Ofgem backs new hydrogen lab to test grid transmission

Energy regulator Ofgem is backing a new National Grid research facility that will explore how existing gas transmission assets could be used to pipe hydrogen to UK homes and factories.  

Known as HyNTS FutureGrid, the £12.7m centre in Cumbria will be built from decommissioned assets in order to replicate the existing gas network, but will be offline from the actual grid so that a range of hydrogen blends can be tested.

To assess whether or not the existing network is compatible with the green gas, blends of between two per cent and 100 per cent hydrogen will be used at the facility. Methane gas is currently used to heat around 85 per cent of UK homes, with overall gas use for heating, cooking and industrial processes accounting for 37 per cent of UK CO2 emissions.

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“If we truly want to reach a net zero decarbonised future, we need to replace methane with green alternatives like hydrogen,” said Antony Green, National Grid’s project director for hydrogen.

“Sectors such as heat are difficult to decarbonise and the importance of the gas networks to the UK’s current energy supply means trial projects are crucial if we’re to deliver low-carbon energy reliably and safely to all consumers.”

FutureGrid will be led by shipping and energy company DNV GL and located at the firm’s hazard testing site in Spadeadam, Cumbria. Other partners on the project include HSE, Northern Gas Networks (NGN), Fluxys and the Universities of Durham and Edinburgh. Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition will provide £9.07m of funding with the remainder coming from the project partners. Construction is due to start in 2021 with testing underway in 2022.

“We are delighted to be able to support this project,” said Professor Tony Roskilly of Durham University’s Durham Energy Institute (DEI). “DEI strongly believes that the gas industry has a crucial role to play in decarbonising UK heating, industry and transport. Hydrogen is set to be a vital energy vector in our transition to Net Zero and the planned roadmap of activities at DNV GL Spadeadam will allow collaborative work, which is essential.

“The transportation of hydrogen will be a significant part of the future energy system and there is an urgent need to prove that the transmission network can be relied on in the same way it is today. This is the important focus of HyNTS FutureGrid.”