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Govt To Reignite Hideously Expensive Hydrogen Gas Plan

September 3, 2017

By Paul Homewood



h/t Patsy Lacey



It appears the fruitloops really are in charge, as dozy Jillian Ambrose reports:



Ministers are expected to reignite plans for a £50bn hydrogen overhaul of the country’s gas grid to help strip harmful carbon emissions from the ­energy system.

Within weeks the Government will publish a long-delayed strategy to clean up emissions from the country’s heat, transport and industrial sectors in a multi-billion pound energy evolution as radical as the power sector’s move from fossil fuels to renewables.


The plan could usher in an ambitious move to convert the nation’s boilers to run on lower-carbon hydrogen rather than methane-rich natural gas.


Experts say this could slash carbon emissions from heating by more than 70pc at the lowest possible cost. But it would still require £50bn and add £170 to gas bills every year by 2050.

A report from KPMG found that converting the UK gas grid to use hydrogen could be £150bn to £200bn cheaper than rewiring British homes to use electric heating powered by lower-carbon sources.

Crucially, the consultants said ­hydrogen heating would be the least hassle for energy customers because very few appliances would need to be replaced. The existing gas grid would need only minor upgrades because it was originally designed for hydrogen, the report added.

Natural gas has been used to heat homes since the North Sea oil and gas heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But for 100 years before then the country ran on “town gas” which is mostly hydrogen with smaller quantities of carbon monoxide and methane.

A return to hydrogen heating is ­already being trialled by Northern Gas Networks which is working to transform Leeds to become a “hydrogen city” by the late 2020s.

But green groups have warned that waiting at least a decade for hydrogen heating is a high-risk option which could make meeting climate targets even more difficult.

The report is already over a year late. A government spokesman declined to comment on when the report will be published.

It is worth emphasising that even this horrifyingly expensive scheme is said to be £150bn to £200bn cheaper than rewiring British homes to use electric heating powered by lower-carbon sources. This should be frightening in itself.


But let’s go back to basics.

Jillian Ambrose claims that it will cost £50bn and add £170 to annual household gas bills. However, this is not the whole story.

As the Telegraph reported last year, the Leeds pilot trial would cost £2bn, which based on 320,000 households equates to £6250 each. Therefore applied to the country as a whole, we would be looking at a total capital cost of £144bn. (This assumes 4 million homes without access to the gas grid).

So why the big discrepancy? Simply that the £50bn only covers the cost of converting 17 cities by 2050. Two thirds of the country won’t be converted, and will either have to carry on using natural gas, or electrify.

As for the extra annual running cost, the Telegraph also told us last year that the Leeds pilot would add £139 million of annual running costs. This equates to £434 per household.

The lower figure of £170 again arises because only a third of the country is to be converted. Even this equates to £4bn a year.

These extra running costs arise because of the need to convert natural gas into hydrogen. For instance, it has been estimated that hydrogen produced by steam reformation costs approximately three times the cost of natural gas per unit of energy produced. The estimate is an old one, but the principle remains the same.

These huge and horrifying costs will therefore only save a third of domestic gas demand, which itself only accounts for 60% of total UK gas consumption.

The residential sector, including all fuels, only accounts for 16% of total UK CO2 emissions. And only about half of that comes from gas.

So we plan to spend billions to save a tiny fraction of our emissions.

In global terms, the UK consumes just 2% of the world’s total of gas.



And, of course, the steam reforming process still emits large amounts of CO2 anyway, both from the splitting of the methane, and from the energy needed to provide the heat for the process.

As Lord Oxburgh pointed out in his report to Parliament last year, “Lowest Cost Decarbonisation for the UK: The Critical Role of CCS”, with regard to hydrogen for heat:


All of this, even if feasible, will cost billions more.



In other words, we are expected to pay £50bn, plus an extra £4bn a year on our bills, just so that we can cut emissions of CO2 by, if we are lucky, 2%.

But even then green groups don’t think that is enough, and that waiting at least a decade for hydrogen heating is a high-risk option which could make meeting climate targets even more difficult.

It appears that they would much prefer the even more expensive option of total electrification.

The Telegraph says the government report is already over a year late. I am not surprised.

