GNI is committed to sustainability – investment in green hydrogen can lead the way
Gas Networks Ireland has welcomed the publication of the government’s strategy to replace natural gas with renewable sources to reduce the country’s carbon emissions
Globally, governments and industry across every sector are aware of the very real need to promote and maintain a climate neutral economy – and sustainable energy plays a key role in achieving this goal.
In line with the latest Climate Action Plan (CAP), there is a need to decarbonise the national gas network with renewable gases – and with the future high on its agenda, Gas Networks Ireland is committed to not only guaranteeing that Ireland’s energy supply keeps moving, but also to ensuring that its ethos keeps sustainability at its core.
It is working towards replacing natural gas with renewable gases, such as biomethane and green hydrogen, to substantially reduce the country’s carbon emissions while complementing intermittent renewable electricity and ensuring a secure energy supply.
With both a strong capability and capacity to deliver on future energy and decarbonisation plans, Gas Networks Ireland has welcomed the publication of the government’s National Hydrogen Strategy, which not only outlines the role that green hydrogen gas will play in Ireland’s future but also its own role in many areas of the country’s energy system where electrification is not possible.
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, including the hard to abate sectors such as transport, industrial heating and power generation.
Eamon Ryan, TD, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications says that when it comes to producing renewable energy, an abundance of natural resources puts Ireland in a very strong position.
“Ireland has a strategic opportunity to produce renewable hydrogen at scale, with the potential to produce more than our own indigenous needs,” he said. “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, while also providing energy to areas of the economy where 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.”
David Kelly, Director of Customer and Business Development for Gas Networks Ireland says the organisation not only strongly welcomes the strategy but is looking forward to playing a pivotal role in providing cost effective, low carbon fuel options which will be at the heart of Ireland’s renewable energy future.
“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 as recognising that in the interim, natural gas will continue to be needed to ensure continued security and resilience of Ireland’s energy,” he said.
“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.”
Indeed, the strategy is 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. It recognised that hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe and a zero-carbon substitute for fossil fuels, presents an important opportunity to enable Ireland to transition to a climate neutral economy as well as providing a pathway to energy independence, creating a new energy export market and strengthening energy security.
To this end, Gas Networks Ireland is currently undertaking a programme of hydrogen testing on the gas transmission network as it recognises that it is both feasible, and more importantly, safe to convert the existing gas distribution network to transport green hydrogen gas as it becomes available from renewable sources.
Located in Citywest, Dublin, the Network Innovation Centre, which was established two years ago, allows researchers from Gas Networks Ireland to understand the full potential of hydrogen and ensure that the gas network is capable of safely transporting and storing green 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). This project allowed the specialist team to test the operation and performance of gas appliances utilising a range of hydrogen concentrations from 2 per cent to 20 per cent hydrogen.
In addition to its own research, Gas Networks Ireland is also participating in a major project to help the European Union meet its new accelerated goals and radically increase the use of hydrogen by 2030. The EU is predicting that by 2050, roughly 14 per cent of energy consumption across Europe will be from hydrogen – in the Netherlands, it is expected to be in the region of 20-35 per cent, and up to 50 per cent of the total energy demand in the UK.
To help reach these energy goals, 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. This planned hydrogen backbone network will largely be based on repurposing existing natural gas infrastructure, and it is envisaged that by 2040 Ireland could be connected to the new European hydrogen backbone via a repurposed subsea pipeline to the Moffat interconnector in Scotland.
In addition to its involvement with their European counterparts, Gas Networks Ireland is also working with academia. The utility is one of several industry players funding a €16 million strategic partnership with Irish third level institutions which will examine how to holistically decarbonise the overall Irish energy sector. Earlier this year, Gas Networks Ireland hosted the German Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce and a special delegation from the State of Hessen, at its Future Lab in the Network Innovation Centre as part of its fact-finding tour on hydrogen.
Led by UCDEI, NexSys (Next Generation Energy System) is also supported by Science Foundation Ireland and Gas Networks Ireland also has several other strategic hydrogen research partnerships, including one with Ulster University on hydrogen blend safety and with AMBER on materials compatibility with hydrogen.
It is clear that the gas network can play a key role in Ireland’s future energy system, by supporting the deployment of increased renewable energy, providing resilience and flexibility to the electricity system, providing a link to the European hydrogen backbone and serving the energy needs of industry and businesses across the country.
As the licensed gas Transmission System Operator, Gas Networks Ireland possesses significant in-house skills, competency and technical expertise, built over 40 years of delivering gas securely for Ireland. Gas Networks Ireland has already been working to assess the technical capability of the gas network to transport hydrogen as it becomes available - and research to date has shown that Ireland’s gas distribution network is compatible with hydrogen blends of up to 20 per cent and 100 per cent hydrogen with only some modifications required.
The Irish gas network is considered one of the safest and most modern gas networks in the world and is a constant in keeping Ireland’s energy moving - it also offers safe, efficient, cost-effective and secure transportation and storage of hydrogen.
The National Hydrogen Strategy published by Government included a list of 21 actions to progress as a priority. Gas Networks Ireland looks forward to supporting on the delivery of these actions, which include the assessment of policy supports and business models for large-scale hydrogen storage, developing a transition plan for the gas network, developing a blueprint for delivering a hydrogen certificate scheme and understanding the future hydrogen needs of priority end users.
Ireland has a strategic opportunity to produce renewable hydrogen at scale, with the potential to produce more than our own indigenous needs and creating further economic advantages.
By gradually replacing natural gas with renewable gases, such as biomethane and green hydrogen, Gas Networks Ireland is working to deliver a net-zero carbon gas network by 2050 and to reduce emissions across a number of key sectors, including those which are traditionally difficult to decarbonise, like transport, agriculture, industry, and power generation.
In addition to all the obvious environmental and financial benefits, the cost of repurposing the existing gas network to transport hydrogen is estimated to be a fraction (10 per cent to 35 per cent) of the cost of building new dedicated hydrogen pipelines. And it is also the least disruptive and most sustainable option as the gas pipeline network is already in situ, making the transition to renewable gases a win-win situation.
“As the gas pipelines are already in the ground, it is also the least disruption option,” said David Kelly of Gas Networks Ireland. “So, replacing natural gas with renewable gases such as green hydrogen, will substantially reduce the country’s carbon emissions by supporting our large industrial customers on their net zero journeys, while also completing intermittent renewable energy electricity and ensuring a more diverse and secure energy supply.
“We have been working diligently for an extensive period on preparing the existing gas network to accept hydrogen 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 own studies indicate that our network will be ready, so we are confident that we will be in a position to transport hydrogen, as and when our industry partners are ready to produce the renewable gas.”
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