The energy company EI-H2 has announced plans to build Ireland's first green hydrogen production facility at Aghada close to lower Cork harbour.
The new company intends to seek planning permission for a 50-megawatt plant using electrolysis technology to generate the fuel in a €120 million investment.
The site will be one of the biggest green energy facilities of its kind in the world, according to EI-H2 Aghada's owner, Cork businessman Pearse Flynn. It hopes to be operational before the end of 2023. It will remove 63,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually from Irish industry and power generation – and employ 85 people.
The site is at a strategic location given nearby port facilities and likely expansion of offshore wind generation along the south coast.
“The facility is designed to assist commercial customers struggling to reduce their carbon output, who will increasingly need environmentally sound and sustainable energy alternatives,” Mr Flynn said.
The technology planned for the Aghada site allows for surplus electricity from renewables to be utilised in a process to break down water into its component elements of hydrogen and oxygen.
The Aghada site will aim to provide over 20 tonnes of green hydrogen per day to the commercial market. The fuel can be added to existing natural gas supplies, helping high-volume energy producers to reduce their carbon emissions, EI-H2 noted.
The ESB has announced plans to locate a green hydrogen facility beside its Moneypoint coal-fired power station in the Shannon estuary, which is being decommissioned. It is due to come on stream closer to 2030 and to avail of offshore wind off the west coast.
Shell and Irish marine renewables developer Simply Blue Energy announced in January plans to build a 1-gigawatt (GW) floating wind farm close to Kinsale gas field.
Mr Flynn said hydrogen from excess wind capacity will play a significant role in Ireland’s decarbonisation, given potential to generate 8GW offshore by 2030.
“There inevitably will be ‘curtailed’ energy that will go to waste unless we find ways of using it. EI-H2 is planning the production of safe and environmentally-sound green hydrogen that will allow industry to decarbonise.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, a local TD, welcomed the project. "Ireland faces a challenge to decarbonise over the next decade, and a plan like that being put forward by EI-H2 would go some way towards helping us achieve what might now seem like impossible targets," he added.
EI-H2 chief executive Tom Lynch said green hydrogen presented Ireland "with a realistic and simple way of decarbonising and meeting our net-zero targets".
The proposed site was selected because of its proximity to an existing triangle of energy generation, including power generating stations, heavy industry and an oil refinery, he added.
There was also potential to export green hydrogen. By 2050, it is projected to account for 80 per cent of the shipping energy demand – most of which will be in the form of green ammonia – and to meet 60 per cent of the aviation sector’s energy demand.
EI-H2 confirmed it will shortly begin pre-planning discussions with Cork County Council, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and other interested parties ahead of lodging of planning permission later this year.