A Japanese corporation that assisted in the construction of a pilot hydrogen plant near Taupo is investing in a second energy project at Auckland Ports.

The Obayashi Corporation and the iwi-owned Tuaropaki Trust are preparing to open the country’s first megawatt-class green hydrogen facility near Taupo.

In a few weeks, their joint company, Halcyon Power, is slated to formally establish a prototype plant.

Meanwhile, Obayashi has become an equity partner in the hydrogen project being developed by the Ports of Auckland.

The port intends to someday construct an electrolyzer that will generate enough green hydrogen to power not only the port, but also other vehicles such as buses and trains.

It may also eventually deploy hydrogen in its inland hubs for long-haul trucks, if and when hydrogen-powered vehicles become more affordable.

Meanwhile, the launch of Auckland Transport’s prototype hydrogen bus spurred the port to construct an interim refueling station using imported hydrogen.

The port, Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, and Kiwirail have previously signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate the use of hydrogen.

Auckland Transport and Taranaki’s Hiringa Energy are also involved in the development of a hydrogen refueling station in south Auckland.

With the exception of the Obayashi connection, Mercer stated that while there were no official ties to other hydrogen projects across the country, all stakeholders were communicating to “enable the industry to grow.”

New Zealand has memorandums of understanding with Japan and Singapore about the development of hydrogen technology, which could result in New Zealand exporting green hydrogen.

According to reports, Obayashi’s 1.5MW hydrogen facility with Tuaporaki Trust was finished in March and will be used to support the two parties’ research and development.

The trust has reluctant to comment until the plant is operational, however it is adjacent to the trust’s current Mokai geothermal energy facility.

Alternative fuel research has accelerated after the government announced a goal of 100% renewable electricity generation by 2030.

Government officials are examining the possibilities of hydrogen and power programs such as pumped storage.

Last month, electrical firms Contact and Meridian encouraged investors to express interest in constructing a green hydrogen plant in Southland, utilizing surplus power that may become available if the Tiwai aluminium smelter closes as expected in 2024.

Critics of the project argue that the energy may be better utilized to assist meet the increased demand for electricity over the next few decades.

Nedim Husomanovic

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