Turbulence avoided for dockland gas plans

Planned location of Hydrogen Refuelling Station at Galway's docks

Planned location of Hydrogen Refuelling Station at Galway's docks

Bord na Mona has stepped in after SSE Renewables pulled out of a consortium to build a €54 million state-of-the-art hydrogen gas hub in Galway’s docks.

The company co-owns the Cloosh Valley Galway Wind Park in Connemara, and was a lynchpin of the project which aims to use excess electricity generated by wind turbines to extract hydrogen (H² ) from water (H²O ). Vast quantities of combustible hydrogen are to be stored in dockland tanks and used as fuel for clean engines, with fresh water – no smoke - the only by-product.

Galway City councillors were updated on the project developments at a special presentation in City Hall last week. Widespread disappointment was tempered with news that University of Galway, a key partner in the hydrogen project, has recruited Bord na Mona to replace SSE. The semi-state energy company will use excess electricity generated at its Mountlucas windfarm near Daingean, Co Offaly, to extract hydrogen there. The hydrogen will then be transported to Galway by tanker truck.

Officials from the Galway hydrogen hub project, code-named SH2AMROCK, say a €7.2m grant has been secured from the EU, with a medley of industry partners providing the balance of financing, including investment from the £10 billion British gas industry giant BOC which will engineer the Galway plant. Infrastructure must be in-place and operating by 2027 to secure the EU monies.

It is understood SSE pulled out of the Hydrogen project over concerns about the cost of an enhanced electricity connection to Galway’s docks. Councillors were told Eirgrid and ESB Networks suggested SSE must build a much larger substation than envisaged to future-proof connectivity, and this proved too expensive for the renewable energy firm. Another solution was to link the existing Salthill substation with either undersea or underground cables to the Port of Galway.

Instead, for the interim, 500 tonnes of H² is now expected to be created in Co Offaly annually, and trucked in tube trailers to a new facility in Galway’s docks which will be a refuelling hub for heavy vehicles. Bus Eireann, CIE, Aer Arann and a ferry company have already expressed interest in being hydrogen customers. The heavy trucks of Galway’s bitumen manufacturer Colas are also due for H² upgrades. Ultimately 28 public and private partner from 12 countries have expressed interest.

The Galway docks hydrogen project will link in with a number of other H² hubs around the country in Cork, Belfast and Dublin. Galway, however is unique in that it already has customers lined up to buy its clean-burning gas manufactured from 100 per cent green electricity. The project is expected to reduce green house gas emissions by 1500 tonnes per year.


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