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The Future of Hydrogen as a Heating Fuel

Young Hoon Kim
Oct 13, 2022

GHI Blog

Major countries worldwide are paying attention to hydrogen energy as a next-generation energy source. As hydrogen does not emit pollutants even after combustion, it is considered an eco-friendly fuel to replace fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Therefore, interest in using hydrogen for home heating decarbonization has escalated.

Growing Hydrogen Boiler Development

Many manufacturers that have developed fossil fuel-based boilers are also developing hydrogen technology. In 2021, Viessmann, a German manufacturer of heating and refrigeration systems, revealed a hydrogen boiler prototype. The first practical deployment is expected to be in Kaisersesch, Germany, in early 2023 as part of the SmartQuart project (funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics). This pilot project also plans to establish a complete hydrogen infrastructure. 

UK-based Baxi (as part of the Netherlands-based BDR Thermea) is Europe’s largest manufacturer and distributor of domestic and commercial water and space heating systems. In 2021, Baxi announced a 100% hydrogen boiler demonstration to customers in the UK’s first hydrogen house. Baxi has pledged to make only low-carbon-energy-compatible products from 2025, so hydrogen solutions are anticipated to take a significant role in the company's plan.

In 2022, Rinnai, a Japanese heating system manufacturer headquartered in Nagoya, announced the successful development of a 100% hydrogen combustion boiler for residential water heaters. Rinnai is demonstrating the technology in Australia prior to commercialization. 

Various Methods to Promote the Use of Hydrogen Heating

Although hydrogen is eco-friendly, the conventional production process uses fossil fuels as feedstocks and thus produces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By contrast, green hydrogen is made using renewable electricity and therefore does not emit GHG during the production process. However, the cost of producing green hydrogen is still high and the infrastructure for transport and storage remains lacking, which are two factors that could delay the widespread adoption of green hydrogen by several years. Thus, interim solutions are being considered while a more robust green hydrogen economy develops.

For instance, some countries aim to blend hydrogen into existing natural gas pipeline networks. For example, the South Korean government has set a goal of blending 20% of hydrogen with the city’s natural gas network by 2026. The US aims to address technical barriers to blending hydrogen in natural gas pipelines through the HyBlend initiative. In Europe, a group of more than 90 energy companies have called on the European Commission to consider blending more hydrogen into the existing natural gas network, especially in more remote parts of Europe. 

In addition, the boiler using these blended fuels can work with a heat pump as a hybrid heating solution. Thus, even with its remaining cost and infrastructure challenges, hydrogen already has substantial market potential in various interim heating solutions. Moving forward, the uptake of hydrogen (especially as it becomes increasingly green) will depend largely on the pace of the infrastructure and capacity buildout, which will ultimately allow economies of scale to reduce the cost of hydrogen.