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Homes may have gas cut off if they refuse to take part in hydrogen trial

October 3, 2021

Homeowners who refuse to take part in a hydrogen energy trial will be forcibly cut off by gas network operators, under Government plans to test green heating alternatives.

Residents in one village will begin the pilot scheme by 2025 to help the Government assess whether hydrogen gas can be used as a low-carbon alternative for heating homes across the country.

Ministers insisted the powers to enter people’s homes and switch off their gas would only be used as a “last resort” if the homeowners had refused to engage with any other options.

A consultation, which ended this week, suggests the Government will seek powers to allow gas distribution networks to enter homes if their owners do not wish to take part in the trial, in order to safely switch them off from the gas grid.

Current powers enable network operators to enter premises for a variety of purposes, including for suspected gas leaks or inspecting pipes and fittings.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/10/02/village-homeowners-may-have-gas-forcibly-cut-refuse-take-part/

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This report highlights a very real problem. When whole towns are switched over to hydrogen, it will obviously be very dangerous if some houses are not converted. Hence the draconian powers needed.

But the article includes one noteworthy comment:

It will cost around £22 billion to make the gas distribution network hydrogen-ready, according to 2018 analysis by the business department, and the costs of hydrogen are expected to be around three times that of natural gas.

As I have often pointed out, hydrogen costs an awful lot more than gas. The three times comment is probably based on mainly steam reforming, which itself emits almost as much carbon dioxide as burning natural gas in the first place.

And “three times” will mean heating bills rising by about £1000 a year.

As usual, the commenters are virtually all critical. But why do these issues always get reported by the dopeu Emma Gatten, who has Environmental Editor should be writing about trees and rivers, not energy matters.

If they were covered by the Political Staff, they might a more critical coverage.

43 Comments
  1. October 3, 2021 11:02 am

    Paul is your estimate of hydrogen costs those for ‘conventional’ hydrogen or for ‘green’ hydrogen’ made from using renewables power?

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      October 3, 2021 11:37 am

      “Green hydrogen” from renewables is about 7 times more expensive than natural gas, as against ‘blue or grey or purple’ hydrogen which, at best, is only 3 times as expensive.
      what they really want to do is send a mixture into homes, reducing the cost jump and the dangers.

      • October 3, 2021 2:26 pm

        Graeme, thanks. So any hydrogen will be approx 4 to 5 times more expensive if mixed? Of course hydrogen looks value for money if you then increase gas prices 7 fold or cut availability.

        Having said that I am not sure I have seen anything that says green hydrogen is a practical possibility on an industrial scale

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        October 3, 2021 6:47 pm

        If they really work at it they could make it LGBTQI hydrogen and give it a rainbow flag!
        (sorry, watching Attenbollox at moment and it makes me cynical!)

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        October 3, 2021 10:12 pm

        climatereason:
        I think the initial amount will be about 5% hydrogen; certainly this is the amount planned for a “green” power plant in Wollongong (open cycle gas turbine).
        This might be due to the cost, the problem of making enough hydrogen by electrolysis using “cheap” renewable electricity, or perhaps avoiding turbine damage. Hydrogen burns at a very high temperature and any more than a minimal amount (5% estimate) could result in blade damage in the turbine.
        (When NASA launches hydrogen+oxygen fueled rockets they “waste” some of the liquid hydrogen by using it to cool parts exposed to the flame.)

        I get rude responses when I claim 62% efficiency for hydrolysis in making hydrogen as many seem to think that it is almost 100%. It is true that the high pressure process (with concentrated KOH) can be improved by additional heat, but there is only a limited benefit. Intermittent hydrolysis at room temp. & pressure is only 38% efficient at best.
        Dividing the cost of electricity by the percentage gives you an idea of the cost (and that doesn’t allow for losses, operating costs or capital repayment al of which are ignored (or unknown) to the gullible. So using hydrogen to generate electricity is a sure loss.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        October 4, 2021 1:47 am

        Costings are rather haywire currently with sky high electricity and gas prices. Making hydrogen via SMR incurs the cost of methane as feedstock and energy source. LDF naphtha may well be cheaper currently, although I note that parts of the chemical industry using naphtha feedstock have virtually shut down. Electrolysis of course requires electricity, prices for which have been at a large premium to CCGT generation cost (itself obviously methane dependent, but now with an added significant slice of carbon tax) when wind is slight due to capacity shortages. But you would switch off electrolysis in such conditions.

