Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition has approved a first of its kind offline hydrogen research facility to understand how transmission assets could be used to transport hydrogen in the future to heat homes and deliver green energy to industry.
The facility will be built from a range of decommissioned assets, to create a representative transmission network. Blends of hydrogen up to 100% will then be tested at transmission pressures, to assess how the assets perform.
The hydrogen research facility will remain separate from the main National Transmission System, allowing for testing to be undertaken in a controlled environment, with no risk to the safety and reliability of the existing gas transmission network.
Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition will provide £9.07m of funding with the remaining amount coming from the project partners.
The aim is to start construction in 2021 with testing beginning in 2022.
Antony Green, Project Director for Hydrogen at National Grid says, “Today’s announcement is a major step forward and shows Ofgem’s commitment to net zero investment. If we truly want to reach a net zero decarbonised future, we need to replace methane with green alternatives like hydrogen. Sectors such as heat are difficult to decarbonise, and the importance of the gas networks to the UK’s current energy supply means projects like this are crucial if we are to deliver low carbon energy, reliably and safely to all consumers.”
DNV GL is the lead delivery partner designing, constructing, and operating the high-pressure hydrogen research facility at their site in Spadeadam, Cumbria. The HSE Science Division will support on the project, alongside academic partners Durham University and the University of Edinburgh.
Northern Gas Networks (NGN), one of the UK’s Gas Distribution Networks, is contributing to the FutureGrid project. The H21 Phase 2 NIC project, led by NGN , is currently utilising the DNV GL Spadeadam research facility to build a microgrid distribution network alongside a terrace of three houses and phase 1 research facility. The FutureGrid transmission facility will be connected to these projects to represent a complete hydrogen gas infrastructure for the future.
There is a significant logistics problem in converting domestic gas supplies to 100% hydrogen, that is not being addressed. Worcester-Bosch a manufacturer of hydrogen ready boilers that can handle a variety of hydrogen/natural gas blends advise that their boilers can handle an increasing amount of hydrogen in the mix, but they cannot run with 100% hydrogen; when the switch to 100% hydrogen in an area is made, all the boilers will need a technician to visit each one to make the final adjustments. The problem is that you would need a technician present at each boiler at the moment of switch to 100% hydrogen which is probably an impossible logistics problem.