A pilot plant is to be set up in Adelaide to trial the injection of small quantities of hydrogen, produced with surplus renewable electricity, into the gas distribution network owned by Australian Gas Networks.

Natural gas can be supplemented with at least 10% hydrogen without any modification to pipes or equipment. The hydrogen will burn, mixed with the natural gas, to produce only water vapour and no carbon dioxide.

The trial will use a new type of electrolyser to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. It will be designed by Wollongong-based company AquaHydrex and installed at AGN’s Kidman Park depot in Adelaide.

The trial is being funded by a $5 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

ARENA’s chief executive Ivor Frischknecht said that “In the future we’re going to have a lot of excess renewable energy on very windy days, on very sunny days, and we’re looking for useful things to do with that energy. … You can easily store the hydrogen for days, weeks or even months and then run it through a gas peaking plant or use it to supply other types of services like heating hot water.”

Similar technology is also being trialled in Germany.