UK leads race for hydrogen heating

Behind industry and ground transport, household boilers are the third biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the UK and also account for an estimated 60% of the country’s domestic carbon emissions. It is, therefore, somehow fitting that the UK is now fast emerging as the front runner in the race to develop hydrogen heating alternatives, and in the past few days two projects – one in eastern Scotland and the other in north east England – have brought it closer to that goal. In Scotland, gas network operator SGN has submitted plans for an ‘education and presentation centre’ showing how hydrogen could be used to heat homes instead of natural gas, while across the border, more than 650 homes in a small village near Newcastle will become the first on the UK’s public gas grid to be heated partially by hydrogen.

SGN Hydrogen Heating project LevenmouthKnown as H100 Fife and supported by funding from national energy regulator Ofgem, the Scottish Government and several other UK gas distribution networks, SGN’s hydrogen heating project is set to be one of the first tangible affirmations of Scotland’s ambition to become one of the world’s leading hydrogen nations. Holyrood has set an annual generation target of 5GW of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen by 2030 – enough to power the equivalent of 1.8 million homes – and last month earmarked £100 million ($136m) to the hydrogen sector over the next five years to finance its contribution to Scotland’s drive towards net zero carbon emissions. Economic impact research suggests the industry has the potential to be worth up to £25 billion a year to the Scottish economy by 2045.

“We are the first country in the UK to publish a Hydrogen Policy Statement that sets out how we can make the most of Scotland’s massive potential in this new sector,” said Scotland’s Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse. “Hydrogen [heating] is rapidly emerging across the international community as a sustainable solution for the decarbonisation of the economy and a key element of the energy transition picture. Scotland is prepared to play its full part together with other European nations.”

“Scotland has, in abundance, all the raw ingredients necessary for the production of low-cost hydrogen as well as one of the largest concentrations of offshore engineering expertise in the world that can harness Scotland’s renewable energy potential in technologies like wind, wave and tidal power, to produce green hydrogen.”

H100 Fife’s model homes will be decked out to look like a typical family dwelling and will feature hydrogen-powered domestic appliances such as hobs and boilers. SGN aims to have the project up and running before it begins work on the other part of the project: a hydrogen production and storage facility that will power up to 300 homes in the Levenmouth area.
Some 150 miles down the UK’s east coast in the small village of Winlaton near Newcastle, meanwhile, more than 650 homes will
become the first on the UK’s public gas grid to be heated partially by hydrogen. Towards the end of March, as much as  20% hydrogen will be blended into the natural gas network that serves the village in what is hoped will help prove that hydrogen can help reduce the climate impact of buildings in the UK. If successful, the initiative could pave the way for public trials using 100% hydrogen heating.