Green light for cutting-edge hydrogen trial

An innovative green energy trial that could help dramatically cut carbon emissions has been given the go-ahead at Keele University. The HyDeploy project, which could open the door to a low-carbon hydrogen economy and pave the way to saving six million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK every year, has been given the go-ahead by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

In the first trial of its kind in the UK, the HyDeploy project will inject hydrogen into the University’s existing natural gas network. Hydrogen is a carbon-free gas that, when burned, only produces heat and water and has been mooted as a potential solution to tackling one of the country’s biggest sources of carbon emissions – heating homes and businesses, which accounts for nearly half of all energy use in the UK and one third of the country’s carbon emissions.

In a year-long pilot, due to start next year, HyDeploy will blend up to 20% of hydrogen (by volume) with the normal gas supply in part of Keele University’s private gas network, serving 17 faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties. Customers will continue to use gas as they do today, without any changes needed to gas appliances or pipework.

The Keele campus was viewed as the perfect test site, with the University owning and operating its own private gas network, independent of the UK’s wider gas network, as well as the University’s sustainability ethos and expertise. 

The HyDeploy project builds on the University’s other landmark sustainability projects, such as its work with businesses, academics and graduates to create Europe’s first ‘at scale’ smart energy network demonstrator – where new energy-efficient technologies can be researched, developed and tested in a real world environment. 

Last month also saw the launch of the University’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, focusing on the positive impact that research, education and training has on the long-term sustainability of our environments, ecosystems and societies.

Professor Mark Ormerod, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at 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. HyDeploy will tackle one of the major societal challenges and has the potential to be highly impactful and lead to a significant reduction in carbon emissions.”

Backed by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition, the £7million project is being led by gas network Cadent, in partnership with Northern Gas Networks, Keele University and a consortium of technical experts.

Simon Fairman, Director of Safety and Network Strategy, Cadent, said:

“The importance of this trial to the UK is unmeasurable. This is the first ever practical demonstration of hydrogen in the modern gas network in the UK. Hydrogen has the potential to address one of the most difficult sources of carbon emissions – heat. This trial could pave the way for a wider roll out of hydrogen blending, enabling us to begin cutting carbon emissions from heat as early as the mid-2020s, without customers needing to change their gas appliances or behaviour.

“HyDeploy could also prove to be the launch pad for a wider hydrogen economy, fuelling industry and transport and bringing with it new jobs. The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underlines the need for urgent action on carbon emissions and HyDeploy is an important staging post on that journey in the UK.”

Mark Horsley, Chief Executive, Northern Gas Networks, said:

“Hydrogen is a key piece of the decarbonisation jigsaw, and this landmark decision allows us to take a huge leap forwards in terms of its use in meeting climate change targets.

“The HyDeploy project allows us to start making a difference to emissions today and we’re very excited to be a part of it.”