The Hydrogen Revolution is here
The Hydrogen Revolution is here, says Ed Syson, Chief Safety and Strategy Officer, Cadent
If you are a listener to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme you may well have heard on today’s edition (2 January) about an innovative pilot project to inject hydrogen into the gas network at Keele University.
Cadent is very proud to be leading this project, known as HyDeploy. We have been working with Keele University, Northern Gas Networks and a host of technical experts to supply a blend of hydrogen and natural gas to 100 homes and 30 faculty buildings.
So why hydrogen? When hydrogen burns it generates heat without carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming.
Hydrogen is an alternative to fossil fuels for heating homes and industry. In fact, the Committee on Climate Change has determined that the use of hydrogen in our energy system is now necessary to reach Net Zero.
However, HyDeploy is the first time hydrogen has been injected into a modern UK gas network.
Over the Christmas holidays, residents at Keele University made history. They became the first people in the UK to cook their Christmas turkeys on hydrogen for half a century. Not since the days of ‘coal gas’ – gas made from coal – has hydrogen flowed through British gas pipes.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of this trial. Not only is HyDeploy the first practical demonstration of hydrogen in a modern gas network in the UK, but it could also prove to be the launchpad for a wider hydrogen economy, fuelling industry and transport, bringing new jobs and making Britain a world-leader in this technology.
Heating homes and businesses accounts for half of the UK’s energy use and one third of its carbon emissions. Some 85% of buildings, including homes, are heated by gas – and for good reason.
Gas is the best technology for delivering and storing large volumes of heat energy. For example, Cadent’s London network alone provides 24GW at peak hours in winter – this would require the equivalent output of seven Hinckley Point C nuclear power stations if this heat was electrified.
Gas is also very flexible: it can cope with the huge seasonal and in-day variations in heat demand. However, natural gas is a fossil fuel and the Committee on Climate Change has made it clear that we must dramatically reduce our reliance on natural gas if we are tackle global warming.
At Cadent, we believe that repurposing the gas network to take green gases like hydrogen and biomethane means we can decarbonise heat while minimising the disruption and cost to all consumers, including those who can least afford expensive new technologies.
Blending is a great place to start. It allows us to make carbon savings now without members of the public having to do anything at all: no change in how warm we are; no change in behaviour; no change in heating systems; and no disruption.
A 20% blend would mean that people wouldn’t have to change their gas appliances or their behaviour: as consumers we can make carbon savings without doing anything. If we rolled out HyDeploy across the country we would save 6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year – the equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road.
A 20% blend of hydrogen and natural gas alone won’t get us to Net Zero but it does open the door to that possibility. Blending would kickstart the hydrogen supply chain and the scale of hydrogen production needed to reach higher hydrogen blends or even 100% hydrogen.
Blending would allow us to make carbon savings now while other low carbon technologies are being developed and, importantly, while Government frameworks and policies are being put in place to allow hydrogen to become part of our energy mix.
The Keele trial will last for 10 months. We will then carry out two trials on public gas networks – one in Winlaton, near Newcastle and another will take place on our network, in the North West. For more information about HyDeploy see today’s announcement about the project.
I am hugely positive about what we are demonstrating here. Urgent action is needed on carbon emissions and HyDeploy is just that, a rapid step in the right direction and an important staging post on the UK’s journey to net zero. As the BBC’s Roger Harrabin says in his online piece the hydrogen revolution is here.