As part of an effort to eliminate fossil fuels, hydrogen will be pumped into Britain’s main gas pipeline by 2025.
Under plans by National Gas, the company that owns the pipelines, hydrogen will make up between 2 and 5 percent of the fuel going through the country’s transmission system.
Blending would be the first step towards converting the network to full of hydrogen by 2050 as part of a national overhaul that aims to reduce carbon emissions.
National Gas’ chief executive Jon Butterworth stated: “Whatever we’re trying is to ensure there’s an energy-balanced response.
“On a winter day, you have seven times more energy flowing through the gas network than through the electricity network.
“We have to look at ways we can decarbonize that, while still providing for the industry – so that businesses have the gas that they need.
“So, we are slowly transferring into hydrogen – over time we’re going repurpose our systems slowly into hydrogen for areas that cannot be electrified.”
National Gas’s 4,700-mile transmission system moves gas under high pressure from overseas drilling fields to different parts of the UK. It is then taken to smaller distribution networks for distribution and delivered to homes and businesses.
After National Grid’s sale of its 60pc stake, in January, it is now majority-owned by Macquarie, an Australian bank.
Gas distribution network operators are currently working on plans to allow natural gas to be blended into hydrogen in their pipelines starting in 2024.
But, it would be more difficult to integrate hydrogen into the transmission system from the beginning.
Hydrogen was used in the network previously, as a major component of the “town gaz”, which is made from coal. It was used extensively in Britain in 1960s. Natural gas replaced it in 1970s when North Sea reserves were discovered.
Hydrogen is making a comeback as a solution to global warming. It does not emit carbon dioxide when it is burned. It is hoped that it will replace fossil fuels such as shipping and heavy trucks, where renewable electricity is more feasible.
Hydrogen can also be used in power stations to replace natural gas. It can be used to provide power for still days , when wind turbines aren’t spinning.
It is not yet clear how much it will be used, but there are particular questions about its use in heating homes, due to the increasing number of electric heat pump installations.
There are no domestic boilers that can operate on 100pc hydrogen. National Gas claims that homes can get natural gas mixed with up to 20pc hydrogen, but the plans need to be approved by regulatory authorities.
Hydrogen is a niche product in the UK. If hydrogen is to become more widespread, clean production will need to increase rapidly. This involves extracting hydrogen from natural gas, splitting it, and then capturing the carbon dioxide.
There is a backlash against the Government’s plans to subvention hydrogen production through a levy on energy bills starting in 2025. Lord Lilley a Tory peer who is a member of the Lord’s Environment Committee on Climate Change, said it was a double insult to ask households for money to subsidise hydrogen production via levy on energy bills starting in 2025.
Will Webster is the energy policy manager at Offshore Energies UK. He stated that it is common for new industries to need support during their start-up phase.
He said, “You can have a conversation about the source of the appropriate source, but we’re talking about transforming all the economy. It doesn’t happen by itself.”
Butterworth stated: “We want hydrogen to be able to pass through our system.
“So that businesses can do what they do no matter where they are located, and customers have choices.
We want to give our customers the option to electrify if they live in flats in London or Manchester or anywhere else.