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World’s first 100% hydrogen testing facility unveiled – H21 project takes a leap forward in making a hydrogen gas grid a reality

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FAQs

What is the H21 proposal?

All partners involved in the H21 project agree that significant parts of the UK gas grid should be incrementally converted to be 100% hydrogen. This is technically possible, economically viable and would be a major contributor to meeting the UK’s decarbonisation targets.

Why convert to a hydrogen gas grid?

• A conversion from natural gas to hydrogen is technically possible and economically viable

• A hydrogen grid would be a significant contributor to meeting the UK’s decarbonisation targets

• A conversion would establish the UK as a world leader in hydrogen technology and create new jobs

Is it practically possible and economically viable to decarbonise the UK gas grid with hydrogen?

Yes. It is practically possible because it will use technology and infrastructure already in place in the UK and around the world today. It will be financially viable because it will use regulated business plans to spread the costs across UK customers, just as was done during the nationwide natural gas conversion in the 1960s and 70s that converted 40 million household appliances to natural gas.

Using the city of Leeds as a blueprint, H21 can become a core part of the Northern Powerhouse and a realistic, deliverale option for national and local policy makers, and government looking for high impact, low cost policies.

What do you mean by “regulated business plans”?

The UK gas industry has been undertaking an iron mains replacement programme (which is replacing old iron pipes with new plastic ones) for the last 17 years and is due to complete in 2032. This programme has been costing circa £1bn per year, spread across consumer bills.

This means the natural expenditure profile of the overall gas industry will remain flat as the iron mains programme stops and the conversion to hydrogen programme begins.

Would there be any impact on customer’s bills and how might any increase be managed?

By using regulated business plans, there would be minimal impact on customers’ bills. We forecast a maximum increase in gas bills for Leeds of 2.9% over 30 years, however prices may be much lower due to the cost of production becoming more efficient as hydrogen conversion increases across the UK.

Additionally, home energy efficiency measures could ensure there is still a net reduction in overall gas bills even with conversion taking place. 

What contribution would nationwide rollout of clean hydrogen make to overall UK wide emissions reduction?

A nationwide rollout of hydrogen would allow the UK to meet its decarbonisation targets. Currently, over 30% of UK carbon emissions come from domestic heating and cooking. Converting to hydrogen would achieve a 100% reduction in point of use emissions and an overall 73% reduction in emissions for the entire system.

A hydrogen network can become an anchor for further innovations in the sector, and in other industries such as transport and electricity generation. This means further cost and carbon reductions will be achieved.

How would a secure source of hydrogen be established to supply heat for UK cities?

The UK will continue to use gas from the North Sea, Europe and wider worldwide liquid natural gas imports. Instead of burning this gas, which is mostly predominantly methane, and releasing carbon into the atmosphere, it will remove the carbon and store it in appropriate geological storage locations under the North Sea. The hydrogen element of the natural gas, which emits no carbon dioxide when burnt, will then be used for heating and cooking in homes and businesses.

The government has recently withdrawn funding for carbon capture and storage. What will happen to the carbon that is captured and where will it be stored?

There are no decarbonisation pathways that doesn’t involve carbon capture and storage. For the UK to fulfil the opportunity to decarbonise the gas grid, carbon capture and storage is essential.

The H21 North of England report sets out the exact requirements of this technology in order to deliver a clean energy system providing heat for the North of the country.

Where will new jobs be created?

Jobs will be created across the energy supply chain; from the appliance manufacturers to the gas transportation businesses as they prepare for conversion to hydrogen. Jobs will also be created in construction and the carbon capture infrastructure sector, as well as in wider industries such as car, train and plane manufacturers who are able to adopt hydrogen innovations.

Hydrogen is a highly flammable substance – is it safe to pump this fuel into people’s homes?

Hydrogen, as with natural gas, is a flammable substance that needs expert management. Town gas, which was used in the UK gas industry for 150 years, and is still the gas used in Hong Kong, contained 50% hydrogen. DECC commissioned a study (Hyhouse) to assess the comparative risks of hydrogen vs natural gas leaks in a typical home in 2015. The study found the risk to be comparable. The H21 NIC project is now working to deliver the quantified critical safety evidence that proves the risks of a hydrogen gas network are equal to that of the natural gas network we use today. BEIS’ £25 million Hy4Heat programme examining hydrogen for use in buildings will provide the safety evidence for hydrogen ‘downstream’ of the meter.

What impact does Brexit have on the project?

Brexit has minimal impact on this project, and any impact would be to remove potential EU regulator barriers and therefore speed up the process for which the project can begin.

H21 also believe the project should become more attractive to government. At a time of uncertainty, H21 presents the UK with the opportunity to lead the global decarbonisation challenge and generate stability and jobs for the short, medium and long term.