UPDATE: Ballance partners with Hiringa for Kapuni hydrogen project
(Updates with additional comment from Ballance throughout on venture structure, current gas use, and possible timeline.)
By Gavin Evans
June 20 (BusinessDesk) - Ballance Agri-Nutrients is to develop 16 MW of wind generation at its Kapuni site as part of a plan to produce renewable hydrogen there.
The fertiliser maker has partnered with Hiringa Energy in a 50-50 joint venture to develop the $50 million project at its site in southern Taranaki.
Up to four large wind turbines would provide a 100 percent renewable power supply for the existing plant and to power a series of electrolysers to produce high-purity hydrogen, either for feedstock for the plant or to supply zero-emission trucking fuel.
The 37-year-old plant is the country’s only ammonia-urea and produces about 260,000 tonnes of urea annually using 7 petajoules of natural gas. It and methanol maker Methanex are the largest users of hydrogen in Taranaki.
Ballance Agri-Nutrients chief executive Mark Wynne says the project brings together world-leading hydrogen technology and the region’s specialist technical capabilities in what could be a nationally significant collaboration.
“Working with Hiringa we have a truly unique opportunity to create a hydrogen ecosystem at Kapuni – powered by renewable energy – that we can grow and develop as a template for New Zealand’s leadership in what is an exciting space globally,” he said in a statement.
The project was a key element of a Taranaki hydrogen roadmap released in March by Hiringa, New Plymouth District Council and Venture Taranaki. It envisaged up to two tonnes of hydrogen being produced daily from surplus electricity generation.
The partners say the project is expected to deliver enough “green” hydrogen to supply 6,000 cars or 300 buses and trucks.
Wynne says that while some councils are declaring ‘climate emergencies’ around the country, this project represents a “practical, commercial-scale step” in the development of a hydrogen industry.
As the country’s second-largest hydrogen producer, Ballance can provide the “buffer” capacity for the venture while the hydrogen fuel-cell market develops.
It can use renewably produced hydrogen to make “green” nitrogen fertilisers that will have an extremely low emissions profile and will probably – long-term – replace the firm’s use of natural gas feedstock, he told BusinessDesk.
The Kapuni plant makes about a third of the urea used in New Zealand, with the rest being imported.
Wynne says making green ammonia-urea would avoid the need to import about 7,000 tonnes of product from the Middle East and Asia and offset up to 12,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. It would also offer New Zealand farmers – increasingly focused on sustainability - a new product choice.
Hiringa Energy chief executive Andrew Clennett says the project enables the region to take advantage of both its “built” and natural resources, while providing a foundation so that New Zealand can move more aggressively to take taking carbon and other pollutants out of its heavy transport, industrial processes and chemical production.
While Ballance owns some land at Kapuni, Wynne said the project will likely have to lease land for the turbines. Some wind data has been purchased and further wind monitoring will begin on site shortly.
The earliest completion date for the project would be the end of 2021, with the biggest potential variable being the time needed to secure consents, he said.