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Britain’s gas grid preparing to accept 20 per cent hydrogen mix by 2023

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Britain’s gas grid is being prepared to accept a blend of up to 20 per cent hydrogen from next year as part of efforts to decarbonise the UK’s gas infrastructure.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) has published a plan which sets out how all five of Britain’s gas grid companies will meet the government’s target.

It will also mean that domestic gas-fired power plants will be able to use blended hydrogen to generate cleaner electricity.

The companies are also calling for the government to double its domestic 2030 hydrogen production target from 5GW to 10GW, to ensure that as much hydrogen as possible is produced from sources here in the UK. This could also help to avoid future spikes in gas prices the likes of which have caused a multitude of energy firms to collapse over the last few months.

The ENA said that blending 20 per cent hydrogen into the gas grid will reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 2.5 million cars a year without any changes needed to be made to people’s cookers, boilers or heating systems.

The plan builds on the progress made by gas network companies through the HyDeploy project, which has demonstrated that blending hydrogen with natural gas is feasible and safe.

The project began blending hydrogen into the public gas network in Winlaton, Gateshead, in summer 2021.

David Smith, the ENA’s chief executive said: “Whether it be heating our homes, powering our businesses or generating cleaner electricity, hydrogen will help drive up our energy security, while driving down our carbon emissions – and Britain’s gas grid companies are ready to get on with the job of delivering that.

“This plan sets out the changes needed to deliver cleaner, more secure energy supplies for all. What’s key is that the government does its bit too by lifting its target for homegrown hydrogen production this decade. Doing that today will help gas grid companies deliver for tomorrow.”

Blending up to 20 per cent hydrogen into the gas grid is subject to a final decision by the government which it will make in 2023, as set out in its Hydrogen Strategy.

Hydrogen is currently much more expensive to produce than conventional fuels, so the government is considering providing subsidies to bridge the gap between fossil fuels and hydrogen.

It has proposed a twin-track approach to subsidies for developing both green and blue hydrogen. Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water by electrolysis while blue hydrogen is produced by splitting natural gas.

While green hydrogen can be a zero-emission fuel when electrolysis is powered by renewables, blue hydrogen can only be described as a net-zero carbon fuel when used in conjunction with carbon capture and storage. A recent study found that blue hydrogen is more carbon-intensive than natural gas, coal, or diesel, as a source of heat.

Some 85 per cent of UK homes are connected to the gas grid amounting to around 23 million properties. To reach net zero, Britain needs to reduce the average household’s carbon emissions from nearly three tonnes today, to just 135kg by 2050 – a drop of 95 per cent.

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