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Hydrogen research gets underway in the north of the UK

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A pioneering energy project to gather vital evidence about the suitability of the existing gas network to transport hydrogen is underway in the South Bank area of Teesside.
Northern Gas Networks (NGN) is using a network of existing natural gas mains to carry out standard gas operational procedures under 100% hydrogen conditions for the first time.
The testing is taking place on an area of disused land where gas pipes that once supplied homes on the site, while all still intact, are disconnected from the rest of the network.
The evidence gathered will be used to understand any changes needed for the potential conversion of the gas distribution network to transport clean burning hydrogen in the future.
The UK has set a target of achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 to help reverse the impact of climate change.
The natural gas used by the 85% of homes connected to the gas grid is responsible for over 30% of the UK’s carbon emissions, but hydrogen produces no carbon when burned, so could provide a greener energy solution for heating and cooking.
The South Bank research is part of the H21 project, a major collaborative UK gas industry hydrogen programme led by NGN, to assess the suitability of the UK’s existing gas network to carry hydrogen.
A hydrogen-fuelled gas network would make use of the vast assets which already deliver a safe, resilient and reliable source of heat the nation’s homes and businesses.
A hydrogen conversion would be conducted in a similar way to the natural gas conversion of the 1960s and 1970s with customers required to change gas appliances, such as boilers and cookers in their homes to similar hydrogen versions, which would work with existing radiators.
The test site, located between Ann Street and Harcourt Road, was chosen because around 70 homes were demolished on the land over a decade ago.
Neil Travers, H21 project manager for Northern Gas Networks said: “There are many different procedures carried out on the gas network on a day to day basis and it’s essential we understand how these may need to be adapted to ensure hydrogen can be delivered as safely and reliably as natural gas.
“Extensive research has already been completed off-grid but the difference at the South Bank is that we are using older gas mains, as are typical in many streets across the UK, for the first time. We believe this is a world first and we’re delighted to be in Teesside where there are already plans for hydrogen production and the potential of a wider hydrogen economy.”
In addition to testing network procedures, the project includes the installation of two domestic hydrogen boilers.
Produced by leading manufacturers, Vaillant and Baxi the boilers have been connected to the network, and use hydrogen, which has been odourised to smell the same as natural gas for the first time.