Firstgas Group company, Flexgas today announced the completion of an upgrade to its Ahuroa gas storage facility in Taranaki, which will provide greater flexibility and security of gas supply to support New Zealand’s growing renewable electricity generation fleet.

Paul Goodeve, Firstgas Group Chief Executive said, “The increased capacity of supply from Ahuroa provides instantaneous gas supply, helping to fill the gap in meeting energy demand when the wind doesn’t blow, the sun does not shine or lake levels are low. Ultimately this expanded facility will help our customers to better manage energy supply and demand variability for years to come.”

Firstgas Group company, Flexgas, acquired Ahuroa from Contact Energy in October 2018. At the time Firstgas agreed to expand Ahuroa’s injection and expansion capacity. The commissioning of three new gas compressors and gas dehydration unit in September allows Ahuroa to increase daily gas injection and gas extraction rates to 65 TJ per day.

“This upgrade allows a lot more gas to be produced to instantly meet the energy needs of New Zealanders when they need it most,” Mr Goodeve said. “We are proud of what this project achieves and the contribution that gas plays to support the generation of renewable electricity across New Zealand each day,” he added.

Gas storage and flexibility is vital to support the generation of renewable electricity, particularly in the winter months, over peak demand periods, and is becoming more important with the addition of new variable wind and solar generation capacity. Gas is also a relatively clean burning fuel, with much lower CO2 emissions than coal and creates virtually no local air pollution from particulates.

“This is why we have invested in this significant upgrade – as we believe gas storage will play a key role in the transition to a low emissions energy future,” Mr Goodeve explained.

“Firstgas is committed to supporting New Zealand’s transition to a low emissions energy economy.  But we think there are choices that need to be carefully considered along the way and helping to keep power prices affordable is an important part of the challenge,” he added.

Firstgas estimates that the expanded capacity at Ahuroa is capable of providing the same amount of energy each day as 400,000 Tesla powerwall batteries would store. However, this battery storage would cost around $7.1 billion to develop.

Mr Goodeve said, “We have paid less than 5% of this equivalent battery cost, which helps to keep a lid on rising power prices.”

Firstgas is also supportive of an approach that involves the decarbonisation of multiple energy distribution channels, including gas networks. This could be achieved through the production of hydrogen, the use of biofuels, carbon sequestration, or some combination of these innovative technologies.

“As well as upgrading Ahuroa, Firstgas is investing in the future of gas in other innovative ways by investigating how we can decarbonise the gas system. We are applying technology that can transport hydrogen and / or biogas through our pipeline networks, which is really exciting.” Mr Goodeve said.

“Firstgas is aiming to release the results of its Hydrogen pipeline trial later this year,” he added.

The Ahuroa upgrade project took 620 days to complete and involved 10,800 internal person-hours and 110,750 person-hours by third party contractors. Just as the project was scaling up, Covid-19 was hitting hard and the country went into lockdown.

Iwan Bridge, Firstgas Chief Operating Officer said, “It was particularly pleasing to successfully complete such a large and complex project during such a difficult period. To be able to deliver our largest capital project to date, without the overseas expertise that would normally be used for a project like this is a credit to the Firstgas team and our contractors and testament to the exceptional skills available in Taranaki”.

For more information please contact:

Cressida Gates-Thompson 

Firstgas External Communications Manager
027 703 6177