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Costain explores hydrogen transport through gas network

21 October 2020
Image: Dreamstime/Richardjohnsonuk

Costain has produced a feasibility study that will contribute to ongoing assessments of the ability to use the existing UK gas distribution network to transport hydrogen.

The project is the first to bring together all the gas distribution networks, working collaboratively.

A process called hydrogen deblending would allow for a varying mix of hydrogen and natural gas to flow through the network, before the two gases were separated so a controlled blend can be supplied to the customer.

Costain said the method meant that hydrogen could be supplied to those who are ready and prevented from being received by those who are not.

The study is funded under the Network Innovation Allowance (NIA), which is available for gas and electricity network operators to fund innovative projects which have the potential to deliver benefits to network customers. The objective is to provide evidence as to the technical and commercial feasibility of using deblending to support the transition of the UK National Transmission System and Gas Distribution Networks to a 100% hydrogen gas network.

Blending hydrogen into the existing natural gas pipeline network to relatively low concentrations (less than 20% hydrogen) has already been proposed as a means of transporting hydrogen without significantly increasing the risks associated with utilisation of the gas blend in end-use devices (such as household appliances), overall public safety, or the durability and integrity of the existing natural gas pipeline network. 

Costain said deblending could provide a means to transition from a 20% to a 100% hydrogen network, providing customers with the options for either pure hydrogen, hydrogen/natural gas blends or natural gas.

It added that adopting the method could help avoid the cost, estimated at billions of pounds, of building dedicated hydrogen pipelines.

Using the operational data provided by the gas network partners, Costain evaluated the techno-economic feasibility of deblending schemes, and carried out technical evaluation and selection of technologies for hydrogen recovery and purification, development of process schemes, plant designs and cost estimates.

Rob Phillips, energy sector director, Costain, said: “Achieving near 100% decarbonisation of the gas grid will be an essential step in meeting the UK’s commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and is something Costain is committed to driving forward as part of our climate change action plan. Our expertise in deblending offers yet another low carbon solution that will be key to minimising the cost of decarbonising energy infrastructure.”

Comments

Gas networks historically use to use a blend of hydrogen gas with coal gas; so nothing is new here; that is if hydrogen should be entrained into and with North Sea Gas, perhaps with every increasing amounts as time goes on.

Obviously, the Government’s Research & Development has taken into consideration both considerations for Hydrogen Ready Boilers as well as being able to run on existing North Sea Gas.

Then a switch, and or a possible progressive stepover switching might be achieved.

No doubt, pilot schemes will determine the processes needed.

As far as hydrogen for transport is needed, subject to hydrogen engines being more affordable, again isn’t it more than obvious that filling up a vehicle at a home gas tap, subject to pressurization facilities would give all vehicle users a greater option. However distant remote filling stations with hydrogen gas might be needed for longer trips from one’s base.

The greater amounts of CO2 are produced from Homes’ heating needs that is why we have the Hydrogen-for-Heat programme under way. Hydrogen fuel-cell engines are better environmentally than batteries because the rare earth metals are not wasted as they work as catalysts and not wasted to be discarded as happens with batteries. This is apart from the global limited resource of rare earth metals.

Often politicians who merely talk in terms of electric transport to achieve a free from CO2 waste are misguided, as hydrogen appears to be the better technical solution. However, government’s initiatives need clear redirecting; regardless if it is to be either a focus on Green or Blue Hydrogen gas supplies albeit a combination of the two is most probable a better way, keeping all options open once wasted carbon can be captured.

Kuno Raymond Genoni, 23 October 2020

it has become quite obvious that Hydrogen is the future for both heating and transport why for instance are we spending hundreds of millions of pounds electrifying HS2 rail when the new generation trains now being trialed are Hydrogen powered the uk can become a world leader and exporter of Hydrogen technology if we put money into our research people ,but we also have to remember the Chinese have been paying very powerful influencer groups in this country for many years such as the 49 group who have the ears of Government Ministers to favour Chinese made battery power we have to somehow reverse this way of doing business

Graham Power, 27 October 2020