Challenges and opportunities in future hydrogen supply chain design and operation: A techno-economic analysis

Moran, Cian
Hydrogen is seen as a key tool for achieving energy system decarbonisation. The opportunities it represents for clean industry and energy security are widely understood, as evidenced by its inclusion in two hallmark pieces of clean energy legislation: the EU Green Deal, and the US Government’s Inflation Reduction Act. Despite this, many of the challenges to be overcome in developing a clean hydrogen industry are not yet deeply understood. There remains much uncertainty about how policy can best enable the rapid scale-up required of the industry to deliver on ambitious climate targets. The work described in this thesis aims to investigate the challenges and opportunities of the burgeoning clean hydrogen industry through comprehensive techno-economic analysis of hydrogen production, storage, and supply, with a particular focus on the island of Ireland. The work identifies that hydrogen storage has not been adequately considered in much of the analysis of hydrogen supply chains, and key implications for hydrogen cost and emissions footprint therefore not discovered. Calculated levelised cost of renewable hydrogen in 2030 varies from €3.90-12.40/kgH2 depending on storage technology. In addition, the work highlights how grid-connected hydrogen production can operate flexibly based on market prices, producing low-cost, low-carbon hydrogen. A levelised cost of €2.05/kg for 2030 can be achieved, with carbon intensities lower than 1 gCO2/gH2 for grid-connected electrolysis in an 80% renewable power system. The sheer scale of investment and relatively short timelines required to deploy hydrogen infrastructure on the island of Ireland to meet climate targets are also outlined. Estimated hydrogen demand in Ireland in 2050 ranges from 36 TWh to 116 TWh. For context, natural gas consumption in the Republic of Ireland was 51 TWh in 2021. These findings underline the key considerations faced by project developers and policymakers alike in realising hydrogen’s role in decarbonisation. The challenges faced by hydrogen storage must be overcome through innovation and forward-thinking policy, whilst policy is also crucial in enabling system integration to ensure hydrogen plays a role in achieving clean, affordable, and secure energy for all.
University of Galway
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