Fife homes to be heated by world-first green hydrogen heating network

Metro-Blog-hydrogen-gas-networks-text Hydrogen network for Fife homes

If we could replace our standard central heating systems with a carbon-free solution, we would have the potential to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by as much as a third. Source: OFGEM. This would go a long way towards meeting the UK and Scottish governments net-zero targets. One solution is to replace natural gas-fired boilers with hydrogen fired boilers and produce the hydrogen using renewable resources. 

Such a solution is precisely what gas distributor SGN is planning to do in its H100 Fife project in Levenmouth. The aim is to manufacture the hydrogen at an electrolysis plant powered by an offshore wind turbine. The gas will then be stored safely and transported through a network to provide fuel for heating homes. 

The planned hydrogen network 

 In the initial phase of the project, the planned network will provide heating for 300 homes. It will run alongside the existing natural gas network. If this pilot scheme is successful, the system will be rolled out on a large scale in the future. It almost goes without saying that the plan will provide at least the same levels of safety as the existing system. It will take around three years to complete the project, though some homes could begin using hydrogen heating in around two years the latest information suggests that this could be delayed by COVID 19.

What is green hydrogen? 

Green hydrogen is manufactured using clean, renewable energy sources such as offshore wind turbines to electrolyse water. The electrolysis process converts water molecules (H2O) into hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen (O2). While this technology has been available in principal for many years, compared with natural gas, the costs are very high. Although carbon-free, large amounts of energy are required to power the electrolysis process. However, over recent years the costs of renewable electricity have fallen significantly, to such an extent that process is now economically viable. Most of the hydrogen produced currently comes from either natural gas or coal, both of which are carbon-intensive technologies, so switching over to clean hydrogen will have a significant impact.

Is green hydrogen safe? 

Despite a public perception that hydrogen is unsafe or even dangerous, there is no reason to suppose that it is more hazardous than natural gas. Several companies are developing hydrogen fired domestic boilers that are significantly more efficient than natural gas-fired boilers and meet the same stringent safety requirements.

Project aims and objectives 

While this is only a pilot project, its aims and ambitions are high. The intention is to provide critical insights into supply and demand management of hydrogen networks, supply security, and the operation of individual network components along with the complete system in a real-world environment. The project includes an assessment of customer attitudes towards hydrogen and their experience of using it. Customers have the choice of opting into the project or remaining with their existing natural gas supply. To help them decide, the intention is to create a demonstration facility where potential customers can get hands-on experience using hydrogen-powered appliances.

The long term potential of hydrogen networks 

Worldwide, governments are showing an increasing interest in green hydrogen technologies. Although still significantly more expensive than carbon fuels, economies of scale should reduce costs of green hydrogen to match those of natural gas. The H100 Fife project is crucial in that it will be the first project in the world to create a fully operational clean hydrogen network powered by low-cost renewable energy. It could certainly prove to be a game-changer.

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