Gas experts hold first UK ‘live-fire’ demonstration to show feasibility of hydrogen in de-carbonising domestic heating

DNV GL hydrogen gas deflagration test explosion.
The DNV GL hydrogen gas deflagration test explosion.

Oil-and-gas industry consultancy and bench-mark provider DNV-GL has held its first UK ‘live-firing’ exercise to demonstrate the safety of hydrogen as an alternative fuel to de-carbonise UK domestic heating.

It was the first event held in the UK to host 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 detonate-ability where a gas mixture involving 400g of hydrogen in air was initiated with a small explosive charge.

More than 80 energy experts from industry and academia in the UK and overseas gathered to discuss upcoming plans for UK decarbonisation 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.

DNV GL organised the event at its research facility in Cumbria as part of a seminar on developing a safe hydrogen fuel network.

Gary Tomlin, DNV GL Vice-President, Safety and Risk, said: “The event really demonstrated the viability and use-ability of hydrogen as a fuel as we move towards a lower carbon future.

DNV GL's Dan Allason introduces the hydrogen detonation demonstration
DNV GL’s Dan Allason introduces the hydrogen detonation demonstration in Cumbria.

“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 projects 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, gave a presentation on NGN’s H21 Leeds project which has demonstrated that large-scale UK gas grid conversion from natural gas to hydrogen is both technically feasible and economically viable.

He also confirmed that the Great Britain gas distribution networks will be submitting a Network Innovation Competition bid to 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 2020s.  He added:

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 de-carbonisation option.

“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.

See also:

Leeds-city study shows that using hydrogen (and storing carbon) could cut UK heating emissions by 70%

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