

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) energy markets group principal policy advisor Mark Pickup says the MoC will facilitate greater cooperation between the countries’ governments, industries and research agencies.

“New Zealand and Japan are both intent on transforming their respective energy and transport sectors as we make the transition to a low-emissions economy and this partnership will allow the exchange of information to enhance hydrogen development,” he tells FTD. “The agreement with Japan provides the framework within which proposals for programmes between both countries can arise.”

MBIE energy markets group principal policy advisor Mark Pickup: “There are opportunities around ‘green’ hydrogen where we can be a world leader – one of those opportunities is hydrogen as a transport fuel”

Although no specific targets or outcomes have been set under the MoC, Mr Pickup considers the partnership vital to ensuring New Zealand “keeps up in this space”.

“We’ve seen large and growing international interest in hydrogen in the last 18 months. Following the Tokyo ministerial meetings on hydrogen, it seems to be a race amongst countries to get their hydrogen plans sorted,” he notes.

“Countries such as Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and China have invested heavily in hydrogen research, development and demonstration projects – and in some cases, national strategies, with several others following with similar work. Japan is leading the way with development of shipping and export technology for hydrogen, and this will be crucial to New Zealand connecting to any export market.”

In complement to this initiative, Mr Pickup says New Zealand has recently joined the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) as an observer ahead of assuming full membership in 2020. “The CEM is a high-level global forum to promote policies and programmes that advance clean energy technology, to share lessons learned and best practices, and to encourage the transition to a global clean energy economy,” he explains.

“We have also joined the CEM Hydrogen Initiative, which was launched at the 10th CEM meeting in May. The new hydrogen initiative will drive international collaboration on policies, programmes and projects to accelerate the commercial deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies across all sectors of the economy.”

Local initiatives

Further to such international developments, Mr Pickup says numerous other New Zealand-led hydrogen projects are currently being advanced, one of which is the H2 Taranaki Roadmap developed by Hiringa Energy with support from Venture Taranaki, the New Plymouth District Council and the Provincial Growth Fund.

“The project will scope the engineering and design of two hydrogen generation facilities, up to four mobile compressed hydrogen storage and distribution containers, and up to three hydrogen refuelling stations,” he says.

“The establishment of hydrogen production and refuelling infrastructure will build upon the region’s existing energy sector skills and distribution networks. This will enable Taranaki to grow new business opportunities across New Zealand and deliver integrated hydrogen networks for the whole country.”

Mr Pickup notes that in addition to a commitment of $20 million over four years to establish a new science research fund for cutting-edge energy technology, the government is investing $27 million to establish the National New Energy Development Centre in Taranaki.

“It will help create new business and jobs in Taranaki while helping New Zealand move towards clean, affordable and renewable energy, and away from fossil fuels. The centre will look at the full range of emerging clean energy options such as offshore wind, solar batteries, hydrogen and new forms of energy storage.”

Artist’s render of Ports of Auckland’s proposed hydrogen production and refuelling facility at the Waitemata port

Mr Pickup highlights that Ports of Auckland (POAL), alongside project partners Auckland Council, KiwiRail and Auckland Transport, has recently committed to building a hydrogen production and refuelling facility, as well as purchasing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. “POAL has been approved for part-funding for the purchase of the vehicles from the government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.”

Furthermore, he notes that Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Hiringa Energy have announced plans to produce industrial-scale wind generation and commercial-scale ‘green’ hydrogen from a South Taranaki site. “The pair propose to spend about $50 million in a joint venture project to develop a four-turbine 16 MW wind farm on a site adjacent to Ballance’s ammonia-urea plant in Kapuni. The electricity generated will be used to produce hydrogen via a purpose-built electrolysis unit at the site.”

The potential of hydrogen

In regard to MBIE, Mr Pickup says the agency is to soon publish a green paper exploring the potential of hydrogen to support the transformation of New Zealand’s energy system to renewables. That work is to also serve as a platform for stakeholders to provide feedback on the challenges and opportunities of building a hydrogen economy in New Zealand.

Additionally, he expects the September-launched New Zealand Hydrogen Association will play an important role in developing a hydrogen economy domestically as well as profiling New Zealand internationally.

“With its international links with the World Energy Council, Hydrogen Council, European Hydrogen Association and the United States Department of Energy, to name a few, the association can facilitate collaboration and cooperation with international governmental, institutional and private sector agencies to advance the commercialisation and uptake of low-emission hydrogen for use in New Zealand and for export,” Mr Pickup says.

Hydrogen and the Kiwi advantage

Hydrogen presents a key opportunity for New Zealand’s energy sector to meaningfully contribute to the government’s low-emissions economy goal. With the global market for emerging hydrogen technologies growing rapidly, as the costs of production begin to reduce, Mr Pickup says it is crucial stakeholders in this country keep fully abreast of developments.

“There are opportunities around ‘green’ hydrogen where we can be a world leader. One of those opportunities is hydrogen as a transport fuel. New Zealand relies on long-distance road haulage for freight delivery and the country’s heavy vehicle fleet is responsible for around 
20% of the energy used for domestic transport.


Global markets are emerging for hydrogen fuel technologies, including heavy equipment and transport

“Hydrogen as a transport fuel could play a key role in New Zealand by allowing us to develop a zero-carbon heavy transport fleet fuelled by renewable energy.”

Mr Pickup says another opportunity lies in New Zealand’s natural advantage of having a large supply of renewable electricity. “One of the ways we can assist the world in reducing its carbon footprint is by exporting renewable electricity – energy in the form of green hydrogen from New Zealand could potentially be exported for others to use in power plants or fuel cells in their own countries.

“Hydrogen can also be stored for long periods of time and could in the future be used to generate electricity at times of high demand – potentially displacing coal and gas-fired generation when hydro generation is insufficient to meet demand.

“It also has applications for remote communities that do not have easy access to the electricity grid, either through conversion back into electricity in a fuel cell or direct use as a cooking or heating fuel.”

A comprehensive review of the potential beneficial role of hydrogen in the future world economy was published by the International Energy Agency for the June G20 Osaka Summit.

Iain MacIntyre is an award-winning journalist who specialises in transport issues within New Zealand; he can be contacted at i.macintyre@xtra.co.nz


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