Dr Stuart Hawksworth, head of HSE's Centre for Energy Innovation, looks ahead to the organisation's inaugural 'Safety Excellence in Energy: The Future of Gas' conference.
Energy is currently a hot topic. A 35% increase in global energy consumption is predicted by 2030 and this must be balanced against the need to tackle climate change and to conserve natural oil and gas reserves by using them more efficiently.
The adaptation and improvement of current power generation technologies to deliver cleaner gas such as synthesis gas (a.k.a. ‘syngas') could enable a significant proportion of worldwide energy demand to be met at relatively low cost and with high efficiency.
Yet the future of gas in an emerging low carbon energy system - although becoming clearer - remains complex. Managing the risks associated with the UK's transition to new and alternative energy supplies presents challenges.
This is an area in which the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - the UK's regulator for workplace health and safety - already has a strong track record. Recently, for example, HSE has helped operators in the energy sector to address the health and safety aspects of projects relating to the hydrogen economy, nuclear decommissioning and the use of novel fuels such as Liquefied Natural Gas.
HSE has also been a key partner in major projects that combine industry, government, research and standards making. Such projects include the Ofgem-funded HyDeploy which aims to establish the potential for blending hydrogen, up to 20%, into the normal gas supply. This £6.8 million project, led by Cadent, is an important step to providing practical, referenceable data to allow hydrogen gas-grid injection in the UK, and kick off the process of decarbonising heat (providing heating and hot water) in the UK.
The three year project began in 2017 and its results will be used to inform a further public trial of the use of hydrogen-blended natural gas in the UK grid, with the intention of then rolling out the use of hydrogen blends nationwide. This project is an important step forward in allowing hydrogen blends to be effectively used in the UK gas grid, and so make progress in decarbonising heat. HSE looks forward to using its extensive knowledge in the area of gas safety and hydrogen to take this forward, working closely with its partners in the project.
In a similar vein, HSE is delivering the £3.5 million project for the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) to advance the safe design and operation of gas turbines, reciprocating engines and combined heat and power systems using hydrogen-based fuels. This seminal research project, led by HSE, has mitigated the adoption of hydrogen by industry through the practical demonstration of safe design for explosion prevention within combined cycle gas turbines and combined heat and power systems.
In the context of the future role of gas in the UK's energy system, the three primary themes that the UK needs to address are:
- transitioning to low carbon and decarbonised gas
- asset management and sustained operability during and after the transition and
- the important role of Power to Gas; a technology that uses surplus electricity to produce hydrogen.
At HSE's inaugural 'Safety Excellence in Energy: The Future of Gas' conference in February 2018, keynote speakers representing industry, government, research and standards-making will join with HSE's technical specialists to explore how energy challenges will be met.
They will share the knowledge and expertise they have gained from working in partnership to manage the risks relating to energy storage; integrating renewables, hydrogen; bio-syngas production from biomass and the safety aspects of introducing alternative gasses into the UK's gas grid.
To book places at Safety Excellence in Energy: The Future of Gas please visit:
www.hsl.gov.uk/safety-excellence-in-energy or email: firstname.lastname@example.org