I highly suspect that the costings are so outrageous, and the sheer logistics so ridiculous, that nobody in the government wants to publish it. We can expect much watering down of the proposals, and tampering with the costings to make them slightly less disagreeable.

And then it will be wrapped up in hopelessly make believe assumptions that some new wonderful smart technology will come along to save us all eventually.

And then we will sail blindly on.

In other words, nothing will change.

  1. Bruce of Newcastle permalink
    September 3, 2017 9:58 pm

    So the government wants to pipe a highly explosive gas to houses throughout the country?
    What could possibly go wrong with that?

    At least it would increase jobs…in the police, intelligence and hospital emergency departments.

    • HotScot permalink
      September 3, 2017 10:06 pm


      Read what it says. Piping hydrogen into every home in the UK is what we used to do.

      We turned to natural gas, but now governments have found a more profitable means of punishing it’s electorate, hydrogen gas is, once again, on the menu.

      • Bruce of Newcastle permalink
        September 4, 2017 4:36 am

        That was town gas, a mix of H2, CH4 and CO. Furthermore two things have changed since then: the invention of the cash machine and the rise of suicide bombing.

        Cash machines will go extinct when every crook has the wherewithal to blow them open at will.

      • Ian permalink
        September 4, 2017 7:13 am

        If I recall correctly, when the conversion from the wet (ie relatively self-sealing) coal gas source to natural gas took place, leakage was a major problem when the pipes dried out. Hydrogen is far more searching than natural gas, even if most of the infrastructure has been replaced since coal gas conversion.

    • Joe Public permalink
      September 3, 2017 10:33 pm

      There are many different factors to consider.

      Versus nat gas, H2 has much wider flammability and explosive limits, but its ignition energy is considerably lower.

      As the lightest gas, it vents most easily, but is also likeliest to leak most easily. Especially if distributed at a higher pressure than natural gas.

      Click to access h2_safety_fsheet.pdf

      Factoid of the day: It wasn’t a nuclear explosion that blew roofs off 2 of Fukushima’s nuclear containment buildings, it was hydrogen explosions.

      • Nordisch-geo-climber permalink
        September 4, 2017 8:24 am

        A friend of mine is a gas distribution engineer for the north-east region of England. I won’t mention the company, you can guess which. He explained to me a couple of years ago that almost 20% of the gas in their system is lost due to leakage.

      • Joe Public permalink
        September 4, 2017 9:37 am

        Nordisch-geo-climber – September 4, 2017 8:24 am

        “A friend of mine is a gas distribution engineer for the north-east region of England. ………He explained to me a couple of years ago that almost 20% of the gas in their system is lost due to leakage.”

        Being polite, that simply isn’t credible, by ~2 orders of magnitude.

        See National Grid’s ‘Unaccounted for Gas Report’, Gas Transmission, April 2017:


        Click to access Chapter_4.pdf

        UK Gas leakage rate 0.19% Table 4.36/7 page106

        Alternatively, your friend’s region may suffer an unbelievably phenomenal amount of gas theft.

      • Nordisch-geo-climber permalink
        September 4, 2017 11:43 am

        I would not wish to invent a fake story. This came from the horse’s mouth – a guy who had been given responsibility for all of North-east England, and it was about two years ago. It is possible he was referring to a restricted part of the network or perhaps the worst individual local area, but I recall he used the number which may have been about ca. 19% in the context of the whole region.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        September 4, 2017 1:15 pm

        My gas main was so gas tight that it filled with water and the remaining gas pressure barely made it past the burners. We were shut down for nearly 5 days while they looked for the leak in the new gas main. There is a clue there about infrastructure – the original town gas mains have been replaced in a large percentage of the country.

  2. Joe Public permalink
    September 3, 2017 10:23 pm

    ” The existing gas grid would need only minor upgrades because it was originally designed for hydrogen, the report added.

    …….. But for 100 years before then the country ran on “town gas” which is mostly hydrogen with smaller quantities of carbon monoxide and methane.”

    The first statement is bullshit.

    The calorific value per m3 of Hydrogen is less than 1/3rd that of natural gas.

