Whether we will be able to warm our homes and cook our dinners with hydrogen in the future is a question that researchers from University College Dublin’s Energy Institute (UCDEI) are hoping to answer as part of a research project to investigate the potential use of hydrogen in Irish homes.

Led by Gas Networks Ireland’s head of technical development and technical training, Liam Nolan, and Dr Ali Ekhtiari and Dr Eoin Syron from UCDEI, the team is testing the operation and performance of household appliances with varying levels of hydrogen and natural gas blends.

L-R: Liam Nolan and Ali Ekhtiari. Image: Gas Networks Ireland

Testing facilities

Using the testing facilities at UCDEI’s Integrated Energy Lab and Gas Networks Ireland’s new hydrogen innovation facility in west Dublin, which enables the safe testing of pipelines, meters and appliances off-network; the team is working to understand the full potential of hydrogen and ensure Ireland’s gas pipelines are capable of safely transporting and storing this vital carbon free gas.

“The decarbonisation of Ireland’s gas network is essential if we are to transition to a net-zero energy system in Ireland by 2050. This project will provide the data needed to understand how adding hydrogen to the gas network will impact the devices and appliances we use in our homes today to ensure a smooth transition with minimal cost and disruption to consumers,” said Dr Syron.

Hydrogen can be produced from renewable electricity and stored until needed, making it an attractive option to decarbonise energy systems and a strong example of how greater integration between gas and electricity systems can drive a cleaner energy future for Ireland.

Embraced in the UK and across Europe, Hydrogen is a critical component of the European Green Deal and recognised by the European Commission as offering “a solution to decarbonise industrial processes and economic sectors where reducing carbon emissions is both urgent and hard to achieve”.

The cornerstone of Ireland’s energy system providing almost one third of all primary energy, 40% of heating and more than half of Ireland’s electricity generation, Gas Networks Ireland last year invested €112 million into the national gas network to support the country’s transition to a cleaner energy future.

Net-zero carbon gas network

By gradually replacing natural gas with renewable, carbon neutral and ultimately zero carbon gases, such as biomethane and hydrogen, Ireland can benefit from a net-zero carbon gas network and reduce emissions across a number of key sectors, including those that are traditionally difficult to decarbonise, such as transport, agriculture, industry, heating and reliable power generation.

“Ireland has already transitioned to a cleaner gas once before, from the old town gas, which was a combination of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane, to natural gas in the 1980s and we have a head start on this next chapter thanks to having one of the safest, most modern gas networks in the world,”  said Nolan.

“Like many gas network operators around Europe, we are investigating how much hydrogen can be blended with natural gas and transported through our existing national gas pipelines. Initial indications look very promising, particularly at lower percentage blends. Our research with UCDEI will allow us to test the operation and performance of household appliances in a very safe and controlled environment.”