UK's first grid-injected hydrogen trials begin in Staffordshire

A pilot project injecting zero-carbon hydrogen into an existing gas network is now fully operational, the consortium of organisations behind the initiative have announced.

Pictured: An engineer tests boilers running on the hydrogen gas blend. Image: Cadent

Pictured: An engineer tests boilers running on the hydrogen gas blend. Image: Cadent

Called HyDeploy, the pilot involves injecting hydrogen into Keele University’s existing natural gas network, which supplies 30 faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties.

As a result, hydrogen will account for up to 20% of the gas mix in the network. HyDeploy claims this is the highest proportion being tested in Europe at present, given that existing UK legislation prevents hydrogen accounting for more than 0.1% of the national grid mix at any time.

The pilot will be used to test the practicalities of increasing hydrogen in the gas mix, including cost, safety and ease of supply. Should the model be successful and be scaled up across England, researchers at Keele estimate it could mitigate the emission of six million tonnes of CO2e emissions annually.

Backed by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition, HyDeploy is being led by Cadent in partnership with Northern Gas Networks, Keele University, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Science Division, ITM-Power and Progressive Energy.

Cadent’s chief safety and strategy officer Ed Syson said he hopes the trial will “pave the way for a wider roll-out of hydrogen blending”, which could “enable consumers to cut carbon emissions without changing anything that they do” and “prove to be the launchpad for a wider hydrogen economy”.

“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,” Syson said. “Urgent action is needed on carbon emissions and HyDeploy is an important staging post on that journey in the UK.”

Living laboratory

Keele University’s deputy vice chancellor Professor Mark Ormerod said the University team are “delighted “to use their campus as a “genuine living laboratory” for new low-carbon technologies.

Prior to the launch of HyDeploy, the consortium had to apply for an exemption to the current limit on hydrogen in the UK gas network. Its application was backed up by lab tests on gas appliances and materials found within the university’s gas network.

Readers keen to find out more about HyDeploy can read edie’s ‘In Practice’ case study on the initiative here.

HyDeploy is notably not the only live low-carbon trial underway at Keele. The University is working to turn its campus into Europe’s largest integrated “living laboratory” for “smart” energy technologies through its Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND). The project is being supported by academics, graduates and businesses including Siemens.

The heat is on

Back in 2016, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) estimated that heating and hot water for homes accounted for 15% of the UK’s carbon footprint.

According to Cadent, when heat for business and heavy industry is included – and growth over the past three years accounted for – the figure is likely to be closer to 33%.

With the nation currently off-track to meet a key target of ensuring 12% of heat is generated using renewables by 2020 and the new 2050 net-zero deadline looming, Ministers are facing ever-greater pressure to implement better low-carbon heating measures.

Just last month, CCC chair Lord Deben said that the Conservative Party, Labour Party and Liberal Democrats are all approaching the decarbonisation of heat “too delicately”. Similarly, Citizens Advice has said the Government’s lack of a “credible” low-carbon heat plan could undermine its ability to deliver a “just” transition to net-zero.

In October 2018, a £320m Government scheme was launched to assist commercialisation of low-carbon technologies across the UK's public, private and domestic sectors.  Announcements since then, however, have been scarce, bar the introduction of an Energy Systems Catapult centre to assist small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with decarbonising their heat systems. There is no sign yet of a sector deal.

Sarah George


| gas | hydrogen | Natural gas | low-carbon


Energy | Tech & innovation

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