Hydrogen safe in 20% blends over Keele’s pipes, trial decides

13th September 2021 | Commercial Energy

Advocates of hydrogen blended with conventional ‘natural’ gas to lessen harms from the methane-dependent fluid, were today celebrating the success of Britain’s first test on a Midlands campus. Under the HyDeploy tag, pipes and pumps connecting 30 faculty buildings and around 100 homes at Keele University were the trial network for a mix of the two gases, running since March.

A concentration of 20% was used, in a trial which purposefully ruled out any tweaking of appliances or pipework. Current safety regulations permit a 23% blend. Hydrogen produces no carbon dioxide when burned, making it a promising heat source towards achieving the government’s Net Zero goal by 2050. In contrast, ‘natural’ gas – mainly methane – is responsible for over 30% of Britain’s carbon emissions.

Replicated UK-wide, HyDeploy’s 20:80 hydrogen-to-natural gas ratio could save around 6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, all without disruption to households, advocates claim. A delighted Steve Fraser, chief executive of network operator Cadent noted: “HyDeploy has demonstrated very clearly that consumers can safely receive up to 20% hydrogen blended with natural gas, without the need to make any changes to their existing appliances. Customers experienced no disruption and felt positively towards using hydrogen blends during the trial. Blending hydrogen into the natural gas network is a critical stepping-stone in helping the UK reach Net Zero by 2050.”

Eighty per cent of UK homes are heated by natural gas. Cadent calculates that injecting hydrogen blends would yield carbon savings equivalent to removing 2.5 million cars from Britain’s roads. And proponents of the supposedly new blend in domestic heat say we’ve been here before.

Hydrogen was the major energy -carrier in coal-derived ‘town gas’, the staple of Britain’s home heat before North Sea gas was the discovered in the 1960s. As much as 60% of the gas then burned in British homes was hydrogen. Chemists and materials scientists checked the uni’s boilers and pipes for changes, finding none. Vice Chancellor Professor Trevor McMillan was chuffed, “We’re delighted that Keele has been able to play a crucial role. HyDeploy has been a perfect fit for the university’s sustainability ambitions in this landmark project.”

A larger trial at Winlaton, near Gateshead seeks to extend the Keele learnings. There 668 houses, a school and some small businesses have been receiving hydrogen blended gas on a network operated by Northern Gas Networks (NGN) since early August. Mark Horsley, CEO at NGN said, ”The results delivered by the Keele project gave the Health and Safety Executive the confidence to approve the first blending of hydrogen with natural gas on the public gas network. We’re delighted that our customers in Winlaton are now using their gas as normal whilst playing a vital role in the decarbonisation of the gas network”.

Heating homes and industrial processes accounts for nearly half of all energy use in the UK and one third of the country’s carbon emissions.

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Hydrogen ‘safe’ in 20% blends over Keele’s pipes, trial decides