The UK is testing how hydrogen can be delivered to homes via the existing gas network at a leading research site visited by Sky News.
But engineers say the role of hydrogen in efforts to cut emissions and fight climate change is still unclear and depends on the government’s commitment to produce so-called “zero carbon green hydrogen.” “.
The UK’s first hydrogen test site is in a remote part of Cumbria, not far from the Anglo-Scottish border, hidden away at an RAF base.
Several kilometers of pipes are being laid – some new and others transported here from the existing gas network.
Nearby is a row of terraced houses equipped with a hydrogen boiler. Inside the houses, the furniture includes a table set as if people could sit and eat.
Except nobody lives here.
They are set up to show how a normal house can receive hydrogen in the same way as gas. The message is simple: the consumer will not know the difference.
This test site is underway to prove how the existing gas network can be reused and the use of hydrogen on a larger scale. They have a window of time to gather the evidence.
Tim Harwood, Northern Gas Networks, said: âWe believe we can make hydrogen safer than with natural gas at this time.
âThere are 23 million homes in the UK that have a gas supply. We can reuse the billions of pounds of infrastructure we have. It could be absolutely huge.
“Thirty percent of all carbon emissions in the UK come from heating in homes, so we have a big price to be won.”
But there are big hurdles to overcome. Hydrogen is not yet a climate solution.
This test site uses something called gray hydrogen, which still has a carbon footprint.
The UK does not have zero carbon hydrogen on a large scale, and that would require significant commitment and investment.
Hari Vamadevan, from DNV – which manages the site, said: “Hydrogen transported and delivered through the existing grid will be achievable. The challenge will be whether there is enough hydrogen to enter the grid.”
Antony Green, project manager for the transportation of hydrogen and gas at National Grid, has high hopes for hydrogen.
He told Sky News: âThe potential is there. This period that we are in is really a period of proof and one that will ultimately determine its size.
âHow much of this will figure into our green future remains to be seen.
“Hydrogen and electrification go hand in hand. It remains to be seen where that point of equilibrium is. You have the efficiency of one and the storage capacity of the other, that’s where it is. almost locates the sweet spot. “
Hydrogen has different physical properties than natural gas, and the project is testing the performance of the current transportation network with hydrogen in various mixtures.
Methane has been used to heat our homes and for power stations to generate electricity for years – currently around 85% of homes and around 40% of electricity in the UK depend on gas.
But the Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on how to get to net zero, says hydrogen is not a “quick fix.”
It says significant volumes of low-carbon hydrogen are expected to be produced with carbon capture storage by 2030 to help the industry grow.
The plan calls for hydrogen to enter the UK’s first homes by 2023, becoming a hydrogen village by 2025 and then a hydrogen city by 2030.
This Cumbria site, which uses gray hydrogen, now has a window to ensure proof that hydrogen – while not a quick fix – has a key role to play on the road to zero net.
Gray hydrogen is not low carbon because carbon is not captured.
Green hydrogen is produced by the electrolysis of water. It uses electricity which must be renewable electricity to be truly green and which gives 100% hydrogen purity.
Sky News broadcasts the first daily prime-time news program dedicated to climate change.
Hosted by Anna Jones, The Daily Climate Show follows Sky News correspondents as they study how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.
The show will also highlight solutions to the crisis and show how small changes can make a big difference.