Green hydrogen project should be fuelling NZ’s low-carbon future.
This content was prepared by Ballance Agri-Nutrients and is being published by NZME as advertorial.
As a leading agri-business, Ballance Agri-Nutrients is working with expert partners across the country to reduce emissions associated with primary industries.
There are two ambitious projects the agri-business has set out to achieve, both aiming to enable New Zealand farmers and growers to be more sustainable.
The demand for food continues to rise as the world’s population grows towards an expected 10 billion by 2050. The challenge of producing more food with less and, at the same time reducing the environmental impacts, falls heavily on the shoulders of farmers and growers.
There is no question – more pressure is being placed on our primary industries to continue to innovate to remain a world leader in providing sustainable horticulture, viticulture, arable, meat, and dairy products globally. New Zealand is a proud food-producing nation; our food and fibre sector plays a vital role in the economy, accounting for 14 per cent of jobs, 82 per cent of merchandise export earnings, and 11 per cent of GDP.
Those percentages will continue rising as the requirement for larger qualities of food increases. To produce more food, farmers and growers require access to a vital nutrient for crops, vegetables and animal protein - nitrogen.
On a global scale, the United Nations (UN) estimates that half of the world’s population depends on food grown using nitrogen fertiliser. For farmers and growers to keep up with increasing consumer demands, they need surety of supply of high-quality, low-carbon nitrogen fertiliser.
This will also enable our food and fibre sector to remain globally competitive. If New Zealand fails to meet international climate change obligations, it could have serious impacts on our ability to trade with countries with strict environmental standards as well as affect our credibility as a sustainable producer of premium quality food.
A significant step towards a low-carbon food and fibres future is local manufacture of nutrients. Therefore for the country’s economic success, as well as preserving our reputation as a producer of premium quality food, we need to invest in reducing manufacturing emissions of locally made urea.
That is why over the past four years, Ballance and Hiringa Energy have been working on a joint venture (JV) to produce green hydrogen. This JV focuses on using renewable energy to produce hydrogen to enable Ballance to reduce its carbon emissions at New Zealand’s only ammonia-urea plant in Kapuni, Taranaki.
The project will not only serve Taranaki by providing an increase in job opportunities but will also support New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
Benefits of green urea
Shifting to green hydrogen to produce urea could offset approximately 12,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, eliminating the need to import 7000 tonnes of urea from the Middle East and Asia. This change also helps safeguard the local manufacture of a key ingredient used in industrial adhesives - and AdBlue and GoClear, fuel additives used to remove nitrous oxide emissions from modern diesel exhaust systems.
Although Ballance wants to bring New Zealand to the forefront of agricultural sustainability, legal hurdles have stalled momentum.
The consent to build four wind turbines close to the Ballance ammonia-urea plant was granted in 2021 – but was appealed. If the consent is eventually granted, the plan is to supply renewable electricity to power an electrolyser which will split water into hydrogen and oxygen, producing industrial scale green hydrogen for use in urea manufacture.
This was one of the first projects of its kind in the world. However, Australia, once lagging behind, is now taking the lead. Since the delay, two similar projects in Australia have been approved and started.
New Zealand could have been benefiting from emissions reductions since January 2023. The delay amounts to a missed opportunity to abate, over 12 months, 1814 tonnes of CO2. This amount is equivalent to over 11 million km driven in an ordinary passenger car in New Zealand.
The plan was that, within five years, green hydrogen from the JV would be diverted to zero-emissions heavy transport fuel – as the co-operative’s second and even more ambitious project to reduce manufacturing emissions by 90 per cent would be under way.
Over the last 18 months, Ballance has been investing time and resources into a decarbonisation programme called Te Ata (translation: The Dawn). Te Ata involves a permanent shift from natural gas to electricity as the primary energy source and has the potential to abate approximately 190,000 tonnes of manufacturing emissions per annum.
This move demonstrates how committed Ballance is to reducing manufacturing emissions and ensuring a more sustainable future for New Zealand’s agricultural sector.
The green hydrogen JV and Te Ata programme represent significant opportunities to reduce New Zealand’s national carbon emissions and support the production of lower-carbon food. Both projects also align with the Climate Change Commission’s principle to decarbonise local industries rather than closing them if closure would lead to higher emissions offshore.
The sector depends on investment in innovation, accelerated transition pathways and solutions to support their increased production and sustainability efforts. Collectively, we need to ensure that what, how, and where we farm and grow continues to adapt in ways that do right by the Earth, its people, and its resources.
Farmers and growers have been doing this for generations. Now, however, they need the support of all New Zealanders for all to thrive.