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Safety is our Number One Priority

By Tim Harwood

 

When it comes to bringing hydrogen into our homes, safety is our number one priority. And Britain’s gas networks have a strong track record of safely delivering gas to our homes.

At the end of April, we were delighted to welcome Sky News to see for themselves what hydrogen in our homes might look and feel like, and to see our safety work in action.

Whilst the other projects have been working on how we can safety blend up to 20% hydrogen into the gas grid, the H21 project at the DNV site in Spadeadam in Cumbria and the Health & Safety Executive science division site in Buxton in the Peak District, is comparing the risks of converting the existing natural gas networks across the UK to 100% hydrogen for our home heating, cooking and hot water, as well as for industry. Alongside other ongoing research into the use of hydrogen appliances in homes, this research forms a crucial part of our “safety case” for 100% hydrogen.

We’ve already installed 60,000km of plastic, hydrogen-ready pipelines in local gas grids around the country, almost two-thirds of the total. That’s enough pipeline to go around the world’s Equator one and a half times.

This world leading research is looking at a wide range of work packages including testing how easily hydrogen might leak compared to natural gas and understanding the consequences of that leakage on a huge range of distribution network assets, such as different types of gas pipeline.

These were retrieved from the natural gas network and tested under strict hydrogen conditions, with the work demonstrating that assets which did not leak with methane natural gas, also did not leak with hydrogen. Also, for those assets that did leak, the rate at which hydrogen leaked was within the expected and calculated limits.

This was supplemented by further rigorous testing, involving more than 380 experiments at Spadeadam to understand how hydrogen behaves if it does leak. The results enabled ‘Risk Assessments’, which are used for natural gas, to be to be updated for using hydrogen in the UK’s gas network.

The good news is that alongside this research work continues to replace older metallic pipes with new plastic polyethylene pipes as part of our network upgrade programme reducing the likelihood of leaks and further reducing the risk to the public while making the network “hydrogen ready”.

We’ve already installed 60,000km of plastic, hydrogen-ready pipelines in local gas grids around the country, almost two-thirds of the total. That’s enough pipeline to go around the world’s Equator one and a half times.

By the time that work is completed in 2032 our research shows that, statistically speaking, there would be more chance of being struck by lightning than dying as a result of a leak from a gas grid delivering 100% hydrogen. Combined with eliminating carbon monoxide poisoning, it will reduce the risk to the public and society in general to a fraction of what it is for other everyday activities such as driving, working from ladders or electricity.

When it comes to safety, hydrogen is once again demonstrating how tomorrow’s heat really is today’s opportunity. If you want to learn more about our work at H21, and other safety gas network innovation projects, then come along to the ENA Gas Goes Green Hydrogen Safety Mini-Summit on the 20th May.

Partners of H21