An investigation into the potential to produce hydrogen in Southland for use in commercial vehicles and as a storable fuel source is under way.
The Southland Hydrogen Assessment is being carried out by Venture Southland to focus on the production of hydrogen from renewable sources.
The organisation predicts the fuel could be available in the region within a decade.
Venture enterprise and strategic projects group manager Steve Canny told the Venture Southland Joint Committee this month that oil prices for 2015 were predicted to reach US$200 (NZ$227) per barrel, about double the current level, as oil became less accessible.
New Zealand relied heavily on road transport, so was vulnerable to oil costs, he said.
The report would look at the infrastructure and fuel storage required to provide hydrogen to heavy vehicles in the region, while also looking at the potential to create it, he said.
"What we are looking at ... is the ability to use hydrogen as a potential transport fuel or energy storage technology.
"The challenge is that this fuel is quite expensive to produce but is a dense energy fuel and you can get a good output," Mr Canny said.
However, the use of hydrogen depended on future technology developments in places like Asia, Europe and America, where vehicle manufacturers were developing fuel cells that would make hydrogen use in vehicles commercially viable, he said.
If successful, the hydrogen production technology could also be used to provide back-up power for the likes of Oban, on Stewart Island, to reduce the reliance on diesel, he said.
Meridian Energy general manager renewable energy Ken Smales said the company had looked into producing hydrogen in 2002, but it was costly and dangerous to use so it did not proceed with its investigations.
New Zealanders had demonstrated they valued the energy that was created through wind turbines and hydro dams – which can be used to create hydrogen – and a lot would have to change within the hydrogen developments for Meridian to once again look into producing hydrogen, he said.
The cost of Venture's study is $5000. It will be peer reviewed by Crown science company Industrial Research Ltd before being made available to the public about mid-October.
DID YOU KNOW?
- It is possible to turn hydrogen into electrical energy with no waste except clean water
- The reconversion of hydrogen through fuel cells can be up to 2.5 times as efficient as internal fuel combustion
- Hydrogen is most commonly produced from fossil-based fuels, but can also come from sources such as hydro, solar energy and wind turbines
- If hydrogen is prepared without using fossil fuel inputs, vehicles would not contribute to carbon dioxide emissions
- © Fairfax NZ News