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Comment Sustainability

Hydrogen-energy test facility to launch in U.K.

By Mary Page Bailey |

National Grid Group PLC (London) is partnering with Northern Gas Networks (NGN) and Fluxys Belgium to build a first of its kind offline hydrogen test facility in the U.K., to understand how hydrogen gas could be used in the future to heat homes and deliver green energy to industry.

The £10 million project will be delivered by DNV GL, with support provided by the HSE Science Division and academic partnerships with Durham University and the University of Edinburgh and involves building a hydrogen test facility at DNV GL’s site at Spadeadam, Cumbria.

The facility will be built from a range of decommissioned assets, to create a representative network which will be used to trial hydrogen and will allow for accurate results to be analysed. Blends of hydrogen up to 100% will then be tested at transmission pressures, to assess how the assets perform.

The plans have been submitted to Ofgem and if funding is awarded, the aim is to start construction in 2021 with testing beginning in 2022.

Currently 85% of homes and 40% of the UK’s power needs are supplied by gas. But as the UK works towards becoming one of the world’s first net zero economies by 2050, the gas sector needs to demonstrate a viable pathway for decarbonisation.

Antony Green, Project Director for Hydrogen at National Grid, says: “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 trial projects like this are crucial if we are to deliver low carbon energy, reliably and safely to all consumers.”

NGN, one of the UK’s Gas Distribution Networks, is contributing to the project and owns the H21 distribution rig currently under construction at the Spadeadam site.

A collaboration between all the UK gas and transmission networks, and now in its second phase, the H21 programme is demonstrating how the existing gas distribution network can be repurposed to safely carry 100% hydrogen to heat homes and businesses.

Tim Harwood, H21 Project Director and Head of Programme Management at NGN says: “This project will link with Phase 2 of the H21 NIC, by connecting the National Grid transmission assets to the distribution network being built alongside the ‘HyStreet’ of purpose-built hydrogen research houses.By adding transmission assets, we can then demonstrate a full beach-to-meter scenario, showing how the gas industry can collaborate together in a hydrogen future. “

Thierry Bottequin, Engineering Manager from Fluxys Belgium, says: “This is an important step in investigating the conversion possibilities of our infrastructure for the transmission of hydrogen-natural gas blends and hydrogen. We believe that the multiphase scope of the project perfectly complements our own research to document the reliability, safety and integrity of the existing gas infrastructure when used to transport hydrogen.”

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