Government rejects plans for Whitby 'hydrogen village' trial due to local opposition

Article by Kerry Hebden

WHITBY in Cheshire will no longer be considered as the location for the UK's first hydrogen village trial after residents voiced strong opposition against the project run by Cadent. Discussions with Northern Gas Networks’ (NGN) plan for a hydrogen village in Redcar are still ongoing however, but there are concerns from homeowners about the firm’s proposal. 

Discussing the news via Twitter, Lord Callanan, minister for energy efficiency and green finance said that after listening to the views of residents, “it’s clear that there is no strong local support” for the proposed plans. 

Gas distributor Cadent confirmed that Whitby had not been selected as the "preferred proposal" by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), but noted that many residents had wanted their community to play a pioneering role in how we heat homes in the UK.  

“This isn’t goodbye from us to the residents of Whitby. Beyond a final decision from government on the project location in the autumn, we will continue to keep people in the community safe and warm as their gas distribution network. We will also continue to work relentlessly to make sure that our customers have access to options that meet their diverse needs on the journey to net zero,” the firm said.  

Still lacking support?

With Whitby no longer in the picture, the batten now passes to Redcar.  

NGN has already opened a hydrogen hub on Redcar High Street to give customers the opportunity to learn more about its plans to supply hydrogen to around 2,000 homes and businesses in parts of Redcar from 2025, including the town centre, Warrenby, Coatham and an area of Kirkleatham.  The hydrogen would be produced in Teesside, it would create jobs and it would enable Redcar generate its own energy from renewable sources, NGN said. 

Though the government is expected to make a decision on the project later this year, news published by the Northern Echo shows that concerns over NGNs plan still exist. 

Peter Dunsby, who owns a renewable energy company said: “I have been knocking on a lot of doors and we hear the message consistently that people don’t understand what is happening…If you look at what the science says, what the leading independent experts say about safety, there are a lot of reasons why people should be quite wary about having hydrogen in their house.”   

Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Post has reported that Redcar homeowners have written a letter to the government to warn of the "lack of substantial local support," and have called for an independent vote on the hydrogen heating trial. 

Conversely, Mark Horsley, CEO of NGN said that they have been encouraged by the "enthusiastic response from the local community" to the opportunity of the hydrogen investment. 

Mixing it up with hydrogen

Cadent and NGN are currently working together on the HyDeploy project – a three phase programme involving the supply of natural gas with a 20% mix (by volume) of hydrogen to a number of commercial and residential properties, without the need to change any boilers or pipework. 

Both Phase 1 and Phase 2 concluded successfully. Phase 1 was an 18-month trial with 100 homes and 30 Keele university buildings. Phase 2 involved 668 homes in Winlaton, plus an Anglican church, and the community’s West Lane primary school. 

In Phase 3, HyDeploy will build on projects with Pilkington Glass and Unilever, by partnering with a number of other firms such as Bosch, and Eastham Refinery Ltd to test similar hydrogen blended gas processes. 

The safety evidence gathered by HyDeploy during these trials will help enable government policy on sanctioning the use of hydrogen blending across the gas distribution network.

Article by Kerry Hebden

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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