University College Dublin’s Energy Institute (UCDEI) and Gas Networks Ireland are collaborating on a project to research whether hydrogen energy could be harnessed for domestic use in Ireland. Dr Ali Ekhtiari and Dr Eoin Syron from UCDEI are working on the project alongside Liam Nolan, GNI Head of Technical Development and Technical Training. 

The project consists of testing household appliances to investigate their performance when powered with varying levels of hydrogen and natural gas blends. The project is being undertaken in UCD’s Integrated Energy lab and GNI’s hydrogen innovation facility located in west Dublin. It is hoped that the project will provide data on the impact of switching to hydrogen in Ireland’s gas networks to allow for a smooth transition to this energy source with minimal disruption to customers.

The project also aims to ensure  Ireland’s gas pipelines are capable of safely transporting and storing this carbon-free gas. UCD’s Dr. Syron has commented that “the decarbonisation of Ireland’s gas network is essential if the country is to transition to a net-zero energy system in Ireland by 2050” to follow the government’s Climate Action Plan.

Ireland’s gas network is responsible for providing 30% of the energy consumed in the country and this figure includes generating 50% of the country’s electricity. The European Union’s Green Deal also encourages this switch to hydrogen-based energy with countries such as the UK already having adopted transition strategies

Speaking to the College Tribune, Dr Ali Ekhtiari from UCDEI commented that this project “is going to be really important for reducing Ireland’s reliance on fossil fuels and meeting its climate change targets.” He further noted that “To decarbonise the energy system, renewable electricity will lead the way, but renewable electricity is not available all the time so we need to find solutions to make sure that carbon-free renewable energy can be provided 24/7. One of the potential solutions is to use this renewable power to generate green hydrogen and incorporate it into the gas network where it can be used to heat homes.” 

When questioned whether UCD is a sustainable campus and if it could be doing better, Ekhtiari told the College Tribune that “UCD has taken many steps to become more sustainable and should be commended for this, but like each of us, it can always do more. Every time we use the car when we don’t really need to put too much water in the kettle to make one cup of tea or buy coffee in a disposable cup, we are being less sustainable. A balance needs to be found to allow for the University to continue its activities, develop and improve while at the same time minimise its environmental impact.  

We all have a role to play and I believe that each school, each department, and each project should focus on how we can transition towards a clean and sustainable campus. All these changes take time. The creation of a UCD Sustainable Energy Community has been a positive development but there needs to be more focus in this area.

Finally, it might be of interest to undergraduate and graduate students to know that, as part of our research, we have developed gas network modelling tools to analyse gas physical parameters incorporating green hydrogen (produced from excess renewable electricity) in an integrated energy system. 

Anyone interested in pursuing their study and research in this field can contact us through the School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering and the Energy Institute!”

Mahnoor Choudhry – Co-Editor