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Catch-up with H21 Phase 1

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Modelling project shows the route to cleaner, greener gas

Mark Danter, Senior Project Manager at Northern Gas Networks

It’s taken a long time to come to fruition but I’m really pleased to be able to publish a new H21 modelling report this month. It provides vital information about the ability of the existing natural gas distribution network to transport 100% hydrogen and explores potential options for a national gas conversion roll out.

We worked with our fellow gas distribution network operators Cadent, Scottish Gas Networks and Wales & West Utilities and built on our earlier H21 Leeds City Gate project, which established a hydrogen conversion was technically possible and economically viable.

We modelled the gas networks in the urban areas of Bournemouth, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Hull and Beverley, Liverpool, Teesside and West Yorkshire to explore how well a 100% hydrogen network could meet customer gas needs.

The work we completed was vital as hydrogen has a lower energy value than natural gas so we need to understand the pressure and velocity issues which could arise and how we mitigate them. We need to ensure a hydrogen gas supply meets consumer needs and is as resilient and reliable as today’s natural gas network.

Our report recommendations highlight the work which would be involved in building the conversion strategy for each town. The report suggests amending the existing mains replacement programme to prepare the distribution network ready for hydrogen by either like-for-like or upsized pipes in areas where the modelling highlighted any pressure or velocity issues.  It also suggested installing sectorisation valves that can be used later to aid conversion process.

Looking ahead to possible conversion, the towns gas switch of the 1960s and 70s provides a blueprint for a successful transition. We’ve looked at how the gas network could be sectorised to cause minimum disruption to customers. We’d propose converting in the warmer months when gas demand is lower. Whilst isolating larger areas means the conversion is quicker, it may also lead to a longer disruption to service for customers, so there is a balance to strike.

The vital evidence delivered by this project takes us another step closer to realising our vision of a 100% hydrogen network for the future. In conclusion, the extensive modelling has demonstrated that we can repurpose our gas assets to operate with hydrogen in a zero carbon future and, with minor adaptations, still enjoy the resilience of today’s gas network.

Special thanks to all the modellers from the gas networks and Lorna Millington, Future Networks Manager at Cadent for the tireless work they have put into this project.

Partners of H21