Gencomm partners NUIG, HyEnergy and DCU have combined to explore hydrogen opportunities within the energy transition of Northern Ireland.

As countries around Europe and the world commit to deep decarbonisation goals by 2030 and NetZero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the focus of policymakers is moving beyond the deployment of renewable electricity generation. In future, renewables coupled with electrification of transport and heating, as well as energy efficiency improvements will undoubtedly play a major role. Hard-to-abate sectors including heavy duty transport, high-temperature heat, among others will present particular challenges. Issues around electricity grid stability, seasonal storage of renewables and reduction of curtailment and constraint will also need to be addressed. Many now agree that hydrogen can play a central role in integrating the electricity, transport and heating sectors, storing, and transmitting large volumes of variable renewables, while also stimulating new innovative industries and economies.

Northern Ireland is uniquely positioned in the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe to become a leader in hydrogen deployment and technology. Abundant, and in many cases untapped, onshore, and offshore renewable resources, modern gas and electricity networks, interconnection to both Ireland and Great Britain, a relatively small geographic area, availability of salt cavern storage, and an internationally recognised track record of engineering and manufacturing innovation give Northern Ireland a competitive edge. Third-level education and research institutes, exemplified by Belfast Metropolitan College and Ulster University, are leading the way in hydrogen training and safety.

The analysis described in the report presents scenarios for the deployment of hydrogen in Northern Ireland’s transportation and heating sectors in 2030. Costs of delivered hydrogen and emissions savings for localised, regional, and centralised value chains for locations throughout Northern Ireland were calculated and compared. End-use applications include gas grid injection at volumes of 15% in the northwest and Greater Belfast areas, fuelling 500 trucks and 300 double-decker buses in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry, and 8 trains in Belfast. Modelling showed that larger scale regional and centralised hydrogen production results in low unsubsidised costs of £2.53-£4.99 per kg, and higher carbon dioxide (CO2) savings.

Integrated planning for hydrogen deployment across all energy and industry sectors in Northern Ireland needs to be quickly stepped up and the necessary support put in place for technology demonstrators and hydrogen hubs. Maintaining and strengthening cooperation on hydrogen with the rest of the UK, Ireland, and the European Union is important. Given the stage of market development and high initial capital costs, early technology developers and adopters will need financial support to bridge the gap to commercialisation.

Northern Ireland’s ambitions on hydrogen need to be clearly articulated and a pathway to exploit its potential mapped out, if we are to realise the benefits in decarbonisation, energy security, competitiveness, economic growth, and innovation for the region.

Their full report is available on this link via the GenComm website.

Ian Williamson, Hydrogen Ireland

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