H21, the UK gas industry programme focused on converting the network to carry 100 per cent hydrogen, has been awarded a further £6.8 million in Ofgem innovation funding to support a second phase of research and development, part of which will involve testing operational and maintenance procedures on the gas network.
The collaborative industry project is establishing the critical safety evidence to prove a hydrogen network is a viable alternative to the natural gas network heating UK homes and businesses today.
Led by Northern Gas Networks, in collaboration with Cadent, Wales & West Utilities, SGN and new project partners National Grid Gas Transmission, H21’s second stage began in January.
This marks a significant step towards securing a decarbonised heating solution, following the government’s 2050 net zero pledge.
Leeds Beckett University also joins the consortium for Phase Two, alongside DNV GL and HSE Bespoke Research and Consultancy.
A further £750k has been contributed by the partners, creating a total project pot of £7.5million with which to further develop the evidence base.
H21 Phase One received £9 million from Ofgem in 2017, and focused on leakage testing of assets and consequence testing of different leakage scenarios.
Phase Two will involve simulating network operations on a specially constructed network, at DNV GL’s base in Spadeadam, continuing to use the site deployed for Phase One of H21.
Additionally, network research trials on an unoccupied test site will be undertaken, to demonstrate operational and maintenance procedures - an essential prerequisite to live trials.
A combined qualitative risk assessment will bring together findings from the network testing and that of the government’s £25 million Hy4Heat programme, currently exploring hydrogen’s use in buildings and appliances.
Phase Two will also build upon customer research carried out in H21 Phase One, working with social science teams from Leeds Beckett University to further understand public perceptions of hydrogen, while developing resources to enable consumers to make informed choices on their future energy.
Mark Horsley, CEO for Northern Gas Networks, said: “The research being carried out under the H21 NIC is essential for enabling the UK to move towards a greener future.
“We’re delighted that our regulator recognises the importance of the evidence being delivered, and to be undertaking phase two of this ground-breaking project on behalf of the industry.
“We firmly believe repurposing the network to carry 100 per cent hydrogen would represent a huge step forward towards meeting the UK’s sustainability targets, as well as having a crucial role to play in satisfying customer expectations for a cost-effective and minimal impact transition to lower carbon energy.
“Our research, along with government data exploring the use of hydrogen in buildings and appliances, will not only enable policymakers to progress a policy decision on hydrogen, but will also bring customers along on the journey. Their understanding is absolutely central to acceptance of this technology.”