Or is it hot air?
A breathless media release arrived on Good Friday (seems an odd time for a major announcement) promising a new energy industry for Hawke’s Bay.
Firstgas Group, which owns Rockgas, an LPG supply and distribution business is promising a facility to produce ‘green hydrogen’ — a zero carbon alternative to natural gas.
Says the release:
“Firstgas Group … 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.
“Hydrogen Project Leader, Angela Ogier, said the change to hydrogen could create dozens of jobs in a potential new regional energy industry: making hydrogen to power factories, homes and transport as well as to store energy for periods of high demand.
“The gas infrastructure in the Hawke’s Bay is made of modern materials and equipment that can be repurposed to supply green hydrogen …
“The hydrogen can be made in the Hawke’s Bay, mixed into natural gas, and distributed by pipeline to commercial customers such as those in agriculture, horticulture, and hospitality, and to residential customers.”
Sounds hugely exciting, and indeed hydrogen fuel will doubtless play a significant role in shifting our economies away from carbon-based fuels. Currently there are about seven exploratory projects underway in NZ.
However, there are two major catches for producing the stuff here in Hawke’s Bay.
First, a heap of electricity for the electrolysing process that splits the original fuel source into hydrogen and oxygen. And for the hydrogen produced to be truly ‘green’, that electricity must come entirely from renewable sources. That might become feasible in HB … BayBuzz will be asking Unison about that.
But second, what is that original fuel source? Water! Has any one noticed a surplus of water in Hawke’s Bay recently? It takes 9kg of water to produce 1 kg of hydrogen. BayBuzz will be looking into the math of that — how much water to produce how much hydrogen capable of powering how many trucks, buses, homes and industrial users?
So, an exciting announcement on Easter weekend — and a super goal if achievable in the Hawke’s Bay context. But let’s see how the jelly beans add up! Watch this space.