HYDROGEN HEATING FROM RINNAI

Chris Goggin maps out his company’s view and adaption to the changing marketplace in the heating and hot water arena on the road to NetZero

Decarbonisation and NetZero ambitions are prominent issues in global political agendas, forcing debate and discussion that focuses on potential future energy resources. Throughout these dialogues, hydrogen has been identified as a potential energy source for the global mass market.

The applications for hydrogen are many: industrial process, vehicles and building stock are key areas for deployment. A key reason in hydrogen’s identification as a mass market energy solution focuses on hydrogen’s clean content. Hydrogen is environmentally benign and therefore releases no CO₂ emissions.

Decarbonizing the industrial sector is vital in cutting heavy emission releases. This includes the steel and chemical industries, both of which are responsible for large CO₂ emissions. The traffic sector believes hydrogen can deliver reduced emissions whilst powering long haul vehicles and local public transport – note the recent London buses example. Hydrogen is also likely to be integral in domestic energy provision. Future energy mixes of green, cleaner gasses containing hydrogen blends are considered viable replacements of fossil fuels.

By 2030 the UK plans to construct ‘hydrogen clusters’ introducing numerous avenues for hydrogen deployment, transfer and consumption to be made possible. The construction of hydrogen clusters will supply local residential and commercial buildings with locally sourced hydrogen. The Hynet Northwest programme has made considerable advancements in this area.  One consideration is to link these clusters to the central transmission network to supply the whole of the UK.

Elsewhere away from the UK, there has been development of a comprehensive hydrogen strategy aiming to create a carbon neutral Europe. To further the development of carbon neutrality across Europe, the ‘European Clean Hydrogen Alliance’ an organization comprised of policy makers along the entire hydrogen value chain has been founded. This alliance concentrates on providing viable technologies, investment opportunities and political advice which aims to form political decision making on cleaner energies.

Germany has advanced preparations towards a hydrogen economy with a detailed national hydrogen strategy set up in 2020. The Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal and Norway have also developed their respective national hydrogen strategies. UK recognition of a hydrogen economy is also advanced and a national hydrogen strategy is set to be released soon. As a result, appliance manufacturers are preparing to adapt their products to accept cleaner gasses.

To be prepared for a changing technological horizon, Rinnai is assisting future standards for both blends and 100% hydrogen. Hydrogen undoubtedly maintains the potential to be a cornerstone of the European energy transition.

For hydrogen to become Europe’s fuel of choice, hydrogen must be produced CO₂-free and based on renewable energies, as so called “green” hydrogen. To date, no large quantities of green hydrogen have been produced, limiting hydrogen’s mass market potential.

Production capacities must be created, as well as pipeline and distribution networks; transport and storage facilities. In addition, uniform technical standards remain to be defined. At present there are no harmonised standards for the percentage of hydrogen that may be added to existing gas grids. The percentage varies between zero and ten percent across European countries. European harmonisation is a long-term undertaking.

There are two issues which demand attention within the heating market. The first issue which requires research and data gathering centres on the proposed dispersal of a 20% hydrogen mixture into the national gas grid. The second point of focus is the development of hydrogen as a CO₂-free fuel by 2030 – 2050. Additional tests to collect insights into future hydrogen gas blending rates are being carried out by gas utility companies in the UK, Germany and The Netherlands.

In anticipation of a future transition to hydrogen, Rinnai’s commercial range of water heaters have undertaken and passed a series of rigorous verification tests that demonstrate their ability to accept hydrogen fuel gas blends of 30%.

Rinnai is also positioning future products to receive CO₂-free pure hydrogen. Testing has begun on Rinnai’s Next-gen 100% hydrogen gas ready appliances. Pete Seddon, Technical team leader at Rinnai UK explains further:

“The specification of hydrogen differs from natural gas, meaning that flame sensing devices will need modification, along with some other components. The temperature within the appliance is very similar however, meaning that durability and reliability won’t change. Other positive elements associated with hydrogen within appliance combustion is that the heaters can be constructed in such a way that they are the same size as natural gas variants, simplifying appliance replacement and maintaining continuity. The Wobbe index for methane and hydrogen is also very similar, whilst the efficiency of the appliances is also like that of natural gas condensing variants.”

The UK hydrogen strategy will be released alongside the Heat in Buildings strategy, which is expected to mandate hydrogen ready equipment. The growth of UK hydrogen clusters continues at pace and hydrogen blending is expected in the short term. Rinnai is well placed to deal with any current and future heating requirements and endeavours to support customers and partners throughout Rinnai’s future hydrogen decarbonisation pathway.

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