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David Macartney

Corporate Development Manager, Energia Group

David Macartney, Corporate Development Manager at Energia Group answers common questions on the benefits of hydrogen in helping Ireland become a greener economy.

Q: What is green hydrogen?

Hydrogen is a versatile, clean and safe energy carrier that can be used as fuel for power or in the industry as feedstock. Hydrogen produces zero emissions at the point of use. It can be stored and transported at high energy density in liquid or gaseous form and can be combusted or used in fuel cells to generate heat and electricity. 

Hydrogen is often described by various colours – grey, blue and green for example – with the colour referring to the method of production. Increasingly attention is being focussed on hydrogen produced from renewable electricity (green hydrogen) or from carbon-abated fossil fuels (blue hydrogen) and away from grey hydrogen (steam reforming) which is currently the most prevalent.

Q: How can hydrogen support decarbonisation efforts?

Green hydrogen will play an important role in the decarbonisation of the economy. Our future energy needs will be met increasingly by renewable electricity; however, some energy end uses are hard to electrify via the grid or with batteries, especially in transport but also in other sectors. In many sectors, direct electrification is, and will remain, technologically challenging or uneconomical, even at very high CO2 prices.

Hydrogen represents an optimal overall solution for long-term, carbon-free seasonal storage. While batteries, super-capacitors and compressed air can also support balancing, they lack either the power capacity or the storage timespan needed to address seasonal imbalances. As Ireland transitions towards net zero emissions, these secondary fuel requirements will need to be reviewed and hydrogen could play a key role.

With increasing levels of constraint of renewable electricity generation – i.e. available renewable generation that the grid is unable to utilise – this energy could be used to produce renewable hydrogen either for injection into the gas grid or for transport to other end users.

Hydrogen represents an optimal overall solution for long-term, carbon-free seasonal storage.

Q: How can Ireland lead the way in the shift to green hydrogen?

The long-term benefits of hydrogen are compelling and it provides a promising pathway for the energy transition. The global interest in hydrogen and the significant financial commitments made by major economies will drive improvements in cost and performance. Ireland will want to position itself as a potential exporter of hydrogen as well as ensuring that connectivity with the rest of the world, through maritime ports and airports, is ensured by progressing hydrogen fuelling capability at these gateways.

Q: What has your organisation done to support transport on the island of Ireland?

Energia Group has led the introduction of hydrogen buses on the island of Ireland. Over the last eight years we have: 

  • Secured EU funding for a 1MW electrolyser (the equipment which splits water into its constituent elements: oxygen and hydrogen) which is in construction at Energia’s Long Mountain wind farm in Co Antrim. 
  • Secured funding from the UK Department of Transport to underpin Translink’s purchase of three hydrogen double decker buses, which are now in operation. To power the buses, Energia has installed the island’s first hydrogen fuelling station in Belfast.  

Q: What other renewable projects are you involved in?

We have recently won circa £400,000 funding from the Department of Transport to undertake a feasibility study to enable zero emission maritime solutions at ports and harbours in Northern Ireland. Energia is leading the consortium which includes Belfast Harbour, NIE Networks, Mott MacDonald, University of Ulster, Queens University Belfast and Artemis. The work with Artemis is very exciting as they are developing a zero-emission hydrofoil ferry which will be built in Belfast and we are investigating the use of hydrogen on this ferry.

We were delighted to be able to highlight Energia’s work with the NI Green Seas and Belfast Maritime Consortium, together with the Department of Transport and Translink, at COP26 in Glasgow which has thrown a spotlight on the need to decarbonise transport and the importance of renewable hydrogen.

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