Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has opened a dedicated H21 Project Office in Leeds to focus on the gas network conversion to zero-carbon hydrogen. There are different methods of decarbonising heat, with one approach being the use of hydrogen gas, which is carbon-free and an alternative to natural gas. NGN is developing the H21 Leeds City Gate project, which will convert gas networks in Leeds to run entirely on hydrogen as the first step towards a nationwide rollout. Plans are to take methane from natural gas in the grid and convert it to hydrogen by removing the carbon. It is proposed that four CCS-enabled steam methane reformers, built in the Teesside area, would produce the hydrogen. This project, combined with other similar projects, would be a game-changer for the development of CCS in the UK, as economies of scale bring down the costs. The aim is to convert the city of Leeds to run on hydrogen for all domestic gas boilers and cookers by 2025-30. The existing pipework is already being converted to plastic, which would be required to transport the hydrogen.
While NGN will focus on converting the transportation networks for the projects, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is focusing on adapting buildings for hydrogen use. A £5 million tender has recently been issued by BEIS to appoint a contractor to manage the delivery of a £25 million programme to explore the potential use of hydrogen gas for heating UK homes and businesses. The programme will run from 2017 to 2020 with the purpose of defining a hydrogen quality standard and to develop and trial domestic and commercial hydrogen appliances. Mark Horsley, CEO of NGN, said: “We are delighted with the Government’s announcement of a £25m programme which will provide significant amounts of the critical evidence required to allow a policy decision to convert the gas network to 100% hydrogen.” There is no actual definition for the term green gas, but it is generally accepted this is gas with a lower level of carbon than natural gas. Another approach to reducing carbon emissions from heat is the injection of biomethane into the grid. The reduction of carbon in heat will be a major contributor to meeting the UK’s ambitious 2050 climate change targets.