National Grid investigates hydrogen ‘backbone’ in UK

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National Grid has launched Project Union investigating development of a hydrogen network linking industrial clusters across the UK and beyond.

Project Union envisages repurposing around 25% of the current gas transmission pipelines to create a 2,000km hydrogen network for the UK by around 2030.

This backbone would connect the Grangemouth, Teesside and Humberside clusters in the north of England and Scotland, as well as linking up with the South Wales, Southampton and the North West clusters.

National Grid anticipates the backbone could carry at least a quarter of the current gas demand in Great Britain today and provide resilience and storage.

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“Hydrogen has a critical role to play as we transition to a cleaner energy future. The potential is exciting, and a hydrogen backbone to support the industrial clusters could accelerate the roll-out,” says Antony Green, Hydrogen Project Director at National Grid.

“But there is a lot of work to find the most economic way to repurpose our assets and how we might develop a phased conversion to develop a hydrogen network for the UK.”

With funding from the regulator Ofgem, National Grid is undertaking the feasibility phase of Project Union, which includes identifying pipeline routes, assessing the readiness of existing gas assets and determining a transition plan for assets in a way that supports the government net zero ambition.

Project Union will explore how to start to convert pipelines in a phased approach that aligns with the government’s ambition to produce 5GW of low carbon hydrogen by 2030.

The study also will also look at how to connect the backbone to the existing interconnectors coming into the Bacton gas terminal in Norfolk, which would link the UK and European hydrogen networks and open up potential future import and export of hydrogen.

A link to the Isle of Grain on the Thames estuary, where National Grid’s Project Cavendish is investigating its potential as a location for hydrogen production and storage, is another key component.