More than 80 attendees from industry and academia in the UK and overseas gathered to discuss upcoming plans for UK decarbonization by the introduction of hydrogen as an energy source. Speakers from various institutions gave presentations and led discussions on the technical and safety aspects of the conversion to a hydrogen society.
It is the first event held in the UK where there were actual live demonstrations showing the differences in some of the fundamental combustion characteristics between hydrogen and natural gas on such a large scale. One demonstration highlighted the difference in detonability where a gas mixture involving 400 g of hydrogen in air was initiated with a small explosive charge.
Gary Tomlin, Vice President Safety and Risk at DNV GL says: “The event, with the scale of demonstrations that we have the capability to provide at Spadeadam, really demonstrates the viability and useability of hydrogen as a fuel, as we move towards a lower carbon future. Hydrogen may well be a safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to the climate change challenge we face. We are undertaking a number of research scopes at the site in relation to the transport and storage of hydrogen, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) and this should enable the energy companies to move ahead with their plans with confidence.”
Dan Sadler, of Northern Gas Networks (NGN), gave a presentation on NGN’s H21 Leeds city gate project which has demonstrated that a UK gas grid conversion from natural gas to hydrogen should be technically possible, and economically viable. He also confirmed that the Great Britian gas distribution networks will be submitting a Network Innovation Competition bid to the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) this year with the ambition of filling the critical safety evidence gaps which will allow a government policy decision on conversion to take place in the early 20s.
Dan Sadler says: “Meeting the targets of the climate change act is a big challenge, big challenges need big ideas. Conversion of the UK gas grid from natural gas to hydrogen could present the biggest single contribution to meeting that challenge.”
He continues: “We’ve done this before, when we converted the UK from towns gas (containing 50% hydrogen by volume) to natural gas between 1966 and 1977. Converting the natural gas grid to hydrogen is technically possible and it would allow us to make use of the existing assets whilst having a minimal impact on customers versus any alternative decarbonization option.”