Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, but it doesn’t like to be alone and is usually attached to another element, like water (H2O). Hydrogen, unlike natural gas, when burnt does not release methane into the atmosphere, so would provide a carbon free form of home heating gas if harnessed and transported through the gas infrastructure.
What is Hydrogen?
How does it work?
There are two main sources of hydrogen production:
Blue Hydrogen is produced by splitting natural gas into its raw elements, hydrogen and carbon in a process called Steam Methane Reforming. Once separated, the hydrogen can then be used for clean energy purposes while the carbon is sequestered underground in depleted reservoirs through a method of carbon capture storage and is therefore not dispersed into the atmosphere.
Green Hydrogen is produced entirely differently, and is well suited to our local energy landscape. Green Hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, using electric from renewable sources to separate hydrogen and oxygen. Not only does this create two useful and separate elements, it also presents an opportunity to use the renewable electricity that is currently being curtailed. Northern Ireland is well placed with access to its indigenous resources to become a hydrogen fuelled economy.
Advantages of Hydrogen
- It’s practical – replacing natural gas with hydrogen provides a decarbonised home heating solution available to around 70% of properties locally without the need for a deep retrofit.
- Secure Supply – our local climate creates changing energy needs and the gas infrastructure can be used to store hydrogen so it can provide energy to consumers as and when they need it without a reliance on wind or solar power for its generation.
- Maximises local landscape – Northern Ireland is uniquely placed in the UK to maximise green hydrogen production given our significant wind resources. Using hydrogen in the gas network for home heating provides a positive outlet to utilise the substantial excess wind energy which is currently being curtailed.
- Supports a just transition – while industry and policy makers have led the conversation on net-zero to date, consumers will be the enablers of change. A hydrogen gas solution will be delivered in phases stages, enabling hydrogen ready boilers to be introduced that will future proof homes and work within natural cycles for home and heating improvements.