Ireland’s €2.7bn gas network to play a crucial role in Ireland’s renewable hydrogen evolution
Gas Networks Ireland has strongly welcomed the publication of the Government’s National Hydrogen Strategy1 as an important milestone in the decarbonisation of Ireland’s €2.7bn gas network, which is essential in the transition to a net-zero energy system in Ireland by 2050.
The report published by the Department of Environment, Climate & Communications (DECC) outlines the future role green hydrogen gas - harnessed from offshore wind - and the gas network will play in specific areas of Ireland’s energy system the hard to abate sectors such as transport, industrial heating and power generation.
Commenting on its publication, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, said:
“Ireland has a strategic opportunity to produce renewable hydrogen at scale, with the potential to produce more than our own indigenous needs. Hydrogen networks will play a key role in this future system, supporting the deployment of increased renewable energy, providing resilience and flexibility to the electricity system, and providing energy to areas of the economy that direct renewable electrification will not be practical or economical.
We need to ensure that we have the right knowledge, the correct policy supports and resources in place to enable the scale up and roll out of a renewable hydrogen industry in Ireland. The development of this strategy is just the first step required to make this proposition a reality.
With Ireland’s significant onshore and offshore wind resources, the potential for Irish made renewable hydrogen at scale, which can be made from wind-generated renewable electricity through a process known as electrolysis, stored until required and transported through the repurposed gas network, is very high.
Renewable hydrogen provides an attractive pathway to decarbonise the Irish energy system where electrification isn’t possible and is also a strong example of how greater integration between Ireland’s gas and electricity networks can support a low carbon economy.”
A zero-carbon substitute for fossil fuels
The strategy recognises that hydrogen offers an incredible opportunity to enable Ireland to transition to a climate neutral economy by being a zero-carbon substitute for fossil fuels. In doing so, green hydrogen will help Ireland meet its 2050 net-zero emissions targets, diversify and strengthen its security of supply, provide a pathway to energy independence, and in the long-term, potentially leading to the creation a new energy export market.
It also highlights that green hydrogen is both safe and feasible to use in the existing gas distribution network to transport hydrogen blended with natural gas now, and with some modifications, transport 100% hydrogen in the future2. Gas Networks Ireland continues to undertake a programme of hydrogen testing on the gas transmission network.
Welcoming the Government’s strategy and its commitment to supporting the establishment of a renewable hydrogen industry in Ireland, Gas Networks Ireland’s Director of Customer and Business Development, David Kelly said:
“We are delighted that the national strategy acknowledges how the 14,664km national gas network can be leveraged to accommodate hydrogen produced from wind energy, as well recognising that in the interim, natural gas will continue to be needed to ensure continued security and resilience of Ireland’s energy.
The gas network is Ireland’s hydrogen-ready infrastructure and reliable energy backbone which will continue to play a central role in the country’s future clean energy and hydrogen economies.”
The cost of repurposing the existing gas network to transport hydrogen is estimated to be a fraction (10% to 35%)3 of the cost of building new dedicated hydrogen pipelines.
“And as the gas pipelines are already in the ground, it’s the least disruptive option also,” Mr Kelly added.
“Replacing natural gas with renewable gases, such as hydrogen, will substantially reduce the country’s carbon emissions by supporting our large industrial customers on their net zero journeys while also complementing intermittent renewable electricity and ensuring a more diverse and secure energy supply.
We’ve been working diligently for an extensive period of time on preparing the existing gas network to accept hydrogen and natural gas blends from the UK, as well as preparing for the injection of indigenously produced renewable hydrogen at appropriate locations into the gas network. Results from our studies indicate that our network will be ready. We are confident that we will be in a position to onboard hydrogen as and when our industry partners are ready to produce the renewable gas.”
Hydrogen Testing Centre – Gas Networks Ireland
Showcased in the government’s publication as a case study, Gas Networks Ireland established its Network Innovation Centre, located in Citywest, Dublin two years ago, to understand the full potential of hydrogen and ensure that the gas network is capable of safely transporting and storing both blended and up to 100% hydrogen into the future.
Working with University College Dublin’s Energy Institute (UCDEI), one of the first innovation projects undertaken was ‘Testing of Blends of Hydrogen and Natural Gas’ (HyTest)4. The team tested the operation and performance of gas appliances utilising a range of hydrogen concentrations from 2% to 20% hydrogen.
The research found that householders using natural gas blended with up to 20% hydrogen will not need to make any change to their existing domestic appliances or notice any difference. There was also a substantial emissions reduction obtained by blending hydrogen with natural gas.
EU Hydrogen project partners
Gas Networks Ireland is participating in a major project to help the European Union meet its new accelerated goals and radically increase the use of hydrogen by 2030 since last summer. The EU is predicting that c.14% of energy consumption across Europe will be from hydrogen by 2050, while it is expected to be 20-35% in the Netherlands, and up to 50% of the total energy demand in the UK.
The European Hydrogen Backbone initiative is focussed on planning for the future development of a European hydrogen market through new pan-European hydrogen transport infrastructure. The planned hydrogen backbone network will largely be based on repurposing existing natural gas infrastructure. It is envisaged that by 2040, for example, Ireland could be connected to the new European hydrogen backbone via a repurposed subsea pipeline to the Moffat interconnector in Scotland.
Working with third level institutions and Science Foundation Ireland
Additionally, Gas Networks Ireland is working with academia. The utility is one of a number of industry players funding a €16 million strategic partnership with Irish third level institutions that will examine how to holistically decarbonise the overall Irish energy sector. Led by UCDEI, NexSys (Next Generation Energy System) is also supported by Science Foundation Ireland.
Gas Networks Ireland has a number of other strategic hydrogen research partnerships, including one with Ulster University on hydrogen blend safety and with AMBER on materials compatibility with hydrogen.