Ports of Auckland committed to hydrogen power

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Words: Robert Barry
5 Dec 2018

Ports of Auckland Limited (POAL) has committed to build a hydrogen production and refuelling facility at its Waitematā port.

POAL, and project partners Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and KiwiRail, will invest in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles including port equipment, buses and cars as part of the project.

The project is currently in the planning phase, and POAL is about to start stakeholder engagement before applying for resource consent in early 2019. The facility is planned to be operational by the end of 2019.

"We have an ambitious target to be a zero emission port by 2040,” says POAL chief executive Tony Gibson.

“To meet that target we need a new renewable and resilient power source for heavy equipment like tugs and straddle carriers, which are difficult to power with batteries. Hydrogen could be the solution for us as it can be produced and stored on site, allows rapid refuelling, and provides greater range than batteries."

Ports of Auckland will fund the construction of a facility which will produce hydrogen from tap water. The process uses electrolysis to split water into hydrogen (which is then stored for later use) and oxygen, which is released into the air.

Demonstration vehicles will be able to fill up with hydrogen at the facility, which will be just like filling up a car with CNG or LPG. Hydrogen is used in the fuel cell to create electricity which powers the car. The only byproduct of the process is water.

"If this trial is successful the technology would have a very wide application. It could help Auckland and New Zealand towards energy self-sufficiency and our emission reduction goals,” says Gibson.

“Trucks, trains and ferries could also run on hydrogen – something which is already being done overseas – which would be a significant benefit for the community. Hydrogen powered vehicles are quieter and emit nothing more than clean water."

The project partners will provide technical support and will purchase hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for the project. Global hydrogen experts Arup are also helping support this project through the development, design and delivery phases.

KiwiRail’s acting chief executive Todd Moyle says KiwiRail is committed to a sustainable future and has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.

“While rail is an inherently sustainable form of transport with 66% fewer carbon emissions than heavy road freight, new fuel sources like hydrogen have enormous potential for the future of transport in New Zealand,” says Moyle.

"Just weeks ago, two hydrogen-powered trains with a range of 1000km per tank began operating commercial services in Germany. If successful with passengers, there is no reason why the next development could not be hydrogen-powered freight trains,” he says.

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