Hydrogen as Replacement for Natural Gas Gets a Boost in U.K.

(Bloomberg) -- Lawmakers from Britain’s main political parties called for using hydrogen as a source of energy to significantly reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and help transition to a low-carbon system.

The rules should be changed as soon as next year to allow hydrogen into the natural gas grid, members of Parliament on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said Thursday in a report on carbon capture and storage. The measures would help the U.K. meet emission targets through 2032.

Amid a debate about how Britain should leave the European Union, some politicians are seeking areas where they can agree “without it being a party political football,” said Anna Turley, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hydrogen and a member of the opposition Labour Party.

Hydrogen as Replacement for Natural Gas Gets a Boost in U.K.

The committee “seems to have a very willing ear from government” for backing hydrogen, Turley said in an interview in London. That test of support will be felt when policy is made to back multi-billion pound investments, she said, adding that it will probably include higher prices for carbon emission rights.

“It’s going to be costly,” she said.

More testing is needed to ensure hydrogen is viable on a commercial scale, while questions remain on the cost of switching to the fuel. Renewable energy and batteries may even curb the need for green gas.

One pilot hydrogen project, named HyDeploy and run by Keele University in northern England, aims to blend a volume of as much as 20 percent of hydrogen with normal gas supply. The project is currently serving 17 university faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties in the local area.

If small scale testing is successful, this could then be rolled out with live public trials across 1,000 properties in northern England from summer 2020. It wouldn’t be extended on a larger commercial scale until 2023 at the earliest, members of Keel University told a briefing in London in April.

Many of Britain’s grids are already replacing metal pipes with plastic, which helps prevent leaks, improve safety and can also allow the transport of different gases including hydrogen.

A plan by distributor Cadent Gas Ltd. to build a hydrogen network across about 20 percent of Britain to heat homes and supply industry would require about 20 billion pounds ($26 billion), according to Simon Fairman, Cadent’s director of network strategy and safety.

There is currently no policy framework for hydrogen in place and the timing of any decision-making remains unclear. Still, that isn’t stopping the MPs’ public enthusiasm for the fuel, which was backed Tuesday in a blog published by the International Energy Agency.

The ruling Conservative Party has supported technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions from industry and produce low carbon gas, though it hasn’t yet implemented policies. Clean Growth minister Claire Perry was set to join an event to promote hydrogen with Turley held on Tuesday in London, but she didn’t make it.

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