July 2021, Vol. 248, No. 7


National Grid Studies UK Hydrogen Pipeline Network Potential

By Maddy McCarty, P&GJ Digital Editor  

National Grid is exploring the potential of a 1,243-mile (2,000-km) hydrogen pipeline network across the U.K. Reaching a goal of delivering hydrogen power to consumers by 2030 will take an abundance of planning and work.  

Photo credit: National Grid
Photo credit: National Grid

“Since it started, National Grid has been at the forefront of transformational engineering solutions. And right now, we’re in the middle of a change like no other,” said Antony Green, project director for Hydrogen at National Grid. “We think hydrogen has a critical role to play as we transition to a cleaner energy future.”  

Project Union, National Grid’s development of a hydrogen backbone, will link industrial clusters around the country, and it is working with the greater European Hydrogen Backbone vision.   

The European Hydrogen Backbone report was published in July 2020. It visualizes 7,207 miles (11,600 km) of hydrogen pipeline by 2030 and 24,668 miles (39,700 km) of hydrogen pipeline by 2040, with 69% converted from natural gas pipelines.  

The European Hydrogen Backbone initiative consists of 23 European gas infrastructure companies, including National Grid.   

Joining the European Hydrogen Backbone project allows National Grid to show how the U.K. hydrogen backbone and the interconnectors at Bacton could open the door for future importing and exporting of hydrogen with European neighbors, Green said.  

“The interconnectors already provide reliable, secure and flexible supply with the Netherlands and Belgium, enhancing the ability for both sides to adjust supply in response to peaks in demand,” he said.   

Project Union is exploring repurposing about 25% of the current gas transmission pipelines in the U.K. by 2030, which would build on the government’s 10-point plan to invest more than $1.4 billion (£1 billion) to unlock the potential of hydrogen and support the establishment of carbon capture, utilization and storage in four industrial clusters, according to a National Grid news release.  

Green said as the U.K. moves away from natural gas to hydrogen in the future, they expect to see more of the National Transmission System converting to transport low-carbon energy to consumers.   

National Grid anticipates the U.K. hydrogen backbone could carry at least a quarter of the current gas demand in Great Britain today, and provide vital resilience and storage. It is examining a hydrogen backbone connecting the clusters of Grangemouth, which is in Scotland on the south shore of the River Forth estuary, to Teesside and Humberside, both in northern England. It would also link up with Southampton, in southeast England, and the North West and South Wales clusters.  

“The conversion phase involves huge amounts of planning and work which will take the better part of this decade,” Green said. “This will be done very much in the background and as these projects, trials and tests progress, we expect to start seeing hydrogen-ready boilers and potentially other appliances coming onto the market. This will mean that, once we’re ready to flick the switch and move away from natural gas, U.K. consumers will also be ready to reap the benefits of low-carbon energy to power their homes.”  

National Grid will use Net Zero development funding to finance a portfolio of projects, including the feasibility phase of Project Union, which will include identifying pipeline routes, assessing the readiness of existing gas assets and determining a transition plan for assets in a way that supports the government’s net-zero ambition, the National Grid news release stated.  

The research will explore how to start converting pipelines by the end of the decade in a phased approach, aligning with the U.K. government’s ambitions of producing 5 gigawatts of low-carbon hydrogen by 2030.      

National Grid believes a hydrogen backbone could carry one-quarter of Great Britain’s current gas demand. 

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