Can hydrogen appliances decarbonise household gas use?
For decades, natural gas has long been a staple in our homes. Providing Australians with the energy needed to warm our rooms, cook our meals and heat our water. However, as the push for decarbonisation builds up, finding low-carbon alternatives to natural gas is crucial. One promising solution on the horizon is the use of hydrogen and the potential for hydrogen appliances to help decarbonise domestic gas use.
Australia has over 5 million homes that use natural gas for residential heating, cooking and hot water supply. This sums up to over 12 million network-connected appliances and an additional 6 million bottled gas appliances.
Demand for gas in winter increases by four times the amount required in summer. Households primarily use gas to warm their rooms, as shown by The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and Energy Consult (Fig. 1). This supports the findings of ACIL Allen noting around 65 per cent of gas used in houses is for space heating.
Fig. 1. Australian residential gas consumption by end-use.
Need for this to decarbonise
Gas has long been an integral part and the go-to energy source for homes. But the combustion of gas releases carbon dioxide and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. This exacerbates climate change. As we strive to reduce our carbon footprint, transitioning away from energy using fossil fuels as sources has become a priority.
That is why the gas industry has a vision for a reliable and more sustainable future – Gas Vision 2050. Gas network businesses, supplying reliable energy to over two-thirds of Australian homes, have committed to achieving net zero by 2050.
What are the low-carbon alternatives to gas?
Low-carbon energy alternatives to traditional natural gas have been explored, this includes biomethane and green hydrogen.
Biomethane – comes from renewable sources like organic waste, agricultural residues, and energy crops. Biomethane encourages a circular economy by converting waste into a valuable source of energy that can be readily transported and used by existing infrastructure and appliances.
Hydrogen – Hydrogen has been used in the past. What makes the difference this time is the use of renewable electricity to produce what is called ‘green hydrogen’. The process involves splitting water, known as electrolysis and utilising renewable solar and wind in the process. Green hydrogen has the advantage of being versatile and reliable, which can help decarbonize not only houses but also helps the whole energy industry.
The caveat with green hydrogen is the difference between the characteristics of hydrogen and natural gas may require upgrades to gas infrastructure. One important thing to consider is the energy content of hydrogen which is only one-third of natural gas. This means that we need more hydrogen to accommodate the energy demand. Hydrogen also requires faster delivery to end users, which can be resolved by either increasing the operating pressure in the pipe systems or increasing the size of existing pipelines. Fortunately, Australia’s gas distribution networks have largely converted to plastic materials that are compatible with delivering hydrogen to households.
The change of gas in the networks affects gas appliances that currently use natural gas for space heating, cooking and water heating. For blends of up to 10 or 20% doesn’t cause concerns, But at higher levels, this can cause potential safety concerns. So, when we use 100% hydrogen we will need to modify or replace our home appliances.
What’s happening in hydrogen innovation?
Several new domestic hydrogen appliances are being researched, developed, and implemented around the globe.
The Hy4Heat Programme in the UK leads the innovation in hydrogen-ready space heating (Fig. 2), water heating (Fig. 3), and cooking appliances (Fig. 4). These are deployed in various test sites all around the world. All appliances in the Hy4Heat Programme are to be certified and meet relevant standards.
Fig. 2. Space heating appliances from the Hy4Heat Programme6.
Other leading Companies
Other companies outside the Hy4Heat Programme are not far off in developing hydrogen-ready appliances. For example, Rinnai Corporation, a multinational company based in Japan, announced a new hydrogen combustion technology for continuous-flow water heaters (Fig. 2).
Fig. 3. Water heating and boilers by Rinnai7 and Hy4Heat Programme6.
Cookers have been introduced by Electrolux (Fig. 4), Empa Materials Science and Technology, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (a 100% hydrogen single burner). Heatlie partnered with Woodside Energy to develop the claimed first hydrogen barbeque for conventional use (Fig. 4). Future developments are undergoing that will give more options for consumers, such as additional boilers that can use up to 100% hydrogen are underway by Ideal Heating and Viessmann. There is also an all-in-one hydrogen cooker connected to solar panels by Hydrogen ATM, and a hydrogen-powered portable BBQ by LAVOTM .
Fig. 4. Cookers by Hy4Heat Programme6, Electrolux8 and Healie11.
Where can we see it?
