UK households support return to hydrogen as domestic fuel, says research

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HOUSEHOLDS in the UK would support a return to the use of hydrogen as a domestic fuel and believe it would have a positive environmental impact, according to Newcastle University research.

The researchers found that when people were informed that hydrogen-rich gas was previously used in the UK and that most domestic gas appliances in the UK are required by law to be tested with a mixture of natural gas and hydrogen during product certification, 87% of the respondents said they would be willing to use it in their home.

Additionally, 70% of the respondents believed that using blended hydrogen would have a positive environmental impact.

The same proportion of survey respondents cited potential costs as their main concern, indicating they would be unable or unwilling to pay more on their energy bills.

The research team in Newcastle is now calling for greater public involvement in discussions about the benefits and costs of using blended hydrogen in order to build awareness and acceptance of it being used in homes.

From the early 19th century until the late 1970s, manufactured town gas containing up to 60% hydrogen was used extensively as an energy source for lighting and heating until it was replaced by North Sea natural gas.

As the country moves towards a low carbon economy, hydrogen is increasingly viewed as once more having a key role to play in the UK’s energy mix.

Hydrogen-powered transport is growing in support, with cities such as Liverpool and Aberdeen switching from diesel to hydrogen buses while hydrogen taxis are now on the road in London.

Plans to convert rail stock from diesel to hydrogen are also being developed.

Still, according to the university research team, despite domestic heating and industry accounting for nearly half of all energy use in the UK and one third of the country’s total carbon emissions, the use of hydrogen in homes will not become widespread without further research.

From December 2020 a series of blended hydrogen demonstrations will take place on public gas networks across the North of England.

HyDeploy is being delivered by Cadent Gas and Northern Gas Networks, backed by £22 million of Ofgem innovation funding.

The demonstrations will show that a blend of up to 20% hydrogen can be safely used by customers for heating and cooking, without changing appliances.

If hydrogen was blended with natural gas across the UK at this level, it could save around six million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the road.

Since 1993, all gas appliances manufactured and sold in the UK have been tested with a blend of 23% hydrogen and 77% natural gas.

Mark Horsley, Chief Executive for Northern Gas Networks said: “Hydrogen has a key role to play in a low carbon energy future, and understanding public perceptions of hydrogen is crucial to customer acceptance of the technology, and its ability to make a positive difference to climate change.

“Important research like the Newcastle University report helps us further understand the key issues and challenges customers need us to address around hydrogen, while work continues to deliver the evidence base supporting its role in decarbonising heat.”

The Newcastle University report is based on work funded through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance as part of the HyDeploy project.

Ed Syson, Chief Safety and Strategy Officer at Cadent, said: “Hydrogen will play an essential role in a net-zero energy system. We are just at the very start of the journey and things need to happen at a pace to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“Flagship projects like HyDeploy are vital to enabling a hydrogen future and a key aspect of this is to understand people’s views. So the work done by Newcastle University has been really important to our understanding of how we will look to develop our future projects.”