Plans to convert the gas grid in Leeds to run entirely on hydrogen have moved a step closer to becoming reality after Northern Gas Networks opened an office in the city dedicated to the endeavor.
The office has been tasked with delivering innovative projects which prove the case for conversion to hydrogen, not just for Leeds but for the whole of the UK.
"Big challenges need big ideas and de-carbonising the UK gas networks through conversion to 100 per cent hydrogen would represent the most significant single contribution to UK decarbonisation."
Northern Gas Networks (NGN) opened the site with the help of Leeds City Council to further examine, and build the foundations to deliver, the conversion strategy outlined in its H21 Leeds City Gate study.
The research project, which was funded through the Network Innovation Allowance and conducted alongside Wales and West Utilities, concluded last year that substituting natural gas with hydrogen in UK networks would be "technically possible and economically viable".
The conversion strategy for the Leeds City area included proposals to supply the local grid with low-carbon hydrogen produced at four steam methane reformers on Teesside utilising carbon capture and storage.
NGN chief executive Mark Horsley said: "By opening our dedicated project office, we are taking a further step towards our hydrogen future and sending a signal to the government and the rest of the industry that we are ready to work with them to deliver it."
The office's initial work will include:
- Leading a collaborative gas industry bid for around £15 million Network Innovation Competition funding to provide "compelling safety evidence" for the conversion of gas networks to hydrogen.
- Applying the methodology used to examine to feasibility of conversion in Leeds to other major cities around the UK.
- Considering alternative methods for hydrogen production and storage.
- Examining the potential impact of hydrogen conversion on network meters.
The opening comes shortly after the government committed funding to a new research programme exploring the use of hydrogen for heating - a development which Horsley welcomed.
"We are delighted with the government's announcement of a £25 million programme which will provide significant amounts of the critical evidence required to allow a policy decision."
"Meeting the UK's 2050 climate change obligations is a big challenge," he added. "Big challenges need big ideas and de-carbonising the UK gas networks through conversion to 100 per cent hydrogen would represent the most significant single contribution to UK decarbonisation."