Taranaki has been at the heart of New Zealand’s energy industry and will play a key role in its future.
Taranaki has played a pivotal role in supporting the energy needs of the nation since New Zealand’s first oil discovery in the 1860s and the first major commercial oil and gas find at Kapuni in 1959. Significant discoveries around Taranaki, and their subsequent development, has led to numerous fields coming on-stream, such as Tui, Maari, Mangahewa, Cheal, Kupe, Pohokura, and Māui, which at the time was one of the largest offshore gas fields in the world. This has led to the development of energy infrastructure, processing facilities, an extensive supply chain, and a range of commercial activities which has benefitted the Taranaki economy and the country.
The energy industry contributes over 7,000 jobs and underpins the nation’s energy supply and security. Natural gas from fields around Taranaki accounts for around 20% of New Zealand’s primary energy supply. It provides instant heat, energy and hot water supply for over 245,000 New Zealand households as well as more than 10,000 commercial users such as restaurants, hotels, greenhouses and hospitals. The single biggest user of natural gas is Methanex, also based in Taranaki, who use it as a feedstock to produce methanol for export. Industrially, natural gas is also used to make urea for use on farms.
Taranaki has evolved extensive capabilities to underpin energy exploration, production, and maintenance work programmes as well as undertake major energy projects and shutdowns. Taranaki is a key player in energy generation and distribution in New Zealand. The head offices of many energy companies are based in the region, such as Powerco and Firstgas, along with specialist service and supply companies, including freight, logistics, fabrication, technical, professional services, and consultancies as well as environmental and health and safety expertise. The region is renowned for its world-class engineering design and project management skills, which tackles on and offshore fabrication and construction, and the provision of a leading health and safety culture.
More Recent Developments and New Energy
The foothold of Taranaki in the energy industry extends well beyond the oil and gas industry and the region is uniquely positioned to lead New Zealand’s transition to a low-emissions energy future. The region is New Zealand’s largest exporter of energy; and energy contributes a quarter of the region’s economic output.
The tremendous wind resource in the south of the region has been utilised to develop the Waipipi onshore wind farm, near Waverley. This development is comprised of 31 wind turbines, generating 455 GWh, enough power for 65,000 homes and is contributing to the nation’s growth in renewable energy.
The offshore winds of Taranaki also have the potential for development and is the subject of a discussion paper produced by Venture Taranaki. The paper highlighted the size and scale of the resource, which is of global significance, and attracted national and international investment interest leading to the inaugural New Zealand offshore wind forum being held in New Plymouth in December 2020. In November 2021, the Offshore Future Energy Forum was held, further building upon growing interest, and an announcement by the Minister of Energy and Resources that a regulatory regime will be developed for New Zealand to help pave the way for offshore energy investment and development. Venture Taranaki also released a concept paper called Power to X – which highlighted the tremendous opportunities for Taranaki and New Zealand if the offshore wind resource was developed and the resulting renewable electricity it produced could be used to manufacture green products and services, including those that replaced products using fossil fuels.
The region is also at the forefront of new hydrogen developments. In 2018 the Taranaki H2 Hydrogen Roadmap was published by key regional stakeholders and commercial interests, and since that time there has been significant project progress in realising some of these developments. Hiringa recently received resource consent to progress with a 16MW four turbine development near Kapuni to supply power for a green urea project with Ballance Agri-nutrients.
In January 2020 Hiringa Energy and Waitomo Group announced a partnership to co-locate hydrogen production and refuelling stations on existing Waitomo truck stops. In August 2020 it was announced that funding of $20m had been provisionally approved from Government to support the establishment of Phase 1 of a hydrogen refuelling network. Phase 1 of this work includes the construction of four refuelling stations in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Palmerston North, all of which will be operational in 2022.
First Gas completed a study in 2021 concerning the potential of transporting hydrogen through the existing gas network. Their target is for transporting 20% blended hydrogen by 2035, moving to 100% by 2050.
Ara Ake, the National New Energy Development Centre, was launched in July 2020. Ara Ake’s origins came from the Taranaki Tapuae Roa strategy and was the result of a business case completed by Venture Taranaki. The mission of Ara Ake is to facilitate New Zealand’s energy transition to a low-emissions future through fostering a new energy eco-system, leveraging national and global knowledge and expertise to reduce the time, cost and risk associated with the development and commercialisation of new energy innovation. The Government has allocated $7 million per year towards the operation of Ara Ake.
Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT) is also building its reputation as the national vocational training centre for new energy. It has employed an energy specialist, undertaken a range of research, and presented at a number of conferences. WITT and Ara Ake are also supporting the EVolocity Build Series, where students design, build, and compete in an electric vehicle.
Energy expertise in Taranaki is being increasingly used across the spectrum of energy needs including geothermal, hydro, wind, and wave/marine energy. Technologies and expertise from the region are being sought internationally and are actively engaged in research and development concerning future energy applications.
Energy expertise extends to the engineering sector too. The Engineering Taranaki Consortium is a regional group comprising more than 20 companies that meet regularly to undertake collaborative projects and collectively promote their capabilities.
Facilitation of the Engineering Taranaki Consortium comprising more than 20 specialist service companies who meet regularly to undertake collaborative projects and collectively promote their capabilities
Energy Sector Support
Venture Taranaki is a long-term supporter of the energy sector, and we continue to work with key industry players as the sector evolves.
Investment and Growth Opportunities
There are further opportunities for companies and investment projects seeking to develop new energy solutions for New Zealand and export to leverage, establish, pilot and connect with the Taranaki’ region’s natural energy resource, skills, networks and energy infrastructure.
In addition to the presence of Ara Ake, the Government has also allocated a further $50 million for research into cutting-edge energy technology, including organic photovoltaics, super conductors, nanotechnologies and inductive power.
The energy sector will not be immune to the effects of COVID-19 and the global oil price reductions, but there are significant opportunities to accelerate the pursuit of innovation in this field, with renewables and energy innovation and diversification a key focus, cementing Taranaki as a global leader in new energy development.
Further information about New Zealand’s current energy prices is available on the Energy Market Overview website and the Wholesale Information Trading System (WITS) website.
Wind generation: potential onshore and offshore wind electricity generation potential.
Power to X: using excess renewable energy generation to create green services and products
Renewables technology: build existing technologies and pioneer new ones, including wave, solar and biofuel.
Hydrogen: Hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure. Downstream hydrogen, via manufacturing industrial products traditionally made with natural gas, such as urea and methanol. Read the H2 Taranaki Roadmap Report.
Electricity technology and products: new products and services for electricity consumers looking to generate their own electricity, smartly manage their consumption, and transition to electric vehicles; technologies to support the transition of the electricity market for electricity infrastructure companies.
Decommissioning: As Taranaki transitions to a new energy future and current oil and gas wells reach the end of their productive life, decommissioning of offshore assets will need to be undertaken. One significant project currently underway is the Tui Decommissioning, which is being led by Helix Offshore Services Limited in partnership with Te Kāhui o Taranaki (Taranaki Iwi).
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Energy Transition Pathway Action Plans (TPAPs)
One section of the Taranaki 2050 Roadmap focuses on the energy sector. The Taranaki 2050 co-design process resulted in themes, opportunities, and ideas that have been channeled into a set of tangible actions and outputs need to achieve the region’s long-term vision for 2050.
The other transition pathway actions plans are available here.