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FAQs

Here you will find the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

If you would like more information about hydrogen, Hiringa Energy, or what we are currently working on, please feel free to get in touch with us - we would love to hear from you and answer any further questions you may have about our mission to supply New Zealand with zero emission hydrogen.  

Hydrogen

Is hydrogen safe?


Hydrogen is flammable but because it is lighter than air, it disperses quickly, and when ignited, it produces less radiant heat than other transport fuels.

Technological advances in distribution, compression and storage of hydrogen in recent decades make it just as safe as LPG, diesel or petrol. However, like any fuel, hydrogen needs to be appropriately managed.




Where does hydrogen come from?


Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. It is found naturally in water and fossil fuels. It can be produced from water using renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power via a process called electrolysis. It is also produced from natural gas, coal, biomass and oil.

Most of the hydrogen used today is from fossil fuels ("brown" hydrogen). Hiringa is developing projects that use "green" hydrogen produced from renewable electricity and water instead.




Is hydrogen technology new?


Hydrogen was first described in 1625 by Johann Baptista van Helmont, termed the founder of pneumatic chemistry. Hydrogen has been used by NASA since 1958 both to fuel the rockets and provide power on board spacecraft via fuel cells.

About 70 million tonnes of fossil-fuel derived hydrogen is produced each year already, as part of the process of refining of crude oil, the manufacturing of chemicals, and as a reductant to produce steel – which is why the rise of zero-emissions hydrogen is a critical element of global decarbonisation in many hard-to-abate sectors that cannot directly use renewable electricity.

Technology advances are making the energy and equipment required to produce and use zero-emissions hydrogen on an industrial scale an increasingly- more viable option for economies as they seek to meet their emission reduction commitments.




So, why do we need to consider hydrogen at all?


Since the beginning of the industrial era, the global greenhouse effect has intensified due to the increase in atmospheric gas emissions and the growing demand for energy produced via the use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. We need to create a safer planet for future generations by reducing these greenhouse gas emissions.

About 60% of New Zealand's energy needs are supplied by fossil fuels, and a large proportion is imported liquid fuel. A transition to green hydrogen enables large scale decarbonisation of broad parts of the energy mix we require for a modern society. It enables us to address the carbon emissions that renewable electricity alone cannot.




How do you see hydrogen being implemented into our communities, and when will we see it introduced?


We have spent several years planning the development of a hydrogen economy in New Zealand and are partnering with other companies and organisations to roll out hydrogen technologies for several applications where the technology provides a suitable and viable zero emission pathway.

Hydrogen is very similar to other fuels and chemicals in terms of safety and operational requirements, and the Hiringa team brings extensive experience in this area. From a community perspective, the introduction of hydrogen refuelling will be similar to other new products like CNG or biofuels being incorporated onto existing service station forecourts.





Hydrogen Production

What is a "fuel cell" and how is hydrogen cleaner burning than fossil fuels?


A fuel cell creates a chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen to release energy in the form of electricity. As such, a hydrogen fuel cell's only emission is water vapour.Fossil fuels are composed of carbon and hydrogen (hence the name hydro-carbons).

The equivalent combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon into the atmosphere in the form of CO (carbon monoxide) and CO2 (carbon dioxide). This is the large source of atmospheric pollution - and a large contributor to global warming.

In addition to this, natural gas or methane (CH4) is itself a powerful greenhouse gas when released to the atmosphere during its extraction, transport and use.




Does that mean hydrogen is considered a “green” energy source?


Yes, although technically hydrogen is an energy carrier (like electricity) rather than an energy source.

By using clean, renewable energy (such as wind and solar) to power the electrolysis that separates hydrogen from water, we can create a zero emission, green energy source.

Hydrogen can then be used in fuel cells, replacing diesel generators and internal combustion engines in vehicles, as well as feedstock for chemical manufacturing processes and as a source of industrial-scale heat.




What is electrolysis?


Electrolysis is the process of using electricity to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. This reaction takes place in a unit called an electrolyser. There are different types of electrolysers, with the most common being PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane) and alkaline electrolysers. They both have an anode and cathode (similar to a battery) and when an electrical current is applied to the water, hydrogen is produced at the cathode and oxygen at the anode.




Don't we need energy to create hydrogen?


Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet and is commonly found in fossil fuels and water. Pure hydrogen does not occur naturally in large quantities so it needs to be separated from water or other sources before it can be used, and this requires energy.

Hiringa will use renewable electricity (such as wind turbines and solar) to produce hydrogen through electrolysis.

This "green" hydrogen requires energy to create the hydrogen from water. However, this is a clever way of turning surplus electricity that is hard to store into hydrogen that can be easily stored for later use. Technological improvements are making this process more and more efficient.

One of the advantages of green hydrogen production is that it is a flexible way to utilise increasing investments in renewable energy – making hydrogen when other demand for electricity is manageable, but ramping down or turning off when other electricity users’ demand is high. This means additional line capacity isn’t required for hydrogen production, and there is still electricity generation capacity available at peak times, making efficient use of our existing electricity infrastructure.




Do we have enough water to produce hydrogen for all our needs?


Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the planet, and electrolysis requires a surprisingly small amount of water compared to other existing industrial and agricultural processes. Whilst a full, global hydrogen economy is still years away, companies are currently developing technology to create hydrogen from sea water, to ensure hydrogen will not compromise access to fresh water for other uses at very large scale.




What is green, blue and brown hydrogen?


Hydrogen produced from water and renewable power sources such as wind and solar, is called "green" hydrogen.

Carbon neutral hydrogen produced from fossil fuels when the carbon is captured and either sequestered or used is considered "blue" hydrogen.

"Brown" hydrogen is hydrogen produced from fossil fuels and emits carbon. The majority of hydrogen produced in New Zealand and globally has been brown hydrogen.

We are working to introduce green hydrogen to replace brown hydrogen and imported fossil fuels.





Hydrogen & Vehicles

How does hydrogen work to power a vehicle, and how would it be refuelled?


Hydrogen powered electric vehicles are called FCEVs (fuel cell electric vehicles). The fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity needed to power the vehicles, with the only emissions being water vapour. Specifically designed refuelling stations will be strategically positioned throughout the country.

Refuelling a FCEV is similar to refuelling a diesel or petrol vehicle and takes a similar amount of time.




What is a hydrogen FCEV?


A hydrogen FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) is a type of electric vehicle which uses a fuel cell to generate power to the motor, using hydrogen that is stored in a compressed form in an onboard tank, and oxygen from the air. FCEVs are zero-emission vehicles and only emit water vapour.




What is the difference between a battery electric vehicle and a FCEV?


Where conventional vehicles burn fuel in an internal combustion engine, battery powered electric vehicles don't have an engine, but instead, they use energy stored in batteries to power one or more electric motors.

FCEVs (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) are also driven by an electric motor and have a battery, but rather than being plugged in to recharge, they create their own electricity in an onboard fuel cell, using oxygen from the air and stored hydrogen.

They are quite similar, however with a FCEV we are able to carry a lot more energy onboard in the form of hydrogen rather than a battery, leading to higher range, less weight and faster refuelling which is especially important for heavy vehicles.





Feel free to contact us if you'd like to know more.