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Ambitious plans to convert significant parts of the UK gas grid to be 100% hydrogen were outlined today.

The proposals are contained in the H21 Leeds City Gate report, which calls for the gas grid to be converted to hydrogen, starting with the Leeds city region and then for conversion to take place across the country incrementally.

The report finds that converting the UK gas grid to hydrogen will be a major step towards meeting the UK’s carbon reduction targets. Currently, over 30% of all UK carbon emissions come from domestic heating and cooking. A UK-wide conversion to hydrogen gas will reduce heat emissions by a minimum of 73% as well as supporting decarbonisation of transport and localised electrical generation.

The report has been launched by the North of England’s gas distributer, Northern Gas Networks (NGN), Kiwa Gastec, Amec Foster Wheeler and Wales & West Utilities.

L-R Mark Lewis, Mark Crowther, Dan Sadler, Alastair Renee and Melanie Taylor at launch of H21 report in London

Dan Sadler, H21 Project Manager at Northern Gas Networks, said:

“A nationwide conversion to a hydrogen gas grid is technically possible, economically viable and will be a significant contributor to meeting the UK’s decarbonisation targets.

 “This is a major opportunity for our country to become a world leader in hydrogen technology and decarbonisation and would create thousands of new jobs across the UK.”

The report says that a hydrogen gas grid could use the existing underground gas pipes already installed in the UK, and that household appliances can be converted to run on hydrogen with far less disruption and expense than converting to alternative energy sources.

Dan Sadler said: “Households won’t be required to buy new appliances. The conversion process will be similar to that carried out in the 1960s and 70s when 40 million appliances across 14 million households were converted from town gas to natural gas. We’d have special teams, working street by street to make the conversion as smooth as possible for customers with minimal impact in the homes and the highways”.

Welcoming the report, Department for Energy and Climate Change Chief Scientific Adviser John Loughhead OBE, said: “Meeting the challenge of the Climate Change Act is a huge technical and business challenge. The H21 Leeds City Gate project has usefully explored one possible contribution to meeting this challenge. DECC, and wider UK government, are looking forward to seeing the full findings of the project in the final report.”

H21 says the project would be funded through regulatory business plans. This would allow the costs to be paid back over time and, alongside energy efficiency measures, would have a minimal impact on household energy bills. This is the same methodology as that adopted for the original town gas to natural gas conversion during the 1960s and 70s.