Gas on the agenda
Northern Gas Networks’ chief executive Mark Horsley talks to Lucinda Dann about the future of gas in the UK.
5th May 2016 by Networks
Do you see gas distribution operators and the existing gas pipe infrastructure having a role to play if the nascent shale gas industry takes off in the UK?
I think we do, but to be honest I look at it more as the pipe as a medium for a number of things. It could be hydrogen, it could be natural gas, it could be biomethane. It could be shale, it would be great if it was, without a shadow of doubt. Shale is looked at largely across in the US as a transmission gas that feeds power stations, and but also feeds homes. The transportation medium of shale gas probably hasn’t even been thought about yet because the industry is very much in its infancy, but yes it could. I think it could bring gas to rural communities that don’t have gas at the moment and a lot of those people are in fuel poverty as well. But I don’t say it is all for shale, all for one, there is a whole range.
At one point it was believed that gas had no future in the UK as heat would gradually be electrified. Has this attitude changed?
I think it is changing, but there is no silver bullet. What is nice is the fact that gas is really on the agenda again as a form of heat. It’s extremely economic and a third less than the price of electricity, so from a customer point of view we have to find a solution that keeps it at that sort of level. I don’t say you should heat every home by gas – you should look at the most economical solution for that customer and then develop that technology. I do think we were steering towards heat from electricity, but I think there is a general realisation that gas and other forms have a role as well.
You have been looking at the feasibility of running the city of Leeds entirely on hydrogen. How much of a role do you see hydrogen playing in the future?
I think it’s so early in the stage, we have invested with our sister company Wales and West Utility in the initial feasibility stuff that we have done, which has been really good, really exciting. There is obviously an opportunity there, but I think now that we need that next phase of that investment, which is about £50 million on about 56 projects to look at the whole feasibility of it.
How feasible would it be to see all cities in the UK in the future using hydrogen?
The indications are yes, it could be a great opportunity for somewhere like Leeds, which has the right network, the right customer base, the skills and attributes to be able to develop the CCS technology. We have offshore salt caverns so we can use them to fill that back out in summer months. Leeds is a perfect pilot for it, but imagine if you could get Leeds to hydrogen, say Newcastle, Glasgow, Birmingham or Nottingham, and Bristol, you then have quite a network of hydrogen.
NGN last month hosted a discussion about the role hydrogen and shale could play in meeting the UK’s future gas needs, read more here.
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