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Gas grid conversion to hydrogen to decarbonise homes in northern England by 2034?

Power to Gas - Symbol Image (petrmalinak / Shutterstock)

A recently published report indicates that approx. 3.7 million homes and 40,000 business in the north of England could be converted to hydrogen and made emission-free by 2034. Currently, these homes and businesses are heated by natural gas.

UK gas distributors Northern Gas Networks and Cadent, with Norway's Equinor, propose the conversion of parts of the UK gas grid to hydrogen starting in 2028 in order to provide the start of the "deep decarbonization" of heating in the country. The report has been presented to the UK authorities as a feasibility study to show it is technically possible.

The report says that clean hydrogen can be produced from natural gas using existing technology, at a self-powered 12-gigawatt production facility with carbon capture technology.

The development of green gases, such as biomethane, hydrogen, power-to-gas projects and other forms of gas decarbonization, is a growing trend in the European gas industry as it looks to retain a role for gas in a decarbonized future Europe. In 2018 the European Commission adopted a strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy by 2050. The decline in the cost of renewable energies has opened the prospect of large-scale production of green hydrogen. Gas pipelines can play an important role in this process. The existing infrastructure can be used to transport the hydrogen, with limited adjustments and costs.

For this reason, this topic will be adressed at this years Pipeline Technology Conference in Berlin, Germany.

The solution suggests that the captured by-product of the process, CO2, can be stored safely in saline aquifers far below the seabed, such as those off the north east coast of England. The UK has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Currently, over 30% of emissions come from domestic heating and cooking. Future progress will to a large extent depend on the policy and regulatory framework which will be instrumental to finance a switch to hydrogen.

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