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A ground-breaking pilot scheme that could transform the way Britain heats its homes and industry, while tackling climate change, has today (30 November) won £7 million in Ofgem funding.

National Grid Gas Distribution, together with Northern Gas Networks and the HyDeploy Consortium, has been awarded £6.8 million by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition. The funding will be used for a pioneering green heating initiative, using Keele University’s gas network in Staffordshire.

The HyDeploy project aims to inject hydrogen into the existing natural gas network. Hydrogen is a clean, carbon-free gas that does not contribute to climate change.

It would make up a maximum of 20% of the volume of gas in the network. Those using the gas won’t notice any difference to their supply, no changes will be required to gas appliances and it will be no less safe than using natural gas.

If the project is successful, this will enable hydrogen to be blended with natural gas in gas networks across the country. Potentially, the project could prevent 120 million tonnes of carbon reaching the atmosphere by 2050.

The project will help towards the Government’s tough ‘decarbonisation’ targets. It has pledged to cut Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Heating accounts for one third of emissions.

Using Britain’s existing world-class gas network, HyDeploy could pave the way for a clean, low  carbon gas grid, keeping homes warm and powering industry.

David Parkin Director of Network Strategy at National Grid Gas Distribution, said: “Ofgem’s decision to award National Grid £6.8 million recognises the important role for the UK’s world class gas grid in delivering low carbon heat. We believe introducing a hydrogen blend nationally has the potential to save over 6 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year.”

Professor Mark Ormerod, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost of Keele University, said: “Energy and sustainability is a key overarching institutional priority for Keele University, and we are delighted to be a partner in this important, highly relevant and prestigious project. This collaborative project tackles one of the major societal challenges and has the potential to be highly impactful and lead to a significant reduction in carbon emissions”.

Martin Alderson, Asset Management Director for Northern Gas Networks, said: “This is an extremely exciting time for the energy industry.  We believe this project will prove blended hydrogen gas can be distributed and used safely and efficiently in the existing gas network, an essential pre-requisite for the wider deployment of clean, cost-effective hydrogen in the UK gas grid.”

The three-year pilot will start in 2017. The Ofgem funding, together with £760k contributed by National Grid and Northern Gas Networks, will be used to provide hydrogen production and injection facilities at Keele University and to run a rigorous experimental testing and safety programme.

Keele was viewed as the perfect test site for the project. Keele is Britain’s biggest university campus. The university owns and operates its own gas network, which is independent of the national gas network.

Keele University

Keele University’s own gas network will provide the test site for the HyDeploy project.

With more than 340 residential, teaching and business premises, the campus closely resembles a small town.  This project will run on part of the university’s gas network, which supplies 17 buildings and more than 100 homes for researchers and staff.

The project has been developed by National Grid Gas Distribution, Northern Gas Networks and the HyDeploy consortium. The consortium includes Keele University, The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), hydrogen production company ITM Power and clean energy firm Progressive Energy. It is supported by gas experts KIWA Gastec and engineering company Otto Simon.

The successful bids are among a host of initiatives being pursued by National Grid Gas Distribution as part of its ‘Future of Gas’ vision, to see Britain heating its homes, powering its industry and fuelling its vehicles on low carbon – or even no carbon – energy.

The company is exploring low carbon alternatives to natural gas to support the Government in its drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change in an affordable and sustainable way.

Last week the company signed a £6.3m deal to help fund the world’s first commercially operating BioSNG (bio-substitute natural gas) plant in Swindon, which will make gas from household waste.

The facility will accept 10,000 tonnes of waste from the local area and produce enough green gas to heat 1,500 homes or fuel 75 heavy good vehicles. The technology has the potential to provide enough gas to fuel all of Britain’s heavy good vehicles or meet one third of its domestic heating demand.