        Present market conditions would surely make hydrogen excruciatingly uneconomic, while still providing large incentives to use coal for electricity despite the carbon price. I suspect coal fired AGA would be cheaper to run than a gas fired one at the moment, and oil is cheaper than as well, although it is already much more expensive than last year. Electricity fired AGAs are now only affordable to the extremely rich who do not care about the cost. But I think even they would balk at a hydrogen fuelled one.

  2. October 3, 2021 11:09 am

    Madness to switch from gas and completely unnecessary. CO2 output negligible.
    Voters will have little chance to give politicos their deserts because they are almost all in the same boat.

    Hope it will sink with all lives lost.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      October 3, 2021 12:30 pm

      H2 is a leaky, sneaky explosive gas. Why not add a carbon atom to make it a much better fuel? We could call it ‘gas’. Mr Nut Nut PM’s insanity is showing.

  3. October 3, 2021 11:17 am

    We are all doomed unless we get rid of the current useless and ignorant politicians and civil servants (and the media and NGOs). Not much chance of that happening anytime soon. It’s good to be a baby-boomer, but it’s not good to be young.

  4. Harry Passfield permalink
    October 3, 2021 11:35 am

    The multinational computer company I worked for (long ago) had a policy that no new system or modification should be introduced to the detriment of the existing users. As far as possible new equipment/code had to be compatible. Obviously, there are exceptions but I doubt throwing out a perfectly usable and well-managed and understood system and replacing it at inordinate cost with an untested and possibly more dangerous, costly and less efficient option is the mark of a ruling elite being in the grip of hysteria.
    Finally – and here I feel a letter to the press coming on – what on earth is the point of using natural gas, that could easily continue too provide efficient heating, to produce H2 to make for more expensive and inefficient heating just to reduce CO2 emissions, which would anyway be produced by creating H2 anyway? Talk of sequestrating the CO2, in the huge quantities required, is just that: hot air.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      October 3, 2021 11:46 am

      The public will be given a choice between being safe and warm or freezing with occasional house demolitions (inhabitants included without extra charge), so long as they are told the facts.
      There is no way the switch can be made without individual household inspections for safety reasons, and that will high-light one of the problems with the changeover. That their heating bills will sky-rocket might also be of interest to them (if it gets mention).

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      October 3, 2021 5:39 pm

      I made much the same point in a comment to this article. Where is the logic in taking a relatively inexpensive, relatively safe (nothing is ever 100%) product whose only by-product is a benign, essential and totally beneficial in normal atmospheric quantities substance and use it to create an expensive, potentially highly dangerous product using a process that creates the very by-product that the process is designed to eliminate?
      And then to attempt to store it in large quantities thereby turning it potentially into something lethal in the event of an escape.
      Truly the world is going mad.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        October 3, 2021 7:07 pm

        Props, Mike.

    • Julian Flood permalink
      October 4, 2021 9:51 am

      ‘hysteria’

      In a word.

      JF

  5. Gamecock permalink
    October 3, 2021 11:59 am

    ‘Residents in one village will begin the pilot scheme by 2025 to . . .’

    You know town politicians will say, “Pick us!” They want to be World Leader.

    ‘help the Government assess whether hydrogen gas can be used as a low-carbon alternative for heating homes across the country’

    Again, Net Zero is not low-carbon, it’s no carbon. All this insanity gets you no closer to Net Zero.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      October 3, 2021 7:14 pm

      Just watched – against y better judgement – Attenbollox banging on about his God complex and how he could change the Earth (he doesn’t vouchsafe to the BBC viewers that he wishes 90% of them were dead). He shows an enormous greenhouse complex growing lettuce (impressed me!) but didn’t explain that they are able to produce hydroponic food without saturating the place with excess CO2.
      As for lab-made beef, ffs!!! He was having orgasms over the ability for Man to be able to act like Gods!!

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        October 3, 2021 7:15 pm

        by saturating the place with CO2

        doh/

      • Duker permalink
        October 4, 2021 2:06 am

        Greenhouses saturated with CO2 …and heated over cooler months. The Dutch are leaders in this

  6. Joe Public permalink
    October 3, 2021 12:00 pm

    I suspect that story is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

    There appears to be little info in the public domain, so my personal supposition is that those taking part in the trial will be offered financial incentives.

    At the very least, they’ll be offered gaseous energy at below the cost they’re currently paying for natural gas.

    They’ll also probably have their boilers & other appliances checked / serviced / replaced if unsuitable for conversion, free of charge.

    Their internal gas pipework will be soundness tested, and its volumetric flow-capability for hydrogen confirmed as suitable. [A m^3 of Hydrogen has only 30% the heat content of natural gas, but hydrogen’s energy flow-rate capacity per unit volume along pipework (at an unchanged pressure) is 80% that of Nat Gas.]

