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Pioneering plans to convert significant parts of the UK gas grid to be 100% hydrogen were presented in the North of England on Thursday, 6th October.

The proposals, which were unveiled to stakeholders from across the region by gas distributer, Northern Gas Networks (NGN), 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 incrementally across the country.

NGN: The stakeholder event for the H21 project at Whitecloth gallery, Leeds, West Yorks., October 6 2016.

Left to right Mark Lewis, Low Carbon Consultant, Tees Valley Combined Authority, Cllr Lucinda Yeadon, Deputy Leader, Leeds City Council, Paul Hamer, Leeds City Region LEP Board, Gareth Mills and Dan Sadler of NGN

More than 50 stakeholders from the worlds of local authority, business and further education across Yorkshire and Teesside were welcomed to Leeds, to learn more about the next steps for the project and further explore the economic opportunities for the North that the study presents.

This regional launch follows the national launch event in Westminster in July where it was revealed 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 North of England’s geology means it is uniquely positioned to undergo conversion, and the region would be the main beneficiary for the thousands of jobs created, potentially becoming an anchor project for the Northern Powerhouse.

H21 proposes that conversion to hydrogen in Leeds takes place as early as 2026-29, followed by a rollout across the UK that can be implemented as fast or slow as required.

Leeds, as the third largest city in the UK, has been identified as the most suitable area to start conversion to a hydrogen grid, due to its significant energy demand and geographical location. It has also received significant backing from local authorities and businesses including Leeds City Council, the Leeds City Region LEP and Tees Valley Unlimited LEP.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for environment and sustainability said: “We’re already looking at cutting emissions in a variety of ways so transforming Leeds into a hydrogen city would be a bold step. It represents a massive opportunity for the city and the north of England to lead a transition to a clean, low carbon economy.

“Leeds is the ideal city to test the concept as we’re in the perfect location with a wealth of research, innovation and skills on our doorstep.

“It was massively encouraging to hear the enthusiasm and interest in the project and we look forward to exploring the options further.”

Dan Sadler, H21 Project Manager at Northern Gas Networks, said: “It was fantastic to be able to share the report findings with so many influencers in the region and discuss and debate the opportunities for the North of England.

“To date there has never been a holistic solution presented to decarbonise heat in the UK. Converting the UK gas grid to hydrogen, starting with the network in Leeds, will be a major step towards meeting the UK’s carbon reduction targets and H21 could be that solution.

“Furthermore, a hydrogen gas network could become an anchor for further innovations in the sector, and in other industries such as transport and electricity generation. It’s an exciting opportunity for the North.”