Hydrogen can be distributed in Britain’s gas networks, new study finds


Hydrogen ‘deblending’ could enable the distribution of hydrogen in existing gas networks in the UK, new study finds.

The study by construction engineers Costain and the gas networks investigates the concept of ‘deblending’ as a potential solution to distribute hydrogen to support decarbonisation across areas such as power generation, heating, transport and industry.

In this model hydrogen and natural gas flow together in the networks and are then deblended, or separated, using proven oil and gas process technologies in controlled blends to meet different customer requirements. In this way hydrogen could be supplied to those who are ready to receive it and prevented from those who are not.

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Blending hydrogen into the existing natural gas pipeline network to relatively low concentrations, less than 20% hydrogen, has already been proposed as a means of transporting hydrogen without significantly increasing the risks associated with utilisation of the gas blend in end-use devices such as household appliances or the durability and integrity of the existing natural gas pipeline network.

Deblending could provide a means to transition from a 20% to a 100% hydrogen network, providing customers with the options for either pure hydrogen, hydrogen/natural gas blends or natural gas to meet demand in industry, heating, transport and green power generation, according to a statement.

Furthermore, it could help avoid the estimated billions of pounds in cost of building dedicated hydrogen pipelines or other delivery infrastructure during the early market development phase.

“Achieving near 100% decarbonisation of the gas grid will be an essential step in meeting the UK’s commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,” says Rob Phillips, energy sector director at Costain.

“Our expertise in deblending offers yet another low carbon solution that will be key to minimising the cost of decarbonising energy infrastructure.”

H100 project

Costain is participating in various hydrogen development projects, including Scottish Gas Network’s Hydrogen 100 project on the east coast of Scotland, which could deliver the first green hydrogen heating network.

A 2019 roadmap from Costain for the realistic development of hydrogen to “play a significant role” towards Britain’s net zero carbon in 2050 has industrial scale production starting in 2028 and 10 million homes in conurbations using hydrogen by 2050.

The study was funded under the Network Innovation Allowance available for gas and electricity network operators to fund innovative projects which have the potential to deliver benefits to network customers.