Frequently Asked Questions

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

Who are we currently working with?

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 highly flammable, but disperses quickly and produces less radiant heat than other fuels. Technological advances in distribution, compression and storage of hydrogen in recent decades make it just as safe as LPG, diesel or petrol.

You can read more on our hydrogen safety page.




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 in our products today is from fossil fules ("brown" hydrogen). Hiringa is developing projects that use "green" hydrogen produced from 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 also been used by NASA since 1958 both to fuel the rockets and provide power on board the craft via fuel cells. Technology in the present day makes the energy required to use hydrogen on an industrial scale a more viable, economic option.




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 our future generations by reducing these greenhouse gas emissions. 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 on the research and development of a hydrogen economy in New Zealand and are partnering with other companies and organisations to roll out hydrogen technologies. We are starting construction of our refuelling network in 2020.




Hiringa was awarded a government grant in July 2018. What will the money be used for?


The funding will be used to contribute to the cost of the engineering and design of a pilot hydrogen refuelling network. The project is looking to develop two hydrogen generation facilities, up to four mobile compressed hydrogen storage and distribution trailers, and up to three hydrogen refuelling stations at initial hub locations.

Hiringa will build upon this project to broaden the hydrogen network across New Zealand, focused on creating a series of production and refuelling hubs.





Hydrogen Production

How is hydrogen cleaner burning than fossil fuels?


Hydrogen's only emission is water vapour, as it is only composed on one element - hydrogen and when it is combusted it combines with oxygen in the air to produce water.

Fossil fuels are composed of carbon and hydrogen (hence the name hydro-carbons). 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.




So, 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.




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.




But 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 extracted before it can be used, and this requires energy.

Hiringa plans to 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.




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 processes and farming.Whilst a full, global hydrogen economy is still years away, companies are currently developing technology to create hydrogen from sea water. This process combined with less global carbon emissions, could also reduce the increasing salinity of the world's oceans; another effect global warming is having on our planet.




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 has been brown hydrogen. We are working to introduce green hydrogen to replace brown hydrogen and imported fossil fuels. About 60% of New Zealand's energy needs are supplied by fossil fuels, and a large proportion is imported liquid fuel.





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 refueling 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.




How will hydrogen compare from a cost point of view?


At the moment, fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen fuel is more expensive than diesel and petrol. However, this changing rapidly and at Hiringa we are working to bring down the cost to reach parity with fossil fuels. As an example of fuel cost, we are initially targeting a hydrogen price so that a hydrogen light vehcile can be driven 800km before being refuelled for about $120.




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 they also create 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 decouple energy conversion from energy storage.





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