    The main reason Britain converted all its appliances to burn natural gas as a one-off exercise, rather than continuously ‘convert’ nat gas to burn in then-existing towns-gas appliances, was that the heat-carrying capacity of our gas infrastructure was doubled overnight. Towns gas was ~500 btu/ft3 vs nat gas at ~1,028 btu/ft3 (In those days units were still imperial)

    One has to wonder if those ‘experts’ have taken into consideration the fact that converting a natural gas distribution system to hydrogen distribution slashes its heat-carrying capacity by 2/3rds.

    That’s both the pipelines/storage/pressure-reduction-stations etc, AND, customers’ own pipework in their homes, factories & offices.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      September 3, 2017 10:29 pm

      Since the move to natural gas back in the 1960s and 70s, the pipes of the gird have been progressively replaced with polythene. That will be permeable to hydrogen. The grid is no longer designed to carry town gas.

    • dave permalink
      September 4, 2017 8:26 am

      “…smaller quantities of carbon monoxide…”

      Otherwise known as one of the deadliest poisons in the world!

  3. Graeme No.3 permalink
    September 3, 2017 10:27 pm

    Replacing natural gas with hydrogen at 3 times (minimum) the cost to save what percentage of world emissions?

    And is The Telegraph advocating the addition of something to make the hydrogen flame visible?

  4. TedL permalink
    September 3, 2017 10:28 pm

    Widespread use of hydrogen will be associated with abundant leakage of hydrogen gas into the atmosphere, especially if electrolysis of water is distributed among wind and solar farms. Hydrogen gas is lighter than air. Thus the leakage will rise through the atmosphere until it reaches the stratosphere, where it will react with the ozone, reducing the protective effect of that gas, and creating water vapor, which will promptly freeze into little crystals of ice, changing the Earth’s albedo. I’m not sure that is preferable.

    • Matt permalink
      September 4, 2017 9:36 am

      Thanks for the thought experiment on what happens to leaking H2, hadn’t been aware of that downside before.
      In the electrolysis assumption, I admire your optimism (!)
      I don’t think the plan is to use electrolysis, as that would be a catastrophically inefficient use of (renewably generated but finite in capacity) electricity. Would be significantly more efficient to simply install resistance heaters in all the housing stock and “burn” the (already highly portable) electrons directly rather than via the medium of H2.
      No, the only way this makes any sense is if they plan to generate hydrogen from methane. Which also makes no sense unless you’re a natural gas producer.
      Wonder where the study came from / how it was funded..?

  5. Curious George permalink
    September 3, 2017 11:45 pm

    This plan should contain an additional expense for planting 500 million hydrogen-producing trees. The Greenpeace is already attempting to develop them (in an absolute secrecy, as usual). A war will be declared on Argentina to obtain space for this plantation.

  6. September 4, 2017 6:06 am

    I think the Telegraph made a mistake. It intended to publish the article on 1st April 2018.

  7. Andrew permalink
    September 4, 2017 6:42 am

    I remember reading that the UK is sitting on the largest reserves of ‘fracking gas’ in Europe. Converting to hydrogen is madness.

  8. Dearden, John permalink
    September 4, 2017 7:21 am

    I like the bit about hydrogen being lower carbon than methane. The clue, Jillian, is in the formula, H2. No C, see.

    John Dearden


  9. Clive Pett permalink
    September 4, 2017 7:45 am

    This increases the need to switch to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles rather than electric as if plants are producing hydrogen for heating etc then they can produce liquid hydrogen for vehicles.

  10. Rudolph Hucker permalink
    September 4, 2017 7:54 am

    Save time and money, get cracking with the fracking! and reduce the country’s huge debt.

  11. Athelstan permalink
    September 4, 2017 7:57 am

    Experts say this could slash carbon emissions from heating by more than 70pc at the lowest possible cost. But it would still require £50bn and add £170 to gas bills every year by 2050.

    Who pens this dribble, don’t they read it back to themselves [ok I tend not to but then I ain’t being printed in a ‘National Daily’].


    “HYDROGEN”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…………………….Are they fooking mad?

    Kitchen sink stats from the Toyland auditors and with their crackpot simply mad ideas, mix in a few Green druggies and blimey that’s a totally mental cocktail.

    • Ian permalink
      September 4, 2017 8:50 am

      And don’t forget that the basic assumption is that CO2 is a problem. If this could be addresses properly, all the rest would be irrelevant.