    IMHO Those consumers are unlikely to be too concerned about the actual gas, so long as they get the heat & comfort they expect at no extra cost.

    • Joe Public permalink
      October 3, 2021 12:15 pm

      Britain’s gas industry successfully converted 40 million appliances in 14 million premises in the 1970’s.

      However, that was made possible by the technical fact natural gas had twice the volumetric energy content of the Towns Gas it replaced.

      Hydrogen having <1/3rd the volumetric energy content of natural gas and hydrogen's unparalleled leakability, create far greater technical challenges.

      Plus, there is now no longer a single fully-integrated organisation responsible for *the entire process* from gas manufacture to distribution to utilisation at the burner tip.

      In the event of a cock-up, pass-the-parcel will be the name of the game.

      • October 3, 2021 1:45 pm

        It was also made possible by the fact that N Sea gas was much cheaper than town gas, so economically it made sense

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      October 3, 2021 12:27 pm

      Free of charge? In what fantasy world of yours does skilled work get done without cost?

      • Joe Public permalink
        October 3, 2021 12:45 pm

        OK – “Free” of extra charge to the participants of the trial.

    • John Peter permalink
      October 3, 2021 3:59 pm

      And without cost for how long? And when do the real charges enter? The tax payers cannot continue to subsidise what turns out to essentially be themselves as the madness is rolled out to the whole population.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      October 3, 2021 7:20 pm

      Joe, they can’t just take random users who will take the money. They need a complete network of users: an isolated group so that they can keep them apart form others.

  7. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    October 3, 2021 12:26 pm

    Ecomentalist Nazis rule.

  8. Ed P permalink
    October 3, 2021 1:45 pm

    I worked in an industry using hydrogen for many years. It requires brazed pipework (or special, very expensive compression fittings), leak detectors and many other specialised and expensive items for safe use.
    All domestic pipework would have to be replaced with larger bores. Metering is tricky. Leaks are inevitable and very dangerous in enclosed spaces – the flashpoint is approx 4% concentration in air, undetectable by ‘nose’ like gas.
    It’s a greeny, insane, very costly pipe dream(!)

  9. Vernon E permalink
    October 3, 2021 2:09 pm

    Little Emma’s article is bizarrely stupid. Does she think we can have pick and choose hydrogen? Like bottles of calor gas? Or does she think we can reform the old regional Gas Boards, but down to village level? This is utter nonsense – there are only two options – make the existing grid ten percent hydrogen (doable, but why?) or change out the entire gas infrastructure including all users. She says the ONLY way of producing hydrogen is from methane or electrolysis. Nonsense again. Dutin the 1960s town gas was hydrogen produced by steam reforming naphtha (light straight-run gasoline – still cheap and infinirtely storable). At least this time I have once-and-for-all canelled my DT subscritption. But please, any MP’s reading this blog, we have to do something to save us from this suicidal collective insanity.

    • October 3, 2021 2:33 pm

      Vernon

      Here you go. The three wise green monkeys

      https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/three-wise-monkeys-not-see-not-hear-not-speak-vintage-engraving-gm1036940772-277581409

      Have our elite ever been less wise?

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        October 3, 2021 7:33 pm

        They have always been utter fools, but have never tried to change all of society and the economy from the top down in one go and with no backup plan when it fails (other than in those massive success stories, the USSR and Mao’s China). It’s difficult to find 1 success in 10 for any government anywhere but at least it was generally only a small part of the economy or society they devastated. But since Blair their ambitions have grown and grown.

    • Julian Flood permalink
      October 4, 2021 9:56 am

      Cheaper and more ‘low carbon’ to extend the gas grid to all parts of the UK, replacingoil central heating, enabling the use of CH4 in lorries, buses, trains.

      JF

  10. stevejay permalink
    October 3, 2021 4:50 pm

    I suggest the first ‘experiments’ take place in Downing Street ?

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      October 3, 2021 5:49 pm

      I’d second that. Or maybe we could make it part of the long-awaited refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster. Or perhaps the offices up and down Whitehall. If they think it’s such a brilliant idea let them be the guinea pigs.

  11. Phoenix44 permalink
    October 3, 2021 7:30 pm

    Oh well, provided we are only doing coercive fascism as a “last resort” that’s fine.

    Get all the Greens in one village together and test all this stuff on them. It would be far cheaper and if we are very lucky, we might get another Hindenburg.

