Ports of Auckland in New Zealand is looking to create its own hydrogen power source as a step towards its ambitious goal to become a zero-emissions port by 2040.
Ports of Auckland with Fergusson Container Terminal in the foreground. Credit: Ports of Auckland
The port company has launched a pilot hydrogen power programme in which it will build its own hydrogen-generating plant. The gas will then be used to power hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Ports of Auckland is leading the pilot but is also partnering with Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, who are working on an Auckland Climate Action Plan aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and KiwiRail, which is keen to focus on zero-emissions transport initiatives.
The first test will feature light vehicles, including cars and two hydrogen-powered buses. If it is successful, the potential exists to scale the pilot up to include heavier users of power such as straddle carriers and reach stackers.
The hydrogen-generating plant works through electrolysis, a process which uses electricity to break the bonds between water’s constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen, and releases them as gas. The oxygen is discarded but the hydrogen is captured for use in a fuel cell. The power to drive the vehicle is produced when the hydrogen in the fuel cell is fused chemically with oxygen from the air to make water. The process resembles what happens in a battery, in that electricity is released and this powers an electric motor that drives the car.
Ports of Auckland spokesperson Matt Ball says hydrogen fuel has a number of benefits. “Hydrogen can be produced with renewable electricity to be a zero-emissions fuel. The only emission is water. Hydrogen is the perfect fuel for New Zealand, where over 80% of our electricity is generated renewably.”
Strategically, the port could in future potentially act as a power supplier to trucking companies serving the port or logistics companies serving the inland ports operated by the port company in regions such as the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Manawatu.
Hydrogen is particularly well suited to these uses, as Mr Ball explains: “It offers a higher power output and longer range compared to battery power and is quick to refuel from the on-port ‘refuelling station’, so would be well suited for use in our heavy vehicles and tugs. The vehicles themselves are also very quiet, so there is less noise pollution from port operations, benefiting our staff and neighbours.”
Alternative fuel is only one of the initiatives that will feed into Ports of Auckland’s zero-emissions goal. Last year it completed the first step towards that goal by accurately measuring its emissions and developing a plan to reduce them. The port partnered with Enviro-Mark Solutions which used the Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme (CEMARS) to measure and manage its greenhouse gas emissions.
It measured the direct and indirect emissions associated with the port business and those of its subsidiaries (diesel and electricity usage, air travel etc.) and formed an Emissions Management and Reduction Plan, which sets out the projects and interim targets that will enable the delivery of the long-term goal of a zero-emissions port by 2040. Auckland is now the first port in New Zealand to become a CEMARS-certified organisation.