A ground-breaking pilot project to blend up to 20 per cent hydrogen into the gas network at Keele University has been given the go-ahead by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The year-long HyDeploy scheme led by Cadent was awarded £6.8 million of funding in Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition for 2016. Construction is scheduled to begin by the end of this year, with the trial kicking off in 2019.

The HSE has granted the project an exemption from the current 0.1 per cent limit on hydrogen in gas networks after concluding that the blend would be as safe as natural gas.

The trial will take place on a section of Keele University’s private gas network which serves 17 faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties.

Safety checks were carried out in homes and buildings in the trial area and laboratory tests were conducted on a range of gas appliances as well as the various materials used within the network. No changes will be necessary to the appliances or pipework at the university.

Picture: Keele University campus

The fuel will be produced by passing electricity through water to split the molecules into hydrogen and oxygen – a process known as electrolysis. The electrolysers supplied by ITM Power will be powered using renewable energy.

Cadent director of safety and network strategy, Simon Fairman, said: “The importance of this trial to the UK is unmeasurable. This is the first ever practical demonstration of hydrogen in the modern gas network in the UK.

“Hydrogen has the potential to address one of the most difficult sources of carbon emissions – heat. This trial could pave the way for a wider rollout of hydrogen blending, enabling us to begin cutting carbon emissions from heat as early as the mid-2020s, without customers needing to change their gas appliances or behaviour.”

Northern Gas Networks is a partner in the project. The company’s chief executive Mark Horsley said: “Hydrogen is a key piece of the decarbonisation jigsaw, and this landmark decision allows us to take a huge leap forwards in terms of its use in meeting climate change targets.

Cadent and Northern Gas Networks are both developing plans to trial 100 per cent hydrogen gas networks in major cities in England.

Cadent’s HyNet scheme would cover Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester, whilst Northern Gas Networks’ H21 project would take place in Leeds. The hydrogen used in the networks would be extracted from natural gas, with the resulting carbon dioxide emissions being captured and stored.

MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee were told yesterday (6 November) the current gas safety rules limiting the amount of hydrogen in networks are holding up the development of low-carbon heating.

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