  12. October 3, 2021 10:27 pm

    So which will be more expensive to use in homes in future: hydrogen or electricity? Whichever one it is, the other one is going to lose out.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      October 4, 2021 1:06 am

      I think it’s a chicken and egg problem given the plans to use electricity to make hydrogen to make electricity…

      • Joe Public permalink
        October 4, 2021 10:36 am

        “….. plans to use electricity to make hydrogen to make electricity…”

        Particular sections of these two documents make interesting reading:

  13. Mikehig permalink
    October 4, 2021 9:38 am

    Joe Public: “Britain’s gas industry successfully converted 40 million appliances in 14 million premises in the 1970’s.
    However, that was made possible by the technical fact natural gas had twice the volumetric energy content of the Towns Gas it replaced.”

    In addition the whole infrastructure at that time was already compatible with methane.
    I haven’t seen any real assessment of how much of today’s pipework, valves, etc would be compatible with hydrogen. Does anyone even know with enough certainty?

    Another issue which has not had much visibility is flame temperature. (A little knowledge is a dangerous thing so I am a bit of a UXB here…)
    Aiui, hydrogen burns with a much faster, hotter flame than natural gas. I have read that this may mean more frequent burner replacement in boilers but the more significant issue may be NOx emissions.
    Is it not the case that higher flame temps promote the formation of various oxides of nitrogen?
    These are high on the bad-boy list of pollutants so higher emissions from domestic boilers and cookers will not be welcome.
    Are we going have “ad-blue” systems on these new hydrogen boilers?

    • Joe Public permalink
      October 4, 2021 10:51 am

      “I haven’t seen any real assessment of how much of today’s pipework, valves, etc would be compatible with hydrogen. Does anyone even know with enough certainty?”

      1. This document provides insight, particularly the table of costs on page 80:

      “Hydrogen Distribution – Base Case cost breakdown for the entire gas distribution network”

      Click to access H2_supply_chain_evidence_-_publication_version.pdf

      2. OTOH, info in National Grid’s presentation section “Feasibility of Hydrogen in the NTS” – “Fundamentals of hydrogen embrittlement” slides 41 – 45 informs:

      “Summary
      • Hydrogen has a number of negative effects on the material properties of pipelines and other materials
      • However oxygen can mitigate most of these effects even at very low concentrations
      • Re-purposing of the NTS to transport hydrogen is technically feasible, from a materials perspective, pending the outcome of the recommended work” (My bold)

      https://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/gas-transmission/document/128666/download

      • Mikehig permalink
        October 4, 2021 11:36 am

        Thanks Joe P!
        That Jacobs report will make for “interesting” reading, from a brief scan.
        I did jump to the costings page you mentioned: £22 bn just to convert/ adapt the distribution network!
        This caught my eye on the next page:
        “Efficiency:The expectation is that H 2 boilers can achieve high efficiencies, similar to those of current natural gas boilers. This would only be confirmed during the required research and development phase of commercialisation.

        Higher burning temperature can lead to NOx formation – performance may be influenced by the NOx specification (low NOx requirements could push down efficiency and may require an exhaust catalyst).

        Lifetime and maintenance: H 2 boilers are expected to achieve 10 15 year target lifetimes (i.e. similar to current natural gas boilers)
        There may be some additional service requirements, hence O&M costs are expected to be higher. Catalytic components (if required) would need to be replaced within 15 year lifetime
        Regular servicing of the appliance may need to be mandatory if components such as exhaust catalysts are needed to ensure performance of the unit is maintained.”

        It really is not a happy story.

      • dave permalink
        October 5, 2021 2:24 pm

        “…oxygen can mitigate…blah blah di blah”

        Only if system is high pressured.! So, irrelevant to the ‘into the house’ stage.

        Incidentally, it is a given that all hydrogen-pipe ruptures catch fire !

        Nothing much more is actually going to happen with either EV’s or the Hydrogen Economy. It is all simply a series of cover stories for a tiny minority to take money from the rest of us. It would be much cheaper to put the money straight into their bank accounts.

        A La Nina seems to be developing, as predicted:

  14. Gamecock permalink
    October 4, 2021 4:35 pm

    Can you park an EV next to a hydrogen house?

    Can a hydrogen house also have an EV charger?

    • Mikehig permalink
      October 5, 2021 11:17 am

      I would hesitate to park an EV close to any house, whatever the fuel.
      While battery fires are rare, they seem to start mostly during charging – except for accidents – and cannot be extinguished once they get going. The fire service policy is to spray them with vast amounts of water to reduce the heat and suppress toxic gases while they burn out. Somewhere, maybe Germany, has developed special machinery to lift a burning EV and drop it into a giant skip full of water!
      Some towns in Europe have banned EVs and hybrids from underground parking because of the potential problems.

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