ITM Power is working on a power-to-gas (P2G) demonstration in conjunction with National grid and Northern Gas networks, with funding from Ofgem. Together, they will be setting new legislation and initiating the future of decarbonising the gas grid using hydrogen (H2) in order to supply renewable heat.

Dr Graham Cooley

Dr Graham Cooley

It will be the very first official P2G energy storage operating in the UK, and thanks to exemption from the health and safety executive, it will be the first time that H2 has been injected into the gas grid at higher concentrations than what is usually permitted.

gasworld spoke exclusively with ITM Power’s CEO, Dr Graham Cooley, about the benefits of P2G and how overly strict UK legislation has caused the UK to slip behind the rest of Europe.

One third of all carbon reduction targets in the UK are aimed at heat, but there are very few ways to generate renewable heat on a large scale. H2 is one of very few solutions.

“Introducing H2 into the grid does two things, it helps the gas grid meet its carbon reduction targets and it also turns the gas grid into a renewable energy store for the UK. It essentially gives a new role to the gas grid.”

“This project is essentially solving two of the UK’s largest infrastructure problems; lack of energy storage for renewable power and decarbonisation of the largest energy network, gas. Heat is the largest carbon problem, its larger than both transport and electricity. The gas grid is three times the size of the power grid, to decarbonise it is much more difficult. So implementing a solution like this is a massive jump forwards.” Cooley added.

“The country already has very advanced electric grid balancing. The UK could rapidly become a world leader in P2G energy storage after this project.”

Dr Graham Cooley

Graham Cooley believes that this new method of making renewable gas comes at a time when the gas industry is in real need of new sources of green gases.

“H2 is a very versatile energy carrier and more will be available both for deploying in the gas grid and also for transport fuel. It will have a very big impact and is likely to create some new energy and gas companies.”

ITM are currently working with National Grid to overcome some legislative challenges.

“It’s crucial that we get the directive correct, ensure the measurements are accurate and address public perception and education. Fortunately, with the involvement of the National Grid, Northern Gas Networks and health and safety executives, new legislation will be set.”

“We are delighted to be working with national grid given that they own a considerable amount of the gas distribution network in the UK. Working with Northern Gas Networks is also very important because they’ve already been looking at H2 for their gas grid in leads, with the H21 project.” Cooley added. 

A new package of proposed directives announced by the European Commission on the 30th of November 2016 is also helping with the programmes success. The energy storage definition specifically includes the conversion of electricity to another energy carrier such as H2. Unlike many previous definitions of energy storage, it is not restricted to power-in/power-out storage and so facilitates the adoption of the P2G approach.

“It’s very important that the EU have changed their definition of energy storage to incorporate P2G energy storage. It gives a level playing field between bidding generation, storage, and dispatchable loads. There’s an origin scheme for renewable gases as well which is fantastic news because we can now differentiate between H2 made by electrolysis, and hydrogen made by methane reforming.”

H2 can already be injected into the gas grid in Germany and most other countries in the EU due to authorising legislation.

“This project is helping the UK to catch up with the legislation for H2 gas grid injection.”

Cooley explained, “The country already has very advanced electric grid balancing. The UK could rapidly become a world leader in P2G energy storage after this project.”