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      September 4, 2017 11:55 am


  12. Matt permalink
    September 4, 2017 8:09 am

    I agree that this seems like the wrong move entirely.
    Check out google’s Dandelion – they just launched in parts of the US with an offer to convert homes to geothermal / heat pump technology for zero cost down, plus immediate running cost savings. It’s uses renewable geothermal heat, and even the electricity input will increasingly be based on renewables – through the greening of the grid and increasingly through domestic PV installations.
    However on day 1 it would be much more efficient, and less carbon intensive, than gas heating.
    This Hydrogen plan sounds like it was dreamed up – and lobbied – by the fossil fuel cartel, as you point out it does nothing to get us off FF. Indeed 95% of hydrogen produced today comes from *adding energy* to FF!

    • September 4, 2017 9:37 pm

      “Google Dandelion” sounds like wishful thinking.
      If such ideas worked without a SUBSIDY then big corps would be already doing them.

  13. September 4, 2017 9:07 am

    If there’s a really large increase in gas prices people will choose. or switch to, electricity in droves.

    • dave permalink
      September 4, 2017 9:24 am

      Some of these econuts seriously want the gas network to 23 million people to be ABANDONED. It is just like diesel cars:

      You lot! Get into diesel cars! Now, abandon them! What? Get out and walk!

      It is always about the 80% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050.

      One thing is absolutely clear. A ‘hydrogen economy’ has to use PURE hydrogen, made God only knows how.

  14. CheshireRed permalink
    September 4, 2017 9:13 am

    It’s almost as if we’re deliberately using only the most expensive and complex options whilst fastidiously ignoring all cheap and simple opportunities. All this to ‘save’ an amount of CO2 that is utterly meaningless on a global scale, especially when compared to future accelerating emissions from China and India.
    It is beyond comprehension how our ‘leaders’ can be so recklessly stupid.

    • dave permalink
      September 4, 2017 9:30 am

      They truly believe that the world will end if ‘harmful emissions’ of CO2 continue. Now how anybody can believe that is an enigma hidden in a mystery concealed with a veil.

      • Athelstan permalink
        September 4, 2017 10:47 am

        No, they [communists] don’t believe in the warmist mythology, this is more about control deindustrialization Mao called in his “cultural revolution” we named it megalomania bringing mass death, cold kills they know it and that’s the END – point.

      • dave permalink
        September 4, 2017 11:06 am

        It is a composite belief. ‘They’ DO believe in the warmist mythology, largely BECAUSE it fits with their ‘cod Marxism’ – namely, that anything invented in a Capitalist system is evil. It is only ‘cod Marxism,’ because Marx actually admired the solutions to practical problems that Capitalism came up with.

  15. Jack Broughton permalink
    September 4, 2017 9:15 am

    the economics of the mad house depending on even more imported gas …. but, who would have thought that our government would commit to electric cars without proper discussion??? Be very afraid, the inmates have truly taken over!

  16. Joe Public permalink
    September 4, 2017 9:50 am

    Then there’s the ‘minor’ issue of at a stroke reducing GB’s already-critical-now-Rough-will-close gas storage capacity by >66%.


  17. Max Sawyer permalink
    September 4, 2017 10:58 am

    Yet again – repeal the Climate Change Act and let common sense rather than virtue signalling rule. Unfortunately, our political pygmies lack the courage.

  18. Grimwig permalink
    September 4, 2017 11:55 am

    Obviously our politicians and civil servants are totally barking mad and the journalists (most of them) semi-literate unquestioning dolts.

  19. Andrew permalink
    September 4, 2017 1:32 pm

    There have been some comments on switching from gas to electricity. Maybe my deal isn’t typical but I pay 2.3p/KWh for gas and 9.8p/KWh for electricity and I use about 50% more gas energy. Moving away from natural gas, to hydrogen or electricity and even without all the massive costs and problems that would entail, is clearly going to have a huge impact on household finances. More fuel poverty. I can’t see how they’ll ever be able to do it without stirring up the masses. And they can’t blame the power companies forever.

    • Rowland H permalink
      September 5, 2017 9:49 am

      Lucky you! I’m paying double that for electricity (we have oil heating) including the iniquitous standing charge in Wiltshire.

