UK Homes Could Be Heated By Hydrogen!
By Paul Homewood
Little Emily reports in the Telegraph:
UK households could start heating their homes and cooking using ‘green’ hydrogen gas within a decade, under a radical new plan to tackle climate change by phasing out the use of natural gas.
The entire gas network for the city of Leeds, including all domestic gas boilers and cookers, would be converted to run on clean-burning hydrogen under the proposed world-first project.
The plans to make Leeds a “hydrogen city” would cost an estimated £2 billion, according to Northern Gas Networks (NGN), which is responsible for distributing gas across northern England and has received funding from energy regulator Ofgem to develop the idea.
It hopes Leeds could be converted by 2025-30 and that the model could then be replicated in other major cities across the UK.
More than 80 per cent of UK homes currently use natural gas for their heating, with many using it for cooking too.
This presents a major obstacle to Britain hitting its climate change targets, because natural gas consists primarily of methane, which when burnt produces carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that causes global warming.
Experts say alternative sources of home heating will need to be found if Britain is to comply with its Climate Change Act, which requires an 80 per cent cut in emissions on 1990 levels by 2050.
NGN says one solution may be to use pure hydrogen, which is more environmentally-friendly than natural gas because it produces only water and heat when burnt.
The company is working to redesign the Leeds gas network to build a series of “steam methane reformer” plants around the city, taking methane from the national gas grid and converting it into hydrogen by removing the carbon.
The carbon would then be disposed of using carbon capture and storage technology, for example by pumping it into a disused North Sea gas field, while the hydrogen would be transported to households and businesses in Leeds.
“Households in Leeds could potentially cook and heat their homes using pure hydrogen within 10 – 15 years,” a spokesman for NGN said.
Although this would require the conversion of all household gas appliances, the company believes this is not an insurmountable task, likening it to the nationwide programme to convert boilers and cookers from towns gas to natural gas in the sixties and seventies, following the discovery of North Sea reserves.
Boilers would need to be converted or replaced. Credit: Christopher Jones
It says hydrogen “poses no significant increase in risk to methane”, and that challenges such as the fact hydrogen burns with a barely visible light blue flame “could be managed through appliance design”.
Residents would not have to foot the upfront cost of the appliance conversions, with the bill for the entire scheme instead being paid for gradually on energy bills, it suggests.
A key advantage would be that gas distribution pipe network infrastructure would need minimal modification, because old metal pipes are already being replaced with plastic ones which NGN says are suitable for carrying hydrogen.
Energy industry sources say sticking with a form of gas heating would also be less disruptive for consumers than other alternatives to natural gas heating, such as installing renewable biomass boilers or ‘heat pumps’, which can be bulky and impractical in cities.
While the idea has gained little publicity to date, the Committee on Climate Change – the Government’s official advisers – also suggest it could be a credible proposition.
A spokesman for the CCC said research it had commissioned concluding that “hydrogen has the potential to make a significant contribution to future decarbonisation”, although it was thought to be an expensive option.
Mark Horsley, chief executive of Northern Gas Networks said: “Hydrogen cities are a potential game changer for decarbonisation of energy and could be one energy solution as we start to realise the challenges of affordability, decarbonisation and security of supply, significantly improving the UK’s chances of meeting the challenge of the Climate Change Act.”
A spokesman for the Energy Networks Association said use of “green gas”, such as hydrogen, had “exciting potential” and that the Leeds project would be a “blue print which would be transferable to other UK cities where the decarbonisation of heat and transportation is more challenging but also provides the biggest return on carbon reduction”.
The project has so far received almost £300,000 funding from Ofgem for work on initial desktop studies, which are due to be published later this year. It is now seeking £55 million funding to develop a “roadmap to hydrogen” with further studies before any decision is taken on converting Leeds.
Lucky Leeds! There are 320,000 households in Leeds, so £2 billion works out at £6250 each. Rolled out nationally, the cost would be £162 billion.
It obviously has not occurred to dear little Emily to ask who is going to pay for all of this. All we are told is that the lucky householders will have to pay for the cost of converting their boilers and ovens “gradually on their energy bills”.
But the cost does not stop there. Now I am not a scientist, and you can shoot me down in flames here, but I somehow don’t believe that you can take natural gas and turn it into hydrogen AT NO COST. And I wonder who will end up paying for that?
I also strongly suspect such a process will be pretty energy intensive, which begs the question where will that energy come from?
The fact that apparently officialdom is actually looking at this barking proposal is an indication of the lack of alternatives to tackle emissions from domestic use. According to DECC, emissions from domestic users, (excl electricity), amounted to 12% in 2014. A more typical figure is around 14%, as 2014 was an unusually mild year.
Indeed there is little evidence of any real long tern decline. Given projected population growth, energy use in households is more likely to increase in the long term.
Talk about Alice in Wonderland!
According to the report, the fact that hydrogen burns with a barely visible light blue flame “could be managed through appliance design”.
But what happens in the meantime until you buy your new oven? How many people will be burnt or have their houses set on fire?