What is hydrogen? (H2)

So, you’ve heard about hydrogen. But what really is it?

Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical in the universe. In its gaseous form it can be burned to provide heat without releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

It can be found in large quantities of the water in oceans, rivers, lakes, and the atmosphere as well as in all animal and vegetable tissues and petroleum.

Hydrogen is a clean alternative to methane. Methane is the main constituent of 'natural gas' from oil and gas fields. We’ve continued to use natural gas because it’s a readily available resource, it’s cost effective and it’s a cleaner alternative to coal.

When natural gas is burnt, it provides heat energy, but a waste product alongside water is carbon dioxide, which when released into the atmosphere contributes to climate change, burning hydrogen does not release carbon dioxide.

Green Hydrogen

Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced without the release of carbon dioxide or CO₂. This is done by using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen in a process known as electrolysis.

Gas Networks Ireland are actively working on transitioning to a carbon-free gas network. Incorporating and blending green hydrogen into our network is a very possible and practical solution for storing and transporting renewable energy in the near future.

Given Irelands significant renewable electricity potential, Irish policy is currently focused on green hydrogen. Gas Networks Ireland have identified that green hydrogen production and integration with the gas network could provide a way to maximise Irelands renewable energy potential.

What role will hydrogen play in Ireland's energy future?

Hydrogen is well suited for storage, making it an attractive option to decarbonise energy systems and drive a cleaner energy future for Ireland and beyond.

As Gas Networks Ireland works towards decarbonising our national gas infrastructure, hydrogen will play an integral role in Ireland’s energy future.

Hydrogen enables the optimisation and full exploitation of renewable electricity generation forms in Ireland by utilising excess generation that would otherwise be curtailed to produce green hydrogen for onward use on the gas network.

Hydrogen networks will play a key role in this future system, similar to the role played by the natural gas network today; supporting the deployment of increased renewable energy, providing resilience and flexibility to the electricity system, and serving the heat needs of industry and businesses across the country.

Ireland and the EU have committed themselves to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Hydrogen will be key to enabling decarbonisation of several sectors which are difficult to electrify such as high industrial heat, heavy transport and power generation. Gas Networks Ireland are working towards using renewable energy sources for a more sustainable future.

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Hydrogen Research and Projects

Hydrogen will be key to enabling the decarbonisation of sectors that are difficult to electrify such as high industrial heat, heavy transport and power generation.  

We believe that Ireland’s gas network will play a central role in Ireland’s energy future. To do this we are working on partner projects and conducting research to ensure that the existing gas network and gas appliances can be operated safely, while using green hydrogen to meet customer requirements. 

Read the full report

The future hydrogen economy

We believe that Ireland’s gas network can and should play a central role in Ireland’s energy future. To do this we are:

  • Preparing the existing gas network to accept blends of hydrogen and natural gas from the UK
  • Preparing for the phased injection of green hydrogen into the gas network and in doing so, will support the development of the solar and onshore/offshore wind industries in Ireland.
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Hydrogen and Ireland’s National Gas Network

Hydrogen and Ireland’s National Gas Network, provides a high-level overview to interested parties of the current gas regulations and plans. It outlines the main areas that will need to be addressed and actions required in order to facilitate the injection, transportation and storage of hydrogen on the gas network in Ireland. Gas Networks Ireland believes hydrogen will play a critical role in decarbonising the gas network and is supportive of projects, which aim to deliver hydrogen to energy customers, for end-uses such as space heating, transport, industry and dispatchable electricity generation, in a safe and secure manner. While there are different possible hydrogen supply chains, Gas Networks Ireland believes that the re-use and re-purposing of existing gas network infrastructure is a cost-effective gas transportation model.

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Hydrogen FAQ

The European Hydrogen Backbone (EHB) is an initiative that consists of a group of 32 energy infrastructure operators united through a shared goal of a carbon neutral Europe enabled by a thriving renewable and low carbon hydrogen market.  

The vison by the EHB is of almost 53,000km of hydrogen infrastructure by 2040 in the EU.  

This is largely based on about 60% of repurposed existing gas infrastructure.  

Repurposing existing pipelines contributes to affordable energy supplies with an estimated saving of €330 billion over a national clustered approach between 2030 and 2050.  

The first National Hydrogen Strategy is due to be released in Q3 of 2023.  

However, the government has set out a target to produce 80% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030, while phasing-out coal and peat-fired electricity generation. 

The government has also increased the target for offshore wind capacity from 5 GW (gigawatt) to 7 GW by 2030.  

To achieve this, the installation of 2GW of offshore wind generation connected to electrolysers by 2030 will be required, which could produce up to 138 kilotons of green hydrogen annually.

As well as focusing on transporting hydrogen using the gas network, Gas Networks Ireland is also researching the feasibility of storing hydrogen.  

When it comes to the industrial storage of hydrogen, generally salt caverns, exhausted oil and gas fields or aquifers can be used as underground stores.