NZ’sfirst green hydron refuelling site breaks ground

Construction of New Zealand’s first high-capacity green hydrogen refuelling station in Palmerston North has begun.

The site, adjacent to Palmerston North Airport, is the first of four hydrogen refuelling stations to be developed by innovative Kiwi energy companies Hiringa Energy and Waitomo Group.

The partners are building New Zealand’s first nationwide hydrogen refuelling network. Andrew Clennett, CEO of Hiringa Energy, says this is one of the first refuelling networks for heavy transport in the world.

Financial backing for the project has been provided through investment from Hiringa’s Strategic Alliance partners, Mitsui and Co (Asia-Pacific), Government funding from EECA and the COVID-19 Recovery Fund, and growth capital from key investors including Sir Stephen Tindall’s K One W One and international funders.

Waitomo Group is self-funding its investment in the project because the Kiwi business sees hydrogen as an important step in the transition to lower emission fuels.

Waitomo Group managing director Jimmy Ormsby says breaking ground at the Palmerston North airport station marks a major milestone for the partnership.

“What began as a discussion between two innovative, future-focused Kiwi companies about developing hydrogen on our existing and new Waitomo Fuel Stops, is now becoming a reality for future Kiwi generations,” Ormsby says.

“Seeing this vision come to life is particularly poignant for me as the third-generation owner of Waitomo, given Waitomo celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. What a way to cement in the transition to a low-emissions fuel future for the fourth generation.”

Clennett says heavy transport makes up only 4% of New Zealand’s vehicles, but accounts for more than 25% of our total vehicle emissions.

“Green hydrogen is the key technology that will allow these fleets to stay on the road. It is a mass-market, clean energy solution that can have a real impact on reducing our transport emissions,” Clennett says.

“Adding low-emission alternative fuel solutions to our network is a no-brainer. We want to leave a legacy for the next generation of Ormsby’s to continue in our footsteps. The exciting opportunities that green hydrogen technology offers allows us to deliver on that,” Ormsby says.

Specialist hydrogen equipment for the station has been sourced from Europe. The station will be built next to a Waitomo Group Fuel Stop, servicing petrol and diesel customers. Once operational, hydrogen-powered heavy transport vehicles such as trucks and buses will be able refuel at the station in similar time to what they are used to.

Clennett says the Palmerston North station will help cement Manawatū’s position as a key logistics hub as transport companies looked for greener fuel alternatives. The partners have been grateful for the help of both the Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) and the Palmerston North City Council.

The partners say another three hydrogen refuelling stations are due to begin construction later this year, in Hamilton, Tauriko and Auckland, creating a North Island network servicing more than 95% of New Zealand’s heavy freight routes.

More than $50 million has been invested in the first phase of the project and detailed engineering and compliance work has been completed. Resource consent has been granted for both the Palmerston North and Hamilton sites, and applications are in for the Tauriko and Auckland sites.

Expansion of the refuelling network into the South Island will begin in 2023, with 24 high-capacity refuelling stations due to come online across New Zealand in the next 4-5 years to support a growing fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

An initial fleet of 20 zero-emission Hyzon hydrogen-powered trucks to support the network has been purchased by TR Group. Built to meet New Zealand regulations and the demanding road conditions, the trucks will be capable of over 600km of range between refuelling stops.

Hyundai New Zealand is bringing five hydrogen fuel-cell Xcient heavy-duty trucks to New Zealand, with the second arriving soon. Both Hyzon and Hyundai have received support from EECA funding.