Zero carbon hydrogen has been injected into an existing gas network in a pilot project that could open a new front in the UK’s fight to decarbonise.
The HyDeploy demonstration now is pumping a 20% hydrogen and natural gas blend into Keele University’s private gas network, which serves 30 university buildings and 100 homes.
Keele University was seen as the perfect location for the trial because it owns and operates its own gas network, which could be safely isolated from the wider gas grid.
The £7 million project is backed by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition and led by Cadent, in partnership with Northern Gas Networks, Keele University, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Science Division, ITM Power and Progressive Energy.
Ed Syson, Chief Safety and Strategy Officer for Cadent, said: “It is impossible to overstate the importance of this trial to the UK – this is the first ever practical demonstration of hydrogen in a modern gas network in this country.
“Hydrogen can help us tackle one of the most difficult sources of carbon emissions – heat.”
While more than half to the UK’s electricity is now being generated from zero carbon sources, including renewables and nuclear power, the decarbonisation of the gas supply has lagged behind. A few renewable energy providers offer gas that is around 10% “green”—produced by the anaerobic digestion of organic material—but overall, the UK’s gas supply is just 0.3% renewable.
85% of UK homes rely on natural gas for their heat. That heating accounts for half of the UK’s energy consumption and a third of its carbon emissions.
Decarbonising the economy will involve a transformation of the way Britain heats its buildings. National Grid estimates that for the UK to hit its net zero target by 2050, 23 million homes will need to adopt low carbon heating technologies, ditching gas boilers for electric heat pumps and hydrogen boilers.
But a transformation of the gas supply is another way to achieve carbon reductions. If a 20% hydrogen gas blend was rolled out across the country, it could keep around six million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the road.
Syson said: “This trial could pave the way for a wider rollout of hydrogen blending, enabling consumers to cut carbon emissions without changing anything that they do.
“HyDeploy could also prove to be the launchpad for a wider hydrogen economy, fuelling industry and transport, bringing new jobs and making Britain a world leader in this technology. Urgent action is needed on carbon emissions and HyDeploy is an important staging post on that journey in the UK.”
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