Zero-carbon hydrogen injected into gas grid for first time in groundbreaking UK trial

(The Guardian, 24 Jan 2020) Blend of hydrogen and natural gas is being used to heat homes and faculty buildings at Keele University.

Zero-carbon hydrogen has been injected into a UK gas network for the first time in a groundbreaking trial that could help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The 20% hydrogen and natural gas blend is being used to heat 100 homes and 30 faculty buildings at Keele University in Staffordshire. Unlike natural gas, when hydrogen is burned it produces heat and water as opposed to carbon dioxide.

“Heat hasn’t been particularly decarbonised to date and it’s a very big challenge,” said Lorna Millington, the future networks manager at Cadent, the gas distribution network that led the £7m HyDeploy project. “The aim was to turn the theoretical evidence into something real and tangible that the consumers within the Keele network are now getting to experience every day.”

Heating homes and businesses accounts for half of the UK’s energy consumption and a third of its carbon dioxide emissions. Rolling the 20% hydrogen blend out across the country could save about 6m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year, the equivalent of taking 2.5m cars off the road.

The hydrogen is captured using an electrolyser, which runs electricity through water to split it back into hydrogen and oxygen. This can then be injected into existing modern gas networks, with no need for customers to change appliances or pipework.

The Health and Safety Executive granted the project exemption in 2018 from the current 0.1% limit on hydrogen in the UK gas network after an extensive examination of evidence to ensure it would be safe. Keele University was identified as an ideal location, because it owns and operates a private gas network that can be isolated from the main network.

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The Guardian, 24 Jan 2020: Zero-carbon hydrogen injected into gas grid for first time in groundbreaking UK trial