  20. Vernon E permalink
    September 4, 2017 1:54 pm

    Coincidentally, I quote from the editorial (one Mr Adam Duckett) in this month’s The Chemical Engineer “The hydrogen economy has long been touted as a game changer, and if the UK breaks cover first it has the chance to lead the development of new industry, new jobs and expertise for export” .Wow, what planet do these people live on? I have, of course, referred said Mr Duckett to Paul’s site

    By the way, anyone considering hydrogen embrittlement (of steel of course)..

    • Jack Broughton permalink
      September 5, 2017 10:16 am

      The I.Chem. E. have implemented a policy of not printing anything against the “proven science”: once again the lunatics have taken over. Adam is but a cog in the gearbox of knowledge-control-freaks running this once proud institution. I resigned after Adam told me that they would not publish my letter because of “policy”.

  21. prismsuk permalink
    September 4, 2017 2:04 pm

    Using electric space and water heating would probably boost electricity usage for the average UK home from 4,000 kWh to 12,000 kWh per year. This is is keeping with the anticipated need to boost electricity transmission from 80 GW now to 320 GW in 2080, to fully decarbonise the energy system [not mobile].

    Can we anticipate a 300 Amp cable popping up into our homes through the redundant domestic gas pipelines?

    Paul Howarth, the CEO of the National Nuclear Laboratory seems to think this uprating of the National Grid is already written into the Governments ‘Industrial Strategy’ – now it’s all linked within 1 department – BEIS.

    It means “we [the UK] are going back to the top table as far as Nuclear is concerned”:

  22. Robert Christopher permalink
    September 4, 2017 2:37 pm

    Someone has done some thinking – and they have written it down for others to ignore, I expect:
    Conversion of the UK gas system to transport hydrogen
    by Paul E.Dodds and Stéphanie Demoullin
    International Journal of Hydrogen Energy
    Volume 38, Issue 18, 18 June 2013, Pages 7189-7200
    • We assess the potential benefits of converting the UK gas network to deliver hydrogen.
    • We review the technical feasibility using interviews and a literature review.
    • A national program would be required to convert all UK gas appliances and meters.
    • We examine the economic benefits of conversion using the UK MARKAL energy model.
    • The lowest-cost decarbonisation strategy uses hydrogen fuel cell micro-CHP.

    • dave permalink
      September 4, 2017 4:21 pm

      A hundred thousand kilometers of recently installed (last forty years) underground, plastic pipeline in the low-pressure distribution network would have to be ripped up, FIRST, as it does not have the right, TESTED, inner lining for carrying hydrogen. This would take forty years more, plus another forty years for the old iron and steel pipelines. ‘Feasibilty’ means knowing what the f**k you are doing before you start doing anything.

    • Joe Public permalink
      September 4, 2017 5:18 pm

      Thanks for the link, Robert.

      The paper states:

      ‘Peak gas demands are currently met by using the current pipe network as a short-term storage reservoir. The volume of gas maintained in a pipeline network during normal operation is commonly called the linepack. The linepack capacity of the network for hydrogen is more than four times smaller than for natural gas as it depends only on the relative volumetric energy densities of the two fuels [17]. There is uncertainty about whether the network operators would be able to follow current natural gas operating practices for hydrogen, or whether additional storage would be required.”

      Conspicuous by its absence is any reference to medium- and long-term (energy) storage capacities, which are similarly detrimentally affected.

      Since that paper was written, Rough storage will now be closed, with the loss of over 40TWh of capacity.

      [NB Energy storage capacity of hydrogen per unit volume is more than four times smaller than for natural gas; but hydrogen’s energy flow-rate capacity per unit volume is just 80% of that of nat gas]

    • A C Osborn permalink
      September 4, 2017 5:24 pm

      That is an interesting study, but I can’t agree on the savings in Hydrogen use over Nat Gas, as it will take more Hydrogen to do the same amount of work.
      Definitely some blue sky thinking going on there, especially converting to electric heating which would be much more expensive.

  23. Douglas Brodie permalink
    September 4, 2017 5:09 pm

    I recently did some “back of envelope” calculations, based on the government’s own statistics, to show how totally infeasible the 80% decarbonisation plans are. I worked it out assuming electrification of domestic heating rather than using hydrogen but to a rough approximation I doubt if there is much difference. My calculations also covered electrification of road transport.

