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Auckland port joins the hydrogen bandwagon

Ports of Auckland has joined a growing number of hydrogen production experiments as the fuel gains attention of industries seeking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Chief executive Tony Gibson announced a pilot project to build a hydrogen production and fuelling facility for use by vehicles at the port, including tugs and container straddle-carriers.

The port has contracted with global energy consultancy Arup for the project, which was foreshadowed at the Asia-Pacific Energy Leaders Summit in Wellington last month.

Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and KiwiRail are also partnering in the trial as more firms back hydrogen as a more likely option than electricity to replace fossil fuels for heavy transport tasks like trucking, rail and shipping. Batteries currently are too heavy and don't have the range to make them useful for long-haul and heavy transport.

Hiringa Energy and New Plymouth trucking firm TIL Logistics are to receive Provincial Growth Fund assistance for a similar trucking fuel trial while Japan's Obayashi Corp and Mokai field owner Tuaropaki last week turned earth on a project near Taupo to use geothermal energy to produce hydrogen.

A far larger proposal, known as Pouakai, is being promoted for the Taranaki region, based on a new zero emissions technology that would use natural gas to produce electricity, hydrogen and ammonia-urea for fertiliser.

The Auckland hydrogen plant will produce hydrogen using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with the hydrogen stored for use and oxygen released to the atmosphere. 

Hydrogen “could help Auckland and New Zealand towards energy self-sufficiency and our emission reduction goals,” said Gibson. "Trucks, trains and ferries could also run on hydrogen."

Applications for a resource consent are expected to be lodged early next year, with the facility operational by the end of 2019.

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