National Grid explores plans for UK hydrogen ‘backbone’


National Grid is exploring the development of a UK hydrogen ‘backbone’, which aims to join together industrial clusters around the country, potentially creating a 2000km hydrogen network for the UK by around 2030.

Repurposing around 25% of the current gas transmission pipelines, Project Union will build on the government’s ten-point plan to invest more than £1 billion to unlock the potential of hydrogen and support the establishment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) in four industrial clusters.

National Grid anticipates the backbone could carry at least a quarter of the current gas demand in Great Britain today, and provide vital resilience and storage.

The project is exploring a hydrogen backbone connecting the Grangemouth, Teesside and Humberside clusters, as well as linking up with Southampton, the North West and South Wales clusters. As the clusters develop, National Grid stands ready to join them up.

National Grid will use Net Zero development funding to finance a portfolio of projects, one of which is the feasibility phase of Project Union, which will include identifying pipeline routes, assessing the readiness of existing gas assets, and determining a transition plan for assets in a way that supports the government net zero ambition.

The research will explore how we can start to convert pipelines by the end of the decade in a phased approach, aligning with government ambitions of producing five gigawatts of low carbon hydrogen by 2030.

Antony Green, hydrogen project director at National Grid, says, “Hydrogen has a critical role to play as we transition to a cleaner energy future. The potential is exciting, and a hydrogen backbone to support the industrial clusters could accelerate the roll-out. But there is a lot of work to find the most economic way to repurpose our assets and how we might develop a phased conversion to develop a hydrogen network for the UK.

“The UK has shown clear ambition in the Prime Minister’s ten-point plan with two carbon capture and storage clusters planned for 2025 and a further two clusters by 2030. This backbone could bring resilience and security to support this strategy. By working closely with government and stakeholders in the UK and Europe, we’re confident we can collectively find the right solutions with hydrogen playing its role in accelerating net zero goals.”

Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said, “There is huge potential for hydrogen to help the UK transition towards a green economy, and we are committed to investing in its development as part of our plans to build back greener.

“National Grid’s project will transform the way homes and industry are powered, providing clean energy to deliver on the aims in the Prime Minister’s ambitious 10 Point Plan of generating 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.”

Project Union will also look at how to connect the backbone to the existing interconnectors coming into Bacton, allowing the UK to link with the EU hydrogen backbone that is also being developed – this could open up future import and export of hydrogen with European neighbours. The link down to Project Cavendish at the Isle of Grain, where National Grid and a consortium of energy companies are currently looking to develop hydrogen production capacity, will also be key.


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