Will New Zealand Become a Major Green Hydrogen Producer?

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As national leaders commit towards fulfilling the COP26 output, among others, adopting a net-zero target, countries are faced with the reality that setting new carbon emissions targets will affect energy demands and supply. Governments should find an alternative and sustainable, non-carbon emitting fuel source.

Green and blue hydrogen were one of the topics at COP26, and this year’s climate summit serves as an acid test to determine whether involved parties will put their words into action (De la Cruz, 2021).

Hydrogen is not new in the industry; however, the renewed interest stems from today’s need to find a low or zero-emission fuel or energy source to replace hydrocarbons. Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and do not emit CO2. Blue hydrogen is produced using fossil fuel, but CO2 is captured and stored (De la Cruz, 2021).

Green hydrogen is touted as ‘fuel for the future” because it produces zero emissions, with water as its only by-product. It can be stored and transported in liquid or gas form. Most importantly, hydrogen has the potential to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors like shipping and road freight (De la Cruz, 2021).

Chambers (2021) mentions a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released just ahead of COP26 shows that developing green hydrogen shipping infrastructure shipping using renewable fuels could cut up to 80% of CO2 emissions.

For the shipping industry to follow a 1.5°C decarbonisation pathway, the report offers the following solutions: indirect electrification by using green hydrogen-based fuels like E-methanol and e-ammonia, inclusion or advanced biofuels, and improvement of vessel’s energy efficiency (Chambers, 2021).

Plans to build the world’s first large-scale green hydrogen plant in New Zealand’s South Island spark a huge interest not only in the country but internationally as well, the NZ Herald reports.

According to the “Huge interest in Southland green hydrogen project” article, the proposed Southern Green Hydrogen Project is a joint project by New Zealand’s electricity generation companies – Meridian Energy and Contact Energy. It will replace the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter when it closes in 2024.

A report by McKinsey and Co reveal that the plant “had the potential to earn hundreds of millions of dollars in export revenue and help decarbonise societies both here and overseas.” The plant is also anticipated to create good-paying jobs, grow New Zealand’s GDP, and slash GHG emissions by more than 20% (Huge interest, 2021).

Otago Daily Times reports that a vast majority of the hydrogen produced in New Zealand will be exported through shipping.  But storing and shipping hydrogen is not a straightforward task and presents significant obstacles (Price, 2021).

Shipping hydrogen requires it to be cooled down to cryogenic temperatures of -253°C, only 20°C above absolute zero, the coldest possible temperature for it to stay in liquid form.

The article enumerates what some countries are doing to overcome shipping challenges:

  • Japan is building a commercial-scale hydrogen carrier fueled by hydrogen and will be ready by 2030.
  • Korea is designing a high-strength steel tanker to contain and ship hydrogen safely.
  • Norway is planning a roll-on and roll-off hydrogen carrier.
  • The Canadians are developing a ship to transport compressed hydrogen gas rather than its liquefied form not need to be chilled in extremely low temperatures.

It may well be that the Southern Green Hydrogen project is New Zealand’s largest green hydrogen project so far, and construction of its infrastructure is set to begin by 2025, according to Mike Fugee, Contact chief executive (Zaki, 2021).

New Zealand has some ongoing, current hydrogen projects across the country.

Source Citation:

Hitchings-Hales, J. (2021, August 17). What is COP26 – and Why Is The Summit a Critical Moment For Leadership on the Climate Crisis? Global Citizen. Retrieved from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/what-is-cop26/

De la Cruz, F.L. (2021, August 24). Why hydrogen needs to take centre stage at COP26. Wood Mackenzie. Retrieved from https://www.woodmac.com/news/opinion/why-hydrogen-needs-to-take-centre-stage-at-cop26/

Chambers, S. (2021, October 14). Case made for green hydrogen ahead of COP26. Splash247.com. Retrieved from https://splash247.com/case-made-for-green-hydrogen-ahead-of-cop26/

Huge interest in Southland green hydrogen project. (2021, September 27). NZ Herald. Retrieved from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/huge-interest-in-southland-green-hydrogen-project/3H7T64O5FFMZU72ATPFMS6UELA/

Price, M. (2021, September 7). Green hydrogen from clean electricity hard to ship. Otago Daily Times. Retrieved from https://www.odt.co.nz/regions/southland/green-hydrogen-clean-electricity-hard-ship

Zaki, A. (2021, September 27). Energy firms claim big interest in Southland hydrogen plant proposal. RNZ. Retrieved from  https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/business/452434/energy-firms-claim-big-interest-in-southland-hydrogen-plant-proposal

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