Gas Networks Ireland

Gas Networks Ireland involved in major European hydrogen project

Interest from potential Irish hydrogen investors strong
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Image: Gas Networks Ireland

8 June 2022

Gas Networks Ireland is participating in a major European project to help the European Union meet its new accelerated goals and radically increase the use of hydrogen by 2030.

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.

Five large-scale hydrogen pipeline corridors are envisaged. These new corridors will initially connect domestic local hydrogen supply and demand in Europe, before expanding and connecting European regions amongst each other, and then connecting neighbouring regions with hydrogen export potential.

 

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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.

Being connected directly to the new European Hydrogen Backbone will provide enhanced security of supply for Ireland and will also enable Ireland to maximise its renewable energy production, as it will offer the potential of hydrogen exports to other markets.

Hydrogen is a carbon free gas that can be made from renewable electricity through a process known as electrolysis and stored until needed, making it an attractive option to decarbonise the Irish and EU energy systems and a strong example of how greater integration between Ireland’s gas and electricity networks can support a low carbon economy.

Gas Networks Ireland’s director of customer and business development, David Kelly, said hydrogen will be critical to Ireland achieving its 2050 climate action targets.

“Ireland’s gas network is a national decarbonisation solution of size and scale,” said Kelly. “Renewable gases, such as hydrogen, will play a key role in reducing emissions across a number of key sectors, including heavy transport, industry and power generation while also enhancing Ireland’s energy security and diversity.

“With learnings from across Europe and the UK as well as insights from our own research and development facility, we’re preparing to transform the gas network and ultimately Ireland’s entire energy system to deliver a cleaner energy future in line with national and EU policy.

“The European Hydrogen Backbone Initiative will play a major role in the development of a hydrogen network in European, and Gas Networks Ireland is delighted to be playing its role in planning for that future.”

The European Hydrogen Backbone report notes that given the expected growth of offshore windfarms in Ireland, “green hydrogen production and integration with the gas network could provide a way to maximise Ireland’s wind energy potential”.

This green hydrogen could be an alternative to imported hydrogen in the Irish market, and furthermore, in peak production periods, could potentially be exported to the British market and beyond.

The report suggests that while the offshore wind market is being developed in Ireland, Ireland could import hydrogen to replace natural gas in electricity generation, providing a reliable and flexible zero carbon back up to intermittent renewable electricity generation, such as wind. The report also notes that by 2035, an area around Cork city could become a “hydrogen valley”.

Delivering the new corridors will require new and repurposed hydrogen infrastructure, supported by fast-track financing, simplified and shortened planning procedures, and the creation of an integrated energy system planning framework.

Partnerships with hydrogen exporters outside the 28 countries in the European Hydrogen Backbone initiative will also be required.

It is thought that by 2040, about 60% of the overall new European hydrogen backbone will come from repurposed existing pipelines, while the remaining 40% will be newly built.

“Mapping the five corridors in the new pan-European backbone will create more certainty about the deployment of this new hydrogen infrastructure, which will in turn enable key stakeholders in the market to develop supply and demand more rapidly,” Kelly continued. “Hydrogen can play a significant role in the move towards climate neutrality, and the need for hydrogen pipeline transport in the future European energy system is clear.”

To further facilitate the growth of a hydrogen industry in Ireland, Gas Networks Ireland has produced a guidance document that gives a high-level overview to interested parties of current gas regulation and policy.

It also outlines actions required to facilitate the injection, transportation and storage of hydrogen on the gas network in Ireland.

“We want to talk to all the relevant stakeholders in Ireland in relation to the development of an indigenous hydrogen market,” continued Kelly, “including shippers, policymakers, investors and anyone else who is interested in helping to expand the sector.”

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