Argus Media Limited

11/23/2022 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/24/2022 06:59

Ireland eyes role as key renewable H2 exporter

Ireland aims to harness its huge offshore wind potential to become a major exporter of renewable hydrogen to mainland Europe, but it will have to overcome substantial challenges to realise its ambitions, delegates heard at the Hydrogen Ireland Conference in Dublin this week.

Ireland has set a target of 2GW hydrogen production capacity by 2030 but will eventually produce far more if it capitalises on its potential to build up to 70GW of floating wind capacity in the deep waters off its Atlantic coast, according to the country's minister for environment, climate, and communications Eamon Ryan. The country has economic rights to a maritime area seven times its own landmass, which could provide ample scope for a large capacity build-out. State-owned utility ESB estimates the country could decarbonise its current economy with 30GW of offshore wind, which would leave a surplus of potentially 40GW that the country will look to export in the form of renewable hydrogen and ammonia.

Next month, Ireland will auction wind farm sites likely to generate 3GW of power in total once built, but subsequent auction rounds will include wind-to-hydrogen projects. The process will be state-led so the government can plan for an integrated energy system based on availability of electrical infrastructure, optimal locations for hydrogen production and ease of permitting, according to Ryan.

Ryan said Ireland has been approached by German, Belgian and Dutch ministers interested in offtake deals. It is finalising a declaration of intent with Germany to co-operate on hydrogen, and next year will host separate delegations from Germany and the federal states of Hesse and Baden-Wurttemberg.

Hydrogen could be exported to other markets via pipelines to Scotland, by reversing flows on links that are currently used to import natural gas, according to Paul Lennon, head of asset management at gas grid operator Gas Networks Ireland. Ireland might also export via ships in the form of ammonia or other carriers as Ireland has several deepwater ports where large vessels could refuel or load cargoes for mainland Europe, Ryan added.

But to realise its vision, Ireland will need to serialise production of enormous wind turbines. The Shannon Estuary hub in the southwest of the country aims to produce three turbines a week, a task that was likened to making three Eiffel Towers a week by the Shannon Estuary Task Force's chairperson Barry O'Sullivan. They need to "come like Model T Fords off the production line", Ryan said.

Ireland also needs to add hydrogen storage, with proposals already emerging for this. Another hurdle is the non-existent regulatory environment for hydrogen projects. Ireland's hydrogen industry needs "a strategy policy, targets, timelines and financial support" to get off the ground, according to Gas Networks Ireland Director of Strategy and Regulation Edwina Nyhan.

The government will set policy in "the coming weeks, not months" and has established a hydrogen task force which is working "full tilt", Ryan said. Ireland has been slower than European peers to implement hydrogen policies and has sizeable hurdles to overcome, but the level of public and private sector ambition was high during the symbolic first hydrogen conference in the country.

By Aidan Lea