Replacing old gas pipes slashes UK’s methane emissions, says report

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REPLACING old, iron gas pipes with hydrogen and biomethane-ready plastic pipes will help cut carbon emissions and deliver the world’s first zero carbon gas grid, according to new figures published by Energy Networks Association (ENA).

The figures, published as part of ENA’s Gas Goes Green programme, show that by 2032, investment in replacing old iron mains gas mains pipes with new hydrogen and biomethane-ready pipes will have taken the equivalent of 526,433 cars off the road since 2014, as a result of reduced methane natural gas emissions.

David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, commented on the findings: “Britain’s world-leading gas network allows us all to reliably access the energy we rely upon quickly and easily, often when we need it the most.

“It guarantees people’s comfort in our homes whilst providing the lifeblood that our businesses need to grow.

“But we need to decarbonise the gas that we use and an investment programme that was first introduced in 2002 to improve safety is now playing a vital role in reducing emissions and laying the foundations for a world-leading zero carbon gas grid, coming in on-time and under budget.”

The investment forms part of the Iron Mains Risk Replacement Programme, which replaces old iron gas pipelines in Britain’s low-pressure gas networks with hydrogen and biomethane-ready piping made from plastic.

Bringing together all of Britain’s gas network companies, ENA’s Gas Goes Green programme will deliver the world’s first zero carbon gas grid by moving Britain’s gas network infrastructure from delivering methane-based natural gas to zero-carbon hydrogen and biomethane.

The impact of methane on global warming is 21 times greater than that of CO2, with about quarter of manmade global warming attributed to it.

The figures demonstrate the CO2-equivalent impact of reducing methane natural gas emissions from Britain’s network of gas pipelines, which supply heating, cooking and hot water to 23 million properties across the country.

Over 85% of properties in Great Britain are connected to the network, which has 284,000km of pipelines.

Providing a regional breakdown across, England, Scotland and Wales, the figures also show that:

  • The Iron Mains Risk Replacement Programme has already reduced emissions by more than a fifth (22.4%) since it began in 2014, the equivalent of taking 179,123 cars off the road.
  • By 2032, if investment plans are approved by Ofgem, emissions will further drop by more than half (55.6%), the equivalent to taking an additional 347,310 cars off the road since 2020.
  • In total, between 2014 and 2032 the programme will have invested £28bn in creating a hydrogen-ready gas grid in towns, villages and communities across the country. Existing Ofgem figures show that for the period of 2013-21, gas network companies are forecast to bring-in the costs of replacing iron mains more than 10% (11.4%) lower than those agreed, saving consumers £1.3bn in the process.
  • By 2032, the programme will have achieved a 66% reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions from the gas grid.

The emissions reductions forecasts from 2021 to 2026 are based on investment plans submitted to Ofgem, as part of the RIIO-2 price control of energy network companies.

The regulator published its draft decision on the plans in July, with ENA concerned that the decision would meant the UK would lack the investment it needs to meet its Net Zero ambitions.

Mr Smith continued: “The figures come with one caveat.

“The emissions reductions we can deliver going forward are dependent on the decisions due to be made by Ofgem, and its important that the regulator recognises the wider impact of it’s decisions in this area.

“If it fails to back that investment, then not only do we risk missing out on those reductions, we risk missing out in having the infrastructure we need to put Britain at the front of the pack of the international race for hydrogen.”