This Village in England Is Already Using Hydrogen to Heat Homes
(Bloomberg) -- A village in northeast England is using hydrogen for heating and cooking, marking a key milestone in Britain’s efforts to find ways to slash climate-warming emissions.
Since August, a blend of 20% hydrogen and 80% natural gas has been piped through the public network supplying 668 homes, a school and some small businesses in Winlaton, a village about 7 miles (11 kilometers) east of Newcastle. The project, called HyDeploy, is the first time blended hydrogen has been used on the U.K. grid.
Hydrogen emits nothing but steam when burned, making it a much cleaner alternative to gas and seen by some as crucial to meeting the U.K.’s plan to eliminate greenhouse gases. Heating homes and buildings is currently responsible for a third of Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions and using hydrogen would be a quick reduction.
“The project will provide more vital evidence about the possibilities of blending hydrogen into the natural gas network across the U.K., as a stepping-stone to decarbonizing heat,” said Tim Harwood, head of program management at Northern Gas Networks Ltd., a regional pipeline manager involved in HyDeploy.
Winlaton is the second phase of the pilot project and will run through June. The first saw 100 homes and about 30 commercial buildings on a closed network at Keele University in England use blended hydrogen for 18 months which ended in March. The government has set out a pathway to having the first 100% hydrogen-fueled town by 2030.
Energy analysts expect prices for hydrogen technology to plunge, but more testing is needed to ensure hydrogen is viable on a commercial scale. Hydrogen boilers will cost households more over their lifetime than either heat pumps, which use electricity to absorb heat from the air, or the natural gas boilers that heat most U.K. homes, according to BloombergNEF.
Blended hydrogen is a step toward full hydrogen networks, but it has a low impact on emissions -- a 20% blend by volume cuts CO2 emissions by only 7%, according to BNEF. Higher blends of hydrogen require upgrading pipelines and appliances.
Still, the government lauded the fuel as vital to U.K. efforts to cut emissions in its hydrogen strategy published last month. That outline sees industrial processes forming the bulk of hydrogen demand over the next decade rather than heating.
A forthcoming heat and buildings strategy is expected to address home heating in more detail.
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