Did Energy Minister Megan Woods just get lucky? In the week she signed up to work with Japan in developing hydrogen technology in the move to a low- carbon economy, the big transport firm TIL Logistics Group says it is working with New Plymouth-based Hiringa Energy on hydrogen fuel cell technology transport solutions in NZ.
The project has the potential to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from TIL’s national fleet of 900 trucks, 310 forklifts and 170 light vehicles.
Woods has been under fire for the ban she imposed on offshore oil and gas exploration. But with TIL leading the way on hydrogen fuel cell technology, it may be the transition away from fossil fuels may go faster than even the government could have expected.
The cooperation agreement between NZ’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reached in Tokyo on October 23 by Minister Woods and Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister, is the first of its kind that Japan has signed.
Woods says she regards hydrogen as one of the potential tools that will help assist NZ to reduce global emissions.
“NZ 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.
“NZ 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 NZ and Japan in this space, with the planned construction of a pilot hydrogen production plant between Japan’s Obayashi Corporation and Tuaropaki Trust in Taupō using geothermal energy”.
She hopes the agreement will spark interest among Japanese corporates to consider NZ as a partner in their development of alternative fuel sources.
This was followed by TIL’s announcement of its hydrogen move which is to proceed in three phases:
The first phase, from now until mid-2019, will develop business cases for pilot projects and identify the key metrics for commercial scaling. This phase will leverage the $950,000 funding Hiringa has secured from the Provincial Growth Fund for the development of hydrogen fuel infrastructure.
Phase 2 will pilot hydrogen fuel cell solutions for TIL’s operations, with a target for first vehicle trials in 2020.
In Phase 3, the rollout of hydrogen fuel cells to power TIL’s vehicle fleet will be co-ordinated with investment in refuelling infrastructure, which Hiringa is scoping and developing with a range of partners.
TIL Logistics CEO Alan Pearson says while there is a range of production, deployment and infrastructure options to be worked through, the use of hydrogen fuel has the potential to power the company’s fleet from a renewable source.
“Hydrogen technology offers a zero emission fuel solution. There’s no combustion and the only emission is water vapour.
“This underscores the work TIL is doing as a member of the Climate Leaders Coalition to reduce our carbon emissions and lighten our environmental footprint.”
Hiringa Energy CEO Andrew Clennett said hydrogen is a fuel of the future that is ready to implement now.
“Hiringa is excited to combine our capability with partners such as TIL Logistics to create a commercially viable network of renewable hydrogen generation, distribution and refuelling infrastructure across NZ.
“Hydrogen has a natural advantage for the commercial and public transport sectors with its fast refuelling times, long range and higher payloads.We have experienced first-hand the operations of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle fleets already in use in transportation systems overseas.
“NZ with its existing infrastructure, industry and renewable energy potential is very well suited to implementing this technology. It is envisioned that hydrogen fuel cell heavy transport will ultimately deliver a lower total cost of ownership than the incumbent diesel technology, yet without the emissions.”
So its trebles all round.