AGIG has created Australia’s first Hydrogen Home, partnering with leading Australian companies (Fig. 5). This 306-m2 home demonstrates hydrogen appliances in a domestic setting. The home features 100% hydrogen-powered hot water by Rinnai7, ducted heating and cooking via a cooktop by Electrolux8 and Heatlie’s BBQ11. It has been doing guided tours since July 2023.
This project builds on similar global undertakings taking place.
- In the UK, Northern Gas Networks (NGN) created a Hydrogen Home to showcase 100% hydrogen appliances in place of natural gas appliances. The community can visit and interact with the 100% hydrogen appliances.
- In the US, the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) built the [H2] Hydrogen Home. The 185-m2 home is the first demonstration project with solar panels, a battery, and an electrolyser. This allows the direct conversion of solar energy to green hydrogen.
- In the Netherlands, Alliander is partnering with various companies to heat up twelve occupied homes in the Lochem’s Berkeloord district for three years.
Fig. 5. HyHome in Melbourne – demonstrating hydrogen appliances.
This will help decarbonise to achieve our targets…
As the push for decarbonisation continues, hydrogen emerges as a promising solution to decarbonise domestic gas use. The innovations and global developments in hydrogen appliances, though not all commercially available, demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as an effective fuel. From heating homes, cooking and providing hot water, the pathway to net-zero opens up with hydrogen as an option.
 Energy Networks Australia (ENA), “Reliable and clean gas for Australian homes.” 2021. [Online].
 Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and Energy Consult, “2021 Residential Baseline Study for Australia and New Zealand for 2000 — 2040 | Energy Rating,” 2021. Accessed: Aug. 09, 2023. [Online].
 ACIL Allen, Energy Consumption Benchmarks, Electricity and Gas for Residential Customers (2017), p. 23.
 Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and Energy Consult, “2021 Residential Baseline Study for Australia and New Zealand for 2000 — 2040 | Energy Rating,” 2021. Accessed: Aug. 09, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.energyrating.gov.au/industry-information/publications/report-2021-residential-baseline-study-australia-and-new-zealand-2000-2040.
 Energy Networks Australia (ENA), “Gas Vision 2050,” Energy Networks Australia.
 Hy4Heat. Hy4Heat Information. Hy4Heat. https://www.hy4heat.info (accessed 2023-01-31).
 Rinnai Corporation. World’s first 100% hydrogen combustion technology for residential water heaters.
 Electrolux Hydrogen Gas Cooktop Concept for HyHome, 2023.
 Empa Materials Science and Technology. Hydrogen-fueled stove. Empa – Self – Hydrogen cooker. https://www.empa.ch/web/self/hydrogen-cooker (accessed 2023-01-31).
 Oakridge National Laboratory. Buildings — Cooking with hydrogen. https://www.ornl.gov/news/buildings-cooking-hydrogen (accessed 2023-01-31).
 Hydrogen BBQs – The Future of BBQing. Heatlie BBQs.
 Ideal Heating. Hydrogen & Central Heating – Environmental. Ideal Heating. https://idealheating.com/environmental/hydrogen (accessed 2023-02-01).
 Viessmann. CO2-neutral heating with hydrogen. https://www.viessmann.family/en/newsroom/sustainability/hydrogen-as-new-energy-source-how-will-we-heat-in-the-future (accessed 2023-02-01).
 Hydrogen ATM. Hydrogen ATM Cooking Appliance. Hydrogen ATM. https://hydrogenatm.com/.
 LAVO. LAVO Hydrogen BBQ | Consumer Product Design + Development. Design + Industry. https://www.design-industry.com.au/lavo-hydrogen-bbq (accessed 2023-01-31).
 AGIG, “HyHome Brochure.” 2023. Accessed: Jul. 26, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.rinnai.com.au/wp-content/uploads/AGIG101_HyHome-brochure-CD5.pdf
 Northern Gas Networks, “Our Hydrogen Home,” Northern Gas Networks, 2023. https://www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk/current-business-plan/our-hydrogen-home-welcome-to-green-gas/.
 SoCalGas, “[H2] Innovation Experience | SoCalGas,” 2023. https://www.socalgas.com/sustainability/h2home.
 Jonathan Spencer Jones, “Alliander pilots heating Dutch homes with hydrogen,” 2022. https://www.smart-energy.com/renewable-energy/alliander-pilots-heating-dutch-homes-with-hydrogen/.