NI Water Hydrogen Project

Kick-starting the hydrogen economy in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Water's story

Did you know that NI Water is the largest consumer of electricity in Northern Ireland?

We supply both water and wastewater services and as such use a significant amount of electricity to treat and pump clean water around the country for householders and businesses alike (then pump it back again and treat the wastewater at our treatment sites). In fact, NI Water uses around 290GWh of energy per annum, which has an associated cost in the region of £32m (2019/20). Our net operational carbon emissions for the same year was reported at just over 79k tonnes.

We’re all aware of the climate emergency and immediate need to take action on climate change and I’m glad to say NI Water is not shying away from the challenge to reduce its carbon emissions.

One of our current aims is to work towards 100% renewable electricity by 2027, taking us a good step down the road towards net zero. One of our energy efficiency initiatives is the Hydrogen and Oxygen Demonstrator Project.

A few years ago, NI Water was successful in obtaining funding through the Department for the Economy’s (DfE) Small Business Research Initiative in order to engage companies in some research and innovative thinking regarding Energy Storage Opportunities - essentially the outcome of which would demonstrate how energy storage solutions could be incorporated into NI Water’s infrastructure. The proposed initiative closely aligned with the Programme for Government’s Outcome and Indicator of ‘Looking after the planet’ (PfG No.2).

Three successful applicants were provided with a split of the funding to progress their proposed solution through a desktop exercise using NI Water data. Out of this process, one of the projects provided a solution to not only provide energy storage, but also the potential to improve on the wastewater treatment process. This resulted in the first electrolyser (10kW) being delivered to Northern Ireland and oxygen trials on wastewater treatment being carried out. The oxygen trials have since indicated that the use of oxygen through air blending can increase the capacity of the process by at least 25%.

It is predicted that over half of NI’s treatment plants will reach full capacity by 2027. Thus, a significant investment in wastewater and water infrastructure is required.

Useful learnings from Northern Ireland Water

Developing and testing a proof of concept has proved beneficial. The innovation procurement route chosen allowed participants to develop new thinking and ideas to the benefit of both parties.

Northern Ireland Water's metrics

Assessment of the benefit of co-location of electrolysis with the wastewater treatment process.
Assessment of the benefit of oxygen in the energy efficiency and capacity of existing wastewater treatment processes.
Amount of hydrogen used in the decarbonisation of various sectors including heat and transport.
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10kW electrolyser used at previous oxygen trials at Kinnegar WwTWs.