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Thursday Throwback Story: UK’s First Grid-Injected Hydrogen Pilot Gets Underway at KEELE

By October 22, 2020 5   min read  (820 words)

October 22, 2020 |

Story we highlighted in January of 2020 whereby the UK’s first live pilot to inject zero-carbon hydrogen into a gas network to heat homes and buildings at Keele University was put into operation.

HyDeploy is a ground-breaking green energy trial at Keele University, that could help Britain cut its carbon emissions and open the door to a low-carbon hydrogen economy.

The HyDeploy demonstration is injecting up to 20% (by volume) of hydrogen into Keele University’s existing natural gas network, feeding 100 homes and 30 faculty buildings. The 20% hydrogen blend is the highest in Europe, together with a similar project being run by Engie in Northern France.

Backed by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition, the £7 million project is led by Cadent in partnership with Northern Gas Networks, Keele University, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Science Division, integrated hydrogen energy systems manufacturer ITM-Power, and independent clean energy company Progressive Energy.

Hydrogen is a zero carbon gas that when burned produces just heat and water. The Committee on Climate Change has determined that the use of hydrogen in our energy system is necessary in order to reach Net Zero.

Heating for domestic properties and industry accounts for half of the UK’s energy consumption and one third of its carbon emissions, with 83% of homes using gas to keep warm. The 20% volume blend means that customers can continue to use their gas supply as normal, without any changes being needed to gas appliances or pipework, while still cutting carbon emissions.

If a 20% hydrogen blend was rolled out across the country it could save around six million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the road.

Professor Mark Ormerod, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost at Keele University, said: “Sustainability and low carbon energy is a key overarching institutional priority for Keele University, and we are delighted to be a key partner in HyDeploy. HyDeploy is a pioneering landmark national demonstration project, using our campus as a genuine ‘living laboratory’ for low carbon and energy-efficient technologies. HyDeploy has the potential to be hugely impactful and lead to a step change in the reduction of carbon emissions associated with heat.”

Ed Syson, Chief Safety and Strategy Officer for Cadent, said: “It is impossible to overstate the importance of this trial to the UK – this is the first ever practical demonstration of hydrogen in a modern gas network in this country.

“Hydrogen can help us tackle one of the most difficult sources of carbon emissions – heat. This trial could pave the way for a wider roll out of hydrogen blending, potentially enabling us to begin cutting carbon emissions from heat by the early 2020s, without customers needing to change their gas appliances or behaviour.

“HyDeploy 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. Urgent action is needed on carbon emissions and HyDeploy is an important staging post on that journey in the UK.”

Mark Horsley, Chief Executive, Northern Gas Networks, said: “Hydrogen is a key piece of the decarbonisation jigsaw, and this milestone allows us to take a huge leap forwards in terms of its use in meeting climate change targets.

“Customers are ready to embrace cleaner, greener solutions in their homes, and projects like HyDeploy give us the opportunity to start making a difference to emissions today. We’re very excited to be a part of it.”

The hydrogen is produced by an electrolyser. The electrolyser, produced by the UK based hydrogen energy solutions provider ITM Power, uses an electrical current to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

In 2018 the HSE granted the HyDeploy consortium an exemption to the current limit of 0.1% hydrogen in the UK gas network. The exemption to 20% hydrogen for the project at Keele was awarded after the project gathered extensive evidence, which was scrutinised by the HSE, to demonstrate the hydrogen blend would be ‘as safe as natural gas’. A similar approach was used to allow the first bio-methane producers to inject biogas into the natural gas network.

Gas safety checks were carried out in the homes and buildings in the trial area. Laboratory tests were carried out on a range of gas appliances, as well as extensive research on the effect of hydrogen on the different materials found in the gas network and the appliances.

Keele University was viewed as the perfect location, owning and operating its own private gas network, which could be safely isolated from the wider UK gas network. The University is also working with businesses, academics and graduates to create Europe’s first ‘at scale’ multi-energy-vector Smart Energy Network Demonstrator (SEND) – where new energy-efficient technologies can be researched, developed and tested in a real world environment. In May 2019 Keele became one of the first UK universities to declare a ‘climate emergency’, and announced its climate emergency target to be carbon neutral by 2030.

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