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

Eva Collins

Waikato researchers help launch circular economy initiatives for business

An $11 million University of Waikato-led research project to develop New Zealand’s circular economy has…

Pouring kava

New study on kava drink-driving shows impact on brain function

New research into the effect of drinking kava on driving has revealed it has a…

Wind turbine

Waikato to host Sustainability Summit in 2023

The University of Waikato has taken up the mantle of hosting the 4th Aotearoa New…

te tohu paetahi programme

Pioneering Te Tohu Paetahi Māori language programme celebrates 30 years for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

The University of Waikato’s pioneering total immersion Māori language programme, Te Tohu Paetahi, is celebrating…

andrew-smith

Rhodes Scholar, Distinguished Alumnus and CEO supports students at the University of Waikato

Distinguished alumnus Dr Andrew Smith is funding an annual medal in excellence and kicking off…

NMR Rototuna

New $1.5 million spectrometer boosts research capacity

A recent arrival at the University of Waikato will play a vital research role in…

geoff-furniss-headshot

Industry CEO proud to support opportunities for female STEM students

A new scholarship has been established to support female students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering,…

Professor Bruce Clarkson

Waikato researchers receive massive boost for environmental projects

Researchers from the University of Waikato will now be able to advance projects to model…

Campaign image 2

World’s first Bachelor of Climate Change launched at University of Waikato

The world’s first Bachelor of Climate Change degree has been launched by the University of…

THE

Waikato research recognised for international impact in latest world rankings

The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, released today placed the University of Waikato…

Cushla

The wicked problem of climate change – alumna Cushla Loomb faces the challenges

Cushla Loomb combines her love of the ocean and science to make an impact in…

 MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Fish detector dogs helping to sniff out pest fish in Waikato and Bay of Plenty lakes

There’s some fishy business going on in the Schools of Science and Psychology at the…