Could renewable energy be piped into our homes to power our cooktops, hot water services and barbeques via our existing natural gas network?
The theory says it is possible.
And thanks to a new trial announced today, NSW gas distributor Jemena is one step closer to making it a reality.
ARENA is providing $7.5 million in funding for Jemena to build a demonstration scale ‘power-to-gas’ electrolyser in western Sydney.
Powered by energy from the sun and wind, the new 500kW electrolyser will inject renewable ‘green’ hydrogen into Sydney’s natural gas grid.
Hydrogen created will be entirely free of emissions, releasing only water vapour at the point of use.
When blended with natural gas, experts advise that hydrogen can be safely tolerated by existing infrastructure and appliances at concentrations of up to 10 per cent – and potentially much higher.
The $15 million trial promises to create the largest working example of an electrolyser in Australia.
If scaled, power-to-gas hydrogen technology could help green the gas network, supplementing and replacing our natural gas with carbon free hydrogen generated by soaking up surplus electricity generated by wind and solar.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said power-to-gas technology could be a valuable use for excess energy from renewables on very sunny or windy days.
“As more and more renewables are built, there will be days when we will need to find uses for large amounts of excess energy,” Darren Miller said.
“Hydrogen could play an important role storing energy to stabilise the grid, as well as reducing the carbon intensity of the gas network,” he said.
As part of the trial, a portion of hydrogen produced will be diverted to a gas engine generator to generate electricity generation to be exported back into the grid, with the remaining stored for use in an onsite refuelling station for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The project aims to help overcome the economic, technical and regulatory barriers to widespread use of hydrogen within the gas network as a carrier of renewable energy, as well as reduce emissions associated with the use of natural gas.
Hydrogen close to realising long-held potential
Long-hailed as a fuel of the future, hydrogen is enjoying a moment in the sun as countries around the world look to reduce their carbon emissions.
Japan is one country investing heavily in hydrogen technology to meet their future energy needs, setting the ambitious goal creating a ‘hydrogen society’ in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
While today most hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels, work is underway to bring down the costs of electrolyser technology and power the process with renewables.
ARENA recently awarded $22 million to 16 research teams at nine institutions to advance Australia’s potential hydrogen export industry.
The researchers are working to unlock innovations at each point in the hydrogen export supply chain – from production, to energy carriers and end use.
Jemena’s Managing Director Frank Tudor said power-to-gas technology could allow renewable energy to be stored for later use.
“In the future Australians will need to decide what to do with excess renewable energy on very windy or very sunny days,” Frank Tudor said.
“Jemena’s Project H2GO will demonstrate how existing gas pipeline technology can store excess renewable energy for weeks and months, making it more efficient than batteries which can only store excess renewable energy for minutes or hours,” he said.
With demand for hydrogen as an emissions free fuel to compliment natural gas, Jemena is looking to overcome the barriers to a widespread rollout of green hydrogen.
As well as demonstrating that the technology stacks up, there is a work to be done before hydrogen can replace natural gas in our household appliances.
But with 25,000 of gas pipelines in NSW alone, the capacity to store vast quantities of renewable energy in existing infrastructure is enormous.
Jemena’s power-to-gas project builds on a trial ARENA has funded in Western Australia with gas distributor ATCO. Creating a green hydrogen microgrid on their Jandakot site, ATCO will test the use of hydrogen on household appliances in a mock home.