As reports continue to hit the news of more and more extreme weather events across the globe – extreme heat waves in the north western United State and Canada contrasting with massive flooding across central Europe – allied with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes (IPCC) latest stark report that climate change impacts are already impacting upon weather patterns, the time for mitigation and adaptation has never felt more crucial.
One potential solution that exists that may help in both adaptation – ways to deal with the effects of climate change – and mitigation – approaches to decrease the causes of climate change – is the further development of hydrogen as a fuel for the future. However, hydrogen has been touted as a “fuel for the future” for what feels like decades, but with the aforementioned issues really gaining traction now is the time to act. Hydrogen also offers versatility and can be used in a range of ways across virtually all sectors—transportation, commercial, industrial, residential, and portable. It is a clean energy source that produces only water, electricity and heat with no greenhouse gases.
In recent times there has been a renewed drive to develop Hydrogen as a future fuel and a range of projects have been undertake across the globe. In Iceland there is a long recent history of hydrogen projects including 2001’s ECTOS – Ecological City Transportation System – project where the purpose of the project was to demonstrate and evaluate hydrogen-based infrastructure for public transport and demonstrate the benefits for the society at large to operate the future transport system on hydrogen. This was followed up by HyFleet in 2006, another hydrogen transport project. In Aberdeen we have seen another fleet of Hydrogen buses put into use supplied by a range of projects including High Veolcity, High Transit, JIVE and H2ME.
In Ireland in more recent years, we have seen local companies – including ourselves, Action Renewables – partnering on or participating in Hydrogen projects. One of the largest of these is GenComm (GENCOMM: GENerating energy secure COMMunities | Interreg NWE (nweurope.eu) ). GenComm sets out to address the energy sustainability challenges of NWE communities through the implementation of smart hydrogen-based energy matrixes. The project validates the maturity of hydrogen technologies by implementing 3 pilot plants that link the 3 main northwest European renewable sources (Solar Power, Wind Power, and Bioenergy) with energy storage and the main forms of energetic demand (Heat, Power and Transportation fuels). A pilot site is being developed that will see hydrogen buses running in Belfast.
Action Renewables has also taken on a role in two other hydrogen projects – “Hydrogen Utilisation and Green Energy ( Home – HUGE Project (huge-project.eu) )” which is looking to investigate the current state of and future potential for development of the hydrogen supply chain across the Northern Periphery and in “SEAFUEL” ( Home – SEAFUEL ), a project looking to develop a pilot site for the electrolysis of sea water to create hydrogen to use in vehicles on an island setting.
One thing that has been missing among all these various projects is joined up thinking with many of the projects working in silos – a lot of good work is being done, but it is not allowing the development of the hydrogen area to proceed as rapidly as might be required considering the issues identified at the outset of this blog.
Companies have now begun to come together to address this, and we have seen initiatives such as the “triple alliance” where GenComm, HUGE and SEAFUEL have joined together to share the knowledge from the outcomes of their projects. On a wider level we are also now seeing the development of nationwide hydrogen associations which allow all those with an interest in the topic to come together in the form of associations.
Hydrogen Ireland ( Homepage – Hydrogen Ireland ) was set up in early 2021 and has seen a wide range of organisations from a variety of backgrounds including industry, academia, transportation and others. The association has four main aims:
- to promote the role of hydrogen and fuel cells to enable them to become key components of our future low carbon economy on the island of Ireland.
- Provide clear, informed and current views on best practice for hydrogen technologies.
- Engage the governments both sides of the border to develop policy and support for the inclusion of hydrogen and its related equipment, within this energy transition.
- Facilitate public and business awareness of the potential of hydrogen via showcasing and demonstration of the latest technology
Since the association’s formation several meetings of all the members have been held and great progress on shaping the work of the organisation has taken place. A range of working groups in several areas has been established: R&D Funding; Manufacturing; Health & Safety; Skills Development; Policy & Legislation; Fuels Cells (Technology); and Critical Infrastructure.
The association promises to allow for networking between companies and sectors which might allow further gaps in the knowledge to be identified and an appropriate range of partners to come together and develop future projects to attempt to fill those gaps. The association will also be aiming to boost knowledge and share information with the public and has already helped to do so by organising and running events with many more promised in future. This will allow awareness of the existing work and hopefully develop further partnerships and interest to enhance the hydrogen space and increase engagement and awareness to boost confidence and draw interest in a little understood technology.
While just a year ago there were minimal real joined up hydrogen initiatives, now along come two as Hydrogen Northern Ireland ( Home – Hydrogen NI (hydrogen-ni.com) ) has also recently launched. Hydrogen NI sets out 3 main objectives which will help to enhance hydrogen as a future option: policy influencing; promotion of the benefits of clean hydrogen; and creating an understanding of clean hydrogen’s role in the energy transition.
While many of these associations are still in their embryonic forms, progress has been rapid of late and it bodes well for the recognition, acceptance and viability of hydrogen as a fuel that can help us to both mitigate and adapt in the face of climate change.