    I sent it as an email to various ministers and am waiting for their replies with bated breath.

    The text of my email is available here:

  24. Edward Cook permalink
    September 4, 2017 6:23 pm

    H2 is a tiny tiny molecule compared to methane requiring the highest of tolerences on all and every single fitting which would all have to be replaced. Hydrogen detectors in every house for the LEL. All installed by the lowest cost bidder. The fire service will be busy.

  25. September 4, 2017 8:35 pm

    Daft for at least four reasons. 1.1/3 the energy means the pipeline network capacity needs to be increased 3x. 2. Leaks through anything, including solid steel containers. Only question is the rate. 3. If from electrolysis, scale requires nucs. Why not just build the nucs and go to resistive heating/induction cooking? Skip the distribution problem. 4. If watershift from methane, there is no practically feasible CCS, as both Kemper in Mississippi and Boundary Dam in Alberta have nicely demonstrated.
    You all need to start draining your climate/energy swamp before its too late and people start dying from bureaucratic incompetence.

    • Joe Public permalink
      September 4, 2017 10:08 pm

      “1/3 the energy means the pipeline network capacity needs to be increased 3x”

      Only true for its line-pack storage capacity, NOT for energy flow-rate.

      See my reply to Robert Christopher above.

      Flow *rate* is inversely proportional to specific gravity, and hydrogen’s is far lower than that of natural gas.

      “The energy carrying capacity of hydrogen is about 20–30% less for a pipeline of the same pipe diameter and pressure drop than for natural gas [17,45], despite the much lower volumetric energy density of hydrogen being offset by a much higher flow rate. This means that the hydrogen energy transmission capacity at an unchanged pressure is approximately 20% lower than the UK annual average calorific value of 39.5 MJ/m3 for natural gas”

  26. Richard Phillips permalink
    September 4, 2017 10:42 pm

    When we know exactly what CO2 does to climate heating (ie to what extent does it elevate the GHG effect in water vapour), we will be in a position to plan our energy needs. In the meantime the “we are all going to fry” brigade are making billions by scaring everybody to death. And by the way, what about the iodine, sulphur reaction for hydrogen? But H2 is not for the gas grid.

    Richard Phillips

  27. September 5, 2017 1:56 pm

    This is a great article indeed. I have an assignment for my masters and your content would be a great addition. Thanks a lot

  28. Keith Gugan permalink
    September 7, 2017 9:18 am

    People, and here – despite appearances to the contrary – I include politicians , believe that hydrogen is just a substitute for natural gas and when it becomes available in quantity will just be switched over to simply and easily. Of course I’m glossing over the huge and expensive task of production, incidentally consuming as much energy to produce as we could ever expect to recover usefully. Also what do we do with all the oxygen by-product?

    In reality the switch would eliminate what has been described as the least flammable flammable gas to – what is by all tests and experience – the most dangerous flammable gas, and piping it into everyone’s homes. The switchover would require all consuming appliances to be considerably modified and in many instances scrapped. Also all steel distribution piping UK-wide would need to be modified, even replaced, to eliminate the occurrence of hydrogen embrittlement;

    This is no place for a point by point challenge to this extraordinary idea. Suffice it to say that such a challenge can be made and it is devastating. Such an idea is typical of the ‘ship of fools’ we now have chipping in to the ‘consensus’, including those that govern, God help us!!!

  29. James permalink
    September 8, 2017 5:47 pm

    lots of wasted energy from switched off renewables (because they are easiest to switch off when grid balancing and often produce a surplus at the wrong times, yes one of their disadvantages) this wasted energy can be used for producing hydrogen (current efficiencies of hydrolysis using rapid response electrolysis is about 70%). It is most likely the idea or misconception that the gov. want to convert the gas grid completely to hydrogen will actually just boil down to an injection of a proportion of hydrogen, low percentage needs little convertion of appliances but higher percentage I expect would incur this cost.
    Gas reformation coupled with carbon capture does seem an expensive option unless economies of scale and new tech can achieve this, which given this counties attitude to solving problems and progressing from simple old generation ideas will probably be left to other countries to benefit from! (Sometimes it pays to get ahead of the game even if you dont like the game)
    Certainly an interesting debate (debate probably not the best word on this site!) but some good comments.

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