A groundbreaking green energy trial that could help Britain dramatically cut its carbon emissions and open the door to a low-carbon hydrogen (H2) economy has been given the go ahead by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

In the first trail of its kind in the UK, the HyDeploy project will inject H2 into an existing natural gas network.

Backed by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition, the £7m project is being led by gas network Cadent, in partnership with Northern Gas Networks, Keele University and a consortium of technical experts.

In a year-long pilot, due to start next year, HyDeploy will blend up to 20% of H2 (by volume) with the normal gas supply in part of Keele University’s gas network. Customers will continue to use gas as they do today, without any changes needed to gas appliances or pipework.

Energy storage and clean fuel company ITM Power is supplying the electrolyser system. Construction is due to start at the end of this year.

CEO Graham Cooley said, “The significance of this announcement, allowing up to 20% green H2 to be injected into a UK gas network, is hard to overstate. Power-to-gas in the UK is under active consideration by all gas grid operators and its significance as an energy storage technique is growing globally. This announcement is an important advance.”

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Source: ITM Power

Simon Fairman, Cadent’s Director of Safety and Network Strategy, added, “The importance of this trial to the UK is unmeasurable. This is the first ever practical demonstration of H2 in the modern gas network in the UK.”

“H2 has the potential to address one of the most difficult sources of carbon emissions – heat. This trial could pave the way for a wider roll out of H2 blending, enabling us to begin cutting carbon emissions from heat as early as the mid-2020s, without customers needing to change their gas appliances or behaviour.”

“HyDeploy could also prove to be the launchpad for a wider H2 economy, fuelling industry and transport and bringing with it new jobs. The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underlines the need for urgent action on carbon emissions and HyDeploy is an important staging post on that journey in the UK.”

The HSE granted HyDeploy an exemption to the current limit of 0.1% H2 in the UK gas network after the project gathered extensive evidence to demonstrate the H2 blend would be ‘as safe as natural gas’. The exemption is similar to that granted 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. The Health and Safety Laboratory has been overseeing all safety aspects of HyDeploy, providing expert impartial advice to the project.

Keele University was viewed as the perfect test site, owning and operating its own private gas network, independent of the UK’s wider gas network. The University is working with businesses, academics and graduates to create Europe’s first ‘at scale’ multi-energy-vector smart energy network demonstrator – where new energy-efficient technologies can be researched, developed and tested in a real world environment.