Breadcrumbs

The world’s first large scale hydrogen production plant in Southland – a flawed think-big project

23 July 2021

Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter
The Meridian and Contact Energy supply agreement with Aluminium Smelters for Tiwai Point comes to an end in late 2024.

A plan by two of New Zealand’s largest electricity generators to create the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in Southland is fundamentally flawed, says one of New Zealand’s foremost experts in hydro schemes and electricity generation.

Meridian and Contact Energy released a report by global consultants McKinsey & Co on Thursday, as they seek interest for what could be the world’s largest hydrogen plant in Southland. Their supply agreement with Aluminium Smelters for Tiwai Point comes to an end in late 2024.

University of Waikato Associate Professor Earl Bardsley said the electricity generator’s plan was a flawed think-big project and it shouldn’t proceed without challenge.

“The nation is aiming to transition toward an electrified economy driven by renewable electricity. This will be facilitated when the agreement with Tiwai comes to an end in 2024,” he said.

Tiwai Point currently uses 13 percent of the nation’s electricity, supplied from the Manapouri Hydro Power Station.

“A Tiwai 2.0 industry will still suck up renewable electricity, simply replacing aluminium with hydrogen. That means we will need expensive construction of new generation capacity sooner if the green transition is to proceed,” he said.

The report by McKinsey & Co also used flawed logic claiming turning down the rate of hydrogen production would reduce dry year impacts, he said.

“The report uses flawed logic with respect to its claim that turning down the rate of hydrogen production in a large hydrogen plant gives a low-cost means to offset as much as 40 percent of the impact of a New Zealand dry year.”

If that were true, then New Zealand’s dry year supply issues could be avoided entirely by constructing three large hydrogen plants, he said.

“The concept of more power availability from reduced hydrogen production in a dry year is a distraction. The issue in a dry year is low river inflows into the hydro lakes. Shutting down hydrogen production is not going to make it rain. The best that can be hoped for is that the remaining water in the hydro lakes will last a little longer,” he said.

The report also raises an implication that enhanced hydrogen generation in spill years may offset dry years.

“This implies hydrogen storage for later electricity production. But as the report itself notes, there is at best a 25 percent efficiency when switching from electricity to hydrogen and back to electricity. Based on that hydrogen storage will never be an option in New Zealand for dry year mitigation.”

Associate Professor Bardsley said there were serious issues with the plan being put forward by Contact and Meridian and it shouldn’t be proceeding unquestioned.


Latest stories

Related stories

Ahuroa Leach

Scholarship recipient researches affordable energy for impoverished communities

Unleashing the power of waves and wind to provide affordable electricity to New Zealand’s most…

Science alumna wins prestigious conservation award

Science alumna, wetlands expert and advocate Dr Beverley Clarkson has been awarded the Loder Cup…

Tahu Kukutai and Margaret Carr

Waikato researchers recognised as Royal Society Te Apārangi Fellows

Two University of Waikato Professors have been named Fellows to the Academy of the Royal…

Engineering student’s drive to succeed

Tom Miller admits the decision to quit his job, move from Auckland to Hamilton and…

Summer research projects inspire students

Whoever thinks research is a dull and lonely occupation has got it wrong, says psychology…

University of Waikato Fulbright Scholar to study how kava can be used to reduce PTSD

Kava could be used as an alternative to mainstream medicines in the treatment of Post-Traumatic…

New study shows inequality in vaccine rollout for Māori and at risk communities

New Zealand’s rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine has failed Māori and at-risk communities as health…

Scholarship empowers women in STEM

Engineering student Isobella Nicholls and Computing and Mathematical Science student Courtney Wilson are the inaugural…

Medalists

2021 Hillary Medalists named

Two alumni, Courtney Richmond and Tim Neild, have been named as the 2021 Hillary Medalists…

Professor Taciano Milfont

Waikato appoints three new Professors

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley has announced promotion to Professor for three academics,…

Researchers address inequities in diabetes treatment for Māori and Pacific people

University of Waikato researchers are undertaking a pivotal study into the treatment of patients with…

Vic Arcus web

Battling cattle bloat

Why are some cows more susceptible than others to bloat? Scientists think a single protein…