For all the exciting potential that hydrogen has to offer, all five of Britain’s gas network companies are firmly focussed on one priority – your safety, write Angie Needle, Strategy Director at Cadent and Tim Harwood, Head of Programme Management, H21 Project Director at NGN.
To ensure that’s the case, we are working to one fundamental, underlying principle - that hydrogen-fuelled appliances and the gas grid must be at least as safe when running on hydrogen as they are under the current natural gas system. And ideally safer.
Here’s three things you need to know from Britain’s Hydrogen Network Plan about how we’re doing that.
1. By using our world leading innovation expertise
Over the last few years, we’ve been undertaking a series of projects to test how hydrogen behaves in a variety of different settings and environments. Undertaken in controlled test-sites around the country and working closely with the Health & Safety Executive, these projects not only trial different appliances, like cookers, heaters or boilers, but also how we will manage the network of pipes responsible for delivering hydrogen to your front door.
As part of that, we’re conducting the same world-leading Gas Safe checks for hydrogen appliances as you use for your natural gas appliances at home today. And one of the big advantages of hydrogen over natural gas, is that it removes the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning leakage.
2. By keeping up the momentum of our work
The good news is that these projects have made great progress. Results so far have shown that using hydrogen in the natural gas grid is fundamentally safe, with existing natural gas boilers and other appliances able to handle up to 20% hydrogen in the gas grid without any changes. Beyond 20%, boilers and other appliances will need to be ‘hydrogen-ready’, with those appliances replacing older ones as they reach the end of their lifespan.
And earlier this month, we announced that 670 homes in Winlaton in Gateshead are set to become the first to use hydrogen gas for cooking and heating on a public gas network as part of the HyDeploy innovation project.
3. By focussing on safety on the street – as well as your home
The investment gas network companies are already delivering in our pipelines is also key. Much of Britain’s local gas pipelines are now hydrogen-ready – around two-thirds of it to be exact - as gas grid companies have been replacing old Victorian-era, iron-mains pipes with new hydrogen-ready plastic pipes for some time. And if we get the green light from the energy regulator to keep on doing that, we should have that work completed by 2032.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).
Energy supplier or network operator? Energy network operators are entirely separate to your energy supplier, which is the company that bills you for using electricity and gas. Energy suppliers and generators are represented by Energy UK.