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BOP could become hydrogen energy hub

The Bay of Plenty could become a hydrogen manufacturing hub. File Image. SunLive.

Bringing hydrogen generation to the Bay of Plenty could provide a new local energy economy, according to a report.

A report released by Firstgas details the Bay of Plenty’s role in a nationwide change over the next thirty years toward zero carbon gases.

Firstgas Group operates the natural gas pipe networks in the North Island and owns Rockgas, an LPG supply and distribution business.

The plan is to blend Bay of Plenty-generated hydrogen into local natural gas supplies, before switching to delivering 100 per cent hydrogen by 2050. The move could potentially create many dozens of jobs in a potential new regional energy industry of making hydrogen to power factories, homes and transport as well as to store energy for periods of high demand. 

Based on the report, Firstgas Group says it can phase in natural gas blends of up to 20 per cent hydrogen from 2030, while a full switch to hydrogen-only could be completed nationwide by 2050.

The report found that gas infrastructure in the Bay of Plenty is made of modern materials and equipment that can be repurposed to supply green hydrogen, a zero carbon alternative to natural gas.

The hydrogen can be made in the Bay of Plenty, mixed into natural gas, and distributed by pipeline to commercial customers such as those in agriculture, horticulture, and hospitality, and to residential customers.

“Businesses and households will not need to change their gas appliances just yet to accommodate the blending of hydrogen into natural gas,” says hydrogen project leader Angela Ogier. “They will have twenty years or more to switch to hydrogen-friendly appliances when old equipment reaches the end of its life.”

The report identifies three potential Bay of Plenty bases for hydrogen generation in Edgecumbe, Mt Maunganui and Tauranga. The sites are best suited because of proximity to the gas and electricity networks and water supplies. Newly-built electrolyser plants would use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

 “Changing to zero or low-emission gases would mean more energy options for local consumers, and a totally new industry in the local economy,” Angela explains.

“The hydrogen would be made by new businesses, hiring local workers and suppliers. It would be blended into the local network without customers needing to change equipment just yet.

“The plan is to start gradually, generating enough Bay of Plenty hydrogen to blend into natural gas, and producing enough by 2050 to displace natural gas entirely.

“At that point, we envisage hydrogen would also be fuelling totally new uses such as powering trains, buses and trucks.”

Ogier said a local energy industry would increase the ability of the region to handle fluctuations in demand and supply, and outages, across all types of energy.

The next stages of work include collaboration with companies interested in building hydrogen generators, identifying blending systems, pricing studies and fine-tuning with large gas customers.

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