Winlaton, near Gateshead, has become Britain’s first neighbourhood to gather data on how the conventional public gas network can tolerate up to 20% of hydrogen in daily supplies.
Part-funded with £22.4 million from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition, the HyDeploy pilot will include clean hydrogen in its standard mix to around 670 homes, some small businesses and a school. The trial began two weeks ago, and will run for ten months.
No modifications to home boilers or household appliances have been necessary, according to the scheme’s sponsors. Northern Gas Networks have allied with gas supplier Cadent, electrolyser operator ITM Power and advisors from Progressive Energy and Keele University.
The sponsors intend the trial to establish in what concentrations appliances and the network can tolerate the gas. The Health and Safety Executive granted the scheme an exemption from operational rules which limit hydrogen content at 0.1% of networks’ content.
Heating buildings is the cause of up to a third of UK carbon emissions. With Beis’ white paper still unpublished on decarbonising heat, ministers are under pressure to decide if hydrogen in its new fossil-free varieties can be an easy alternative to burning methane, as well as to expensive electrification or replacement of boilers with heat pumps.
Tim Harwood, Northern Gas Networks’ H21 project director, said, “The project will provide more vital evidence about the possibilities of blending hydrogen into the natural gas network across the UK, as a stepping-stone to decarbonising heat with no disruption to customers.”
“We’ve engaged with the community of Winlaton over the past 18 months and, with the support of the council, undertaken safety checks on their appliances to reassure residents that they can continue to use their gas as normal whilst playing a vital role in the decarbonisation of the gas network.”
A closed network serving Keele University’s campus has been the testbed for the operators’ 18 month study which ended earlier this year.