In a significant leap towards a sustainable energy future, UK gas network giant, SGN, has enlisted the expertise of flow control innovators Oxford Flow. Their collaboration is part of the LTS Futures project, an initiative by SGN aiming to confirm the UK’s local transmission system (LTS) compatibility with low-carbon hydrogen.
Oxford Flow is set to equip the project with hydrogen-ready gas pressure regulators, devices notably smaller and lighter than those used for natural gas. These regulators will serve in conducting tests on decommissioned gas pipelines using pure hydrogen.
Currently, zero-emissions hydrogen is considered the most efficient and cost-effective alternative to methane-based natural gas. Residential heating alone is responsible for 37% of the UK’s total carbon emissions.
Present-day gas appliances are engineered to work with up to 23% hydrogen blends. Yet, smaller trials like Northern Gas Networks’ HyDeploy pilot in Gateshead have required exemptions from Ofgem due to the existing regulations that limit hydrogen concentration in public grids to 0.1%. The 1996 guidelines are due for a revision under the government’s Hydrogen Strategy this year.
Oxford Flow’s regulators are crafted to facilitate retrofitting of existing gas systems and diminish future maintenance needs. Alongside other gas distribution networks, SGN aspires to establish the world’s first zero-carbon gas grid. This grid will leverage existing pipelines to supply both natural and low-carbon gas to six million homes and businesses across southern England and Scotland.
Gemma Simpson, SGN’s director of LTS Futures, expresses her enthusiasm about the project: “Our project will enable wide-scale system transformation of the UK gas network to hydrogen, driving decarbonisation and supporting our Net Zero goals. We are excited to be partnering with Oxford Flow to use this latest innovation as we transition to clean energy.”
She adds, “Using Oxford Flow’s valves and regulators will help establish a hydrogen-ready solution for pressure regulating equipment. They will not only future proof our systems by being hydrogen ready and tested, but also by removing leak points common in valves to reduce emissions.”
This year, SGN’s LTS Futures team and Oxford Flow’s field technicians are set to test decommissioned pipe samples at an industry research and testing facility in Spadeadam, Cumbria. The results will guide the next phase of the LTS Futures project: a live hydrogen repurposing trial and demonstration scheduled for next year, at a decommissioned pipeline in Grangemouth.
For Oxford Flow, Faris Churcher remarks, “We’re delighted to be working with SGN as part of the LTS Futures project. When conversations began, the focus was on the efficacy of pipeline infrastructure and its ability to transport hydrogen. However, the pipelines themselves are not the only infrastructure – or equipment – that needs careful consideration.”
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