Green hydrogen: Could it save Taranaki's energy industry?
Hydrogen refuelling infrastructure throughout the region could also link up with neighbouring regions to allow heavy vehicle freight movements.
Port Taranaki, which was already experienced in handling industrial chemical products, would be a key hub for hydrogen export.
"The development of a hydrogen industry will be further supported by the region's industrial, service and operational industries, strong culture of health and safety, and deep-water port with easy access to export markets in Australia and Asia," Gilliland said.
The report's author, Andrew Clennett of Taranaki-based Hiringa Energy, was also enthusiastic about the potential hydrogen could have in transitioning the regional economy.
"Taranaki is very fortunate with its natural resources, infrastructure, and the forward thinking and the leadership shown by our regional officials and industry."
The Roadmap is the first of the projects released under Tapaue Roa, Taranaki's Regional Economic Development Plan.
New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom said Taranaki was at the forefront of a "just transition" to a low-emissions New Zealand.
"Taranaki is the perfect region to lead from the front in helping New Zealand transition to a high value, low carbon economy, given our decades of history with the energy sector and the knowledge, skills and expertise we've developed."
The region's oil and gas industry was currently responsible for an estimated $1.57b of Taranaki's total GDP, and directly employed 4340 fulltime equivalent roles.
Overall, the industry was linked to the creation of 7070 jobs in Taranaki.
The National Party's energy and resources spokesman, New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young, said he saw better opportunities for the region in "blue" hydrogen, which is obtained from natural gas or industrial residual gases by splitting them into hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
He said the UK was pursing production of blue hydrogen because the technology could be put in place quickly and cheaply.
"And I think that is very important to consider when we're looking at the transition that's been envisaged," Young said.
"Even though the Government says renewables are coming down in cost, it's the scale and manufacture that is also critical – and I do think the intermittency of many renewables that make the manufacture of green hydrogen probably less desirable, in terms of cost and reliability."
His concerns were echoed by oil and gas lobby Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ).
"Around 95 per cent of hydrogen around the world is produced using natural gas, and we already produce major amounts of it this way in New Zealand," its chief executive Cameron Madgwick said.
Using the process electrolysis, as proposed in the report, was possible but would be very expensive as it would require enormous amounts of electricity.
"Hydrogen can be produced using natural gas with zero emissions if carbon capture and storage technology is used," Madgwick said.
"There is already a concrete proposal from private investors 8 Rivers wanting to make a multi-billion investment into this technology in Taranaki.
"To enable this, we'd like to see the Government passing legislation to enable carbon capture and storage technology in New Zealand. It would be a big step forward for hydrogen, and a win-win for our economy and environment."
What is hydrogen?
• Hydrogen is the smallest and lightest element. It is the most common element in the universe but is not readily available on earth as pure hydrogen as it rapidly combines with other substances to create compounds such as water, hydrocarbons and carbohydrates.
• When hydrogen is produced commercially from hydrocarbons, it's typically classified as either "brown" hydrogen – when carbon dioxide is released – or "blue" hydrogen – when carbon dioxide is captured and stored.
• When it's produced from water - as is the aim of the Taranaki strategy – it would be classified as "green" hydrogen, as it was produced with zero emissions and using renewable electricity.