Trade association says a blend of natural gas and hydrogen could be delivered through the National Grid from next year to heat homes and buildings
Hydrogen could be blended into the existing UK grid at a volume of up to 20 per cent from 2023, permitted there is sufficient production of the gas.
The Energy Networks Association (ENA), an industry body representing major UK operators, expects the grid will be capable of carrying a hydrogen blend from next year for use with existing boilers and cooking appliances.
Any strategy to begin blending hydrogen into the existing natural gas grid will be dependent on the government deciding to move ahead with the plan. A decision on blending is expected by 2023.
Hydrogen is being proposed as a replacement for natural gas due to creating no carbon emissions at the point of use. Supplies of the gas are currently dependent on fossil fuels to ensure mass production.
The ENA said in its ‘Britain’s Hydrogen Blending Delivery Plan’ document that it was confident all five network companies were on track to ensure the UK’s network of gas pipes would be capable of carrying a hydrogen blend if required in 2023,
This would allow for the UK to cut its current natural gas by one fifth from the winter of 2023 onwards if the government and other regulatory bodies pass legislation to begin hydrogen blending.
An estimated 85 per cent of UK homes are currently connected to the gas grid for the purpose of heating, according to the association. Proponents for moving to a blended gas grid argue hydrogen could provide a short-term reduction in carbon emissions while a decision is made on what role a supply of 100 per cent hydrogen gas might play in decarbonising domestic heat. The government announced in last year’s Hydrogen Strategy that a strategic decision on how best to use the gas would be made in 2026.
The ENA’s latest report noted that there was still “uncertainty regarding the volume of physical hydrogen production” available in the UK. This concern related specifically to the availability of gas that can be connected to the network by 2023.
The report stated, “With the right level of collaboration, engagement and coordination, it would be possible to enact gas market change at an accelerated pace to meet the 2023 target.”
Authorities in the UK are also urged to double domestic hydrogen production plans to 10GW from 5GW at present. This would ensure higher levels of production of the gas in the UK to limit possible supply disruptions.
ENA chief executive David Smith said it would be important for the government to support the development of hydrogen infrastructure in the UK by ramping up homegrown production of the gas.
He said, “Whether it be heating our homes, powering our businesses or generating cleaner electricity, hydrogen will help drive up our energy security, while driving down our carbon emissions – and Britain’s gas grid companies are ready to get on with the job of delivering that.”
The ENA’s report does not touch on what proportion of this hydrogen may come from renewable sources – as opposed to relying on more carbon intensive production methods to generate supplies of the gas.
There is no mention in the paper of ‘green hydrogen’. The term relates to gas that can be generated through renewable power. One such example of green production is the government-backed the H100 Fife project that is trialling electrolytic production of hydrogen via offshore wind. Another method is blue hydrogen that would look to use carbon capture solutions to limit the emissions resulting from gas production.
Environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth NGO have previously warned that a switch towards using hydrogen gas for domestic heat is not necessarily a like-for-like carbon neutral replacement for natural gas. This was particularly the case if the gas is produced through methods such as Steam Methane Reforming as opposed to using electrolysers.