Steve Sutton, Technical Manager at the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council, examines the progress of the UK’s first hydrogen energy project, HyDeploy, as we approach the end of Phase 1.

The UK is committed to making carbon savings, pledging to a 100% reduction in emissions by 2050. Over recent years, gas appliances, including boilers, have delivered carbon reductions through design and efficiency savings as they evolve to meet the requirements of the European Ecodesign Directive. 

More recently, the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) has championed the use of hydrogen as a sustainable solution, offering the benefits of natural gas without producing carbon dioxide.

Currently, heating homes and industry accounts for nearly half of all the UK’s energy use and one-third of the country’s carbon emissions. Hydrogen, when burnt, only produces heat and water, making it a realistic solution for tackling decarbonisation as the UK looks towards reaching its net-zero emissions target. HyDeploy is a pioneering energy project that was established to understand how hydrogen can play a role in combatting climate change. 

Piloting HyDeploy

Natural gas is an effective energy source for heating most homes across the UK and, in an ideal world, any changes must avoid large scale disruption. 

Backed by £22.5 million of OFGEM funding, HyDeploy, over the period of two years, is exploring how blending up to 20% hydrogen into the natural gas network can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, without needing to change how we heat our homes. 

Working as a collaborative gas industry project led by gas distributors Northern Gas Network and Cadent, and in partnership with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), clean energy project management specialists Progressive Energy, and a consortium of industry experts, HyDeploy could save the UK around six million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, if successful. 

Also, customers don’t need to change their cooking or heating appliances to take the blend, and they won’t notice any difference using it, meaning low levels of disruption. 

HyDeploy 1

As part of the three-stage programme of HyDeploy, the first stage (known as Phase 1) is in progress at Keele University, and should be complete towards the end of 2020. 

Following submission of an extensive safety case, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) gave permission to run a live trial of blended hydrogen and natural gas on part of the private gas network at Keele University. Customers in 100 homes on the university campus will be using blended gas, and the trial also includes a number of commercial appliances. All this will help to confirm the level of hydrogen which can be used by customers with no changes to their existing gas appliances.

HyDeploy 2

Once Phase 1 of the project has been completed in Keele, HyDeploy will move to a larger demonstration on a public network in the North East, where Gateshead Council has committed to being carbon neutral by 2030. 

The HSE is currently overseeing the next stage of HyDeploy, and has already started the initial process of gas safety checks that will provide important information to help them decide if HyDeploy can then proceed to a live pilot at the end of 2020. 

Once approved, a much larger population of around 670 properties in Winlaton, Gateshead, will use blended gas for heating and cooking over the next 10 months. Gas customers in Winlaton will become the first on a public UK gas network to use this blended hydrogen for heating and cooking. 

The main difference with this demonstration, compared to the first phase in Keele, is that a wider variety of customers, more representative of the UK as a whole, will be involved. This means that the results will be more relevant for a national move towards using hydrogen likely to be introduced in 2023, and a huge step closer to the ultimate aim of being carbon neutral. 

The future

Looking forward and building on the HyDeploy principles towards wider development of hydrogen, Northern Gas Networks is planning to deliver a suite of hydrogen projects as part of the H21 programme, with the focus on converting the gas network to 100% hydrogen. 

After Winlaton, HyDeploy will have another large demonstration in the North West and then, once the evidence has been submitted to government policy makers, hydrogen will take its place alongside other forms of zero carbon energy in meeting the needs of the UK population. 

The urgency of climate change cannot be ignored, and we all have more of a duty to act and help prevent further climate breakdown. HyDeploy is progressing well, providing safe, secure, and greener energy with minimal disruption. The scheme is a great example of networks and partners working together to achieve a common goal – the reduction of carbon emissions and improved air quality for the near future.