Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

How hydrogen can decarbonise the gas network

© Shutterstock / petrmalinakEnvisioning a hydrogen gas network.
Envisioning a hydrogen gas network.

In the search for net zero, decarbonisation of the gas network will play a central role.

  • Hydrogen is being championed as decarbonised alternative to natural gas.
  • The UK Government is already working on hydrogen infrastructure, but there are several challenges that will have to be addressed.
  • Investors and public citizens will need to be convinced on the value of hydrogen if it is to be introduced at the necessary pace.

As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, natural gas will have to be replaced by greener alternatives such as hydrogen. A government decision on the use of hydrogen is due in 2026 and metal pipelines in the distribution network are already being replaced with polyethylene pipes for safety reasons and these are perfect for repurposing with hydrogen. But there are still many challenges to progress.

Someone who knows more than most about this issue is Sarah Kimpton. The Vice President, Energy Transition & Innovation Development, at risk management experts DNV is heavily involved in finding solutions to the issues presented by moving the gas network onto hydrogen.

Sarah says: “There’s a big programme to replace old iron pipes with polyethylene and once they’re in the network they’ve got a lifetime of about 80 to 100 years so it’s good for the distribution network close to people’s homes. But if you go upstream to the higher pressure tiers, where you start to get metallic pipelines, then that’s where the challenges lie and where we need more information.”

“For the gas distribution networks we reckon it’s likely to be safe to transport 100% hydrogen but we do need to demonstrate it for some of the higher-pressure tiers.”

To address this challenge DNV is working with National Grid. They are taking decommissioned assets from the National Transmission System and building a test loop at their Spadeadam facility in Cumbria. They will then run hydrogen/natural gas blends and 100% hydrogen through them to check compatibility and safety.

However, Sarah adds: “It’s not just pipelines. There are lots of other parts of the system that need to be tested for hydrogen such as valves, pressure let-down equipment, compressors and measurement equipment.”

Another obstacle to progress is having the infrastructure in homes ready for the switchover. At present appliances such as gas boilers can’t function with 100% hydrogen. However, many manufacturers are designing hydrogen-ready boilers.

Sarah says: “People change their appliances about every ten years so there will be a natural turnover if you get hydrogen-ready appliances available. But that won’t happen until the decision in 2026 on the future of hydrogen in the homes. So that’s why we’re doing all this work trying to demonstrate how to make hydrogen as safe as natural gas.”

There’s also the issue of how to store the hydrogen. With renewable energy from wind turbines or solar power only working when the winds blowing and the sun’s shining, low carbon hydrogen will be vital to meet demand. With no international supply chain for the fuel, we will be reliant on domestic reserves, making hydrogen storage vital to net zero.

But all of this relies on there being the public engagement and political will to push ahead. At present the all-important financial community is struggling to justify investment in hydrogen projects.

Sarah says: “Even if all the technology is in place, it’s still not convincing to investors that hydrogen projects are bankable assets. So you need government support to set it on its way. I think financial leadership and demonstrating commercial readiness is one of the biggest challenges.”

One step which is being tested to pave the way for a low carbon future is blending hydrogen into the energy network. Two trials have been run in England where 20% hydrogen was put into the gas network. Consumers didn’t notice the difference in the operation of their boilers, cookers and fires.

Sarah says: “If we can tell the public, ‘you’ve already experienced 20% hydrogen blends in your network,’ they start to feel happy with it. It is the first step on the journey to demonstrating that hydrogen can be produced, handled and delivered safely and that customers get the heating, hot water and cooking that they need. There’s lots we can do to stimulate demand for hydrogen.”

Looking to the future, Sarah is optimistic but is aware there is no time to lose.

She says: “If we can solve the problem of the price of hydrogen the energy transition can be achieved. But we need to get cracking. We’ve got to have this job completed in 2050 not started in 2050.”

Tags

More from SG Voice

Latest Posts