London — The UK's first pilot project to inject renewable hydrogen into a local gas grid could open the door to larger scale projects, sources told S&P Global Platts Thursday.
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The HyDeploy demonstration project at Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, which went operational last week, will inject up to 20% of hydrogen by volume into the existing natural gas network, feeding 100 homes and 30 faculty buildings.
"We're trying at Keele because it's a private network," said Stephanie Van Rosse, a spokeswoman for Cadent Gas. "We wanted to find a network that would not impact any other users."
Cadent is leading the project in partnership with Northern Gas Networks, Keele University, the Health and Safety Executive Science Division, ITM Power and Progressive Energy.
The project started injecting hydrogen in November, and will go on through the summer. Once completed successfully, trials also will be conducted in northeast and northwest parts of England, Van Rosse said.
Engie is conducting a similar test blending hydrogen into the natural gas networks in Le Petit, France.
Cadent and Northern Gas Networks are testing whether blending 20% hydrogen into existing gas networks will work without impacting appliances, which are built to withstand up to 23% hydrogen in the gas mix, she said.
Across Europe, permitted levels of hydrogen in the gas supply vary, from 0.1% in the UK to up to 12% in parts of the Netherlands.
HyDeploy received a special exemption to the current limit of 0.1% hydrogen in the UK gas network.
"It's the first time hydrogen has been injected into the UK gas grid since it changed over to North Sea gas [in the late 1960s]," said Graham Cooley, CEO of ITM Power, a UK-based energy systems manufacturer.
ITM is providing HyDeploy's electrolyser equipment, which will produce zero carbon hydrogen. Cooley projects a steep ramp up of demand for electrolysis equipment over the next 30 years as the UK aims to meet 2050 climate goals. Cooley cited a recent Committee on Climate Change report, which projects between 6-17 GW of electrolysis capacity will be required in the UK by 2050.
Projects like HyDeploy and others in Europe will get the ball rolling, he said. ITM is currently providing a 10 MW electrolyser for Shell's Rhineland Refinery in Wesseling, Germany, which the company says has the largest capacity for any electrolyser in the world.
"Things are moving very quickly for green hydrogen," Cooley said.
'PERFECT LABORATORY' FOR BLENDING
Keele offered a perfect laboratory for blending 20% hydrogen into a local gas grid, as it owns and operates its own private gas network, Van Rosse said. The project will test the blend in both summer and winter, and ensure that it works in both a private network and a public one, she said.
Using a 20% hydrogen blend across the UK, it could save around 6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions/year, according to HyDeploy.
Success in the project could open the doors to other projects, but would require changes to the current rules allowing only 0.1% hydrogen, Van Rosse said.
"At the end of it, as long as we don't have any issues - we could have 20% hydrogen and nobody would have to change their appliances," she said.