HW Richardson green hydrogen gains oxygen

9 May 2023
There’s a lot riding on what will be the first green hydrogen production and refuelling station in the South Island. That’s as New Zealand’s largest private transport operator, HW Richardson (HWR), targets getting its pilot hydrogen station in Gore, Southland, on line by September.

Its aspirations, almost two years in the making, took a step forward with the arrival of a 1.1-megawatt (MW) hydrogen electrolyser and storage unit in Christchurch in mid-April.

The electrolyser – the first of two shipped over by South Yorkshire-based Clean Power Hydrogen (CPH2) – is now being kitted out with some cool cryogenic technology by Christchurch’s AFCryo, enabling separation and liquefaction.

The CPH2 system is ‘membrane free’, meaning it doesn’t use precious metals such as palladium or platinum to separate oxygen and hydrogen out of low-grade purified water. Its stainless steel ‘stacks’ also have an estimated lifespan of 25 years.

Legal challenge

That’s in contrast to the proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers being used by New Plymouth-based Hiringa Energy’s four North Island sites – which it expects to have operational by year-end. It is looking for a further 24 across the country by 2026.

And while HWR is self-financing its transition, with an initial $15 million for its two initial electrolysers, Hiringa’s plan for a refuelling network has received a $16m boost from Crown Infrastructure Partners, via the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.

Its four-turbine windfarm and electrolyser in Taranaki – currently embroiled in a legal challenge by Greenpeace because it allows the hydrogen to be used to make urea at the neighbouring Ballance Agri-Nutrients fertiliser plant in Kapuni – will receive a further $19m from regional economic development unit Kānoa.

But once AFCryo, a subsidiary of Fabrum Solutions, is done upgrading the CPH2 box, the 40-foot unit will head to an Allied fuel station at Gore. That’s just up the road from HWR’s Invercargill headquarters where it manages a fleet of 1,300 heavy trucks across the 50 businesses it runs – about 15% of the country’s heavy trucks.

The Allied fuel network extends to about 110 fuel stops and service stations, delivering about 500 million litres of fuel a year. HWR’s Australian fuel interests, under bulk-fuel distributor Petrogas and Pacific Petroleum, deliver about the same again.

Truck conversions

As well as the capital costs of the sites, it’s spending about $150,000 a pop to convert an initial 10 trucks to the dual-fuel system. That’s on top of the $350,000 to $400,000 cost for a new truck, which compares with a $1.2 million capital outlay for a pure hydrogen fuel cell truck.

Kim Hill, the commercial manager of HWR’s transport innovation and fleet management division MyTransport, said depending on how fast the company can get the refuelling sites set up, it’s aiming to get another 180 dual-system trucks on the road next year.

But, ultimately, the success of hydrogen as a part of New Zealand’s lower emissions transport future relies on making the new fuel option commercially viable. That’s a tough ask when the end-price of hydrogen is still a relative unknown, dependent on the negotiated price of electricity with local Southland electricity retailers.

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Source: Business Desk