THE UK government will not be proceeding with a controversial hydrogen trial in Redcar. Northern Gas Networks had planned to heat around 2,000 homes and businesses with the gas but has failed to secure sufficient supply. The news comes months after another “hydrogen village” trial in Whitby was cancelled due to strong local opposition.
Announcing the move, Northern Gas Networks said it was “disappointed” it was unable to progress the project due to “unavailability of local, low-carbon hydrogen”.
Chemical engineering consultant Tom Baxter, a strong opponent of the Whitby trial, has previously questioned the safety of hydrogen in homes. He blamed project management failings for the downfall of the Redcar scheme. “I find it astonishing that it has taken to the 11th hour for this risk to be identified,” said Baxter. “Basic project management – secure your feedstock.”
Georgia Whitaker, climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “It’s no surprise that attempts to pay people to be guinea pigs in this weird hydrogen trial backfired. Now we just need the government to ramp up investment to make sure that the phase out of polluting gas boilers happens as swiftly and fairly as possible.”
Despite the setback, the government appears to still be considering hydrogen for home heating and said it will assess evidence from a neighbouring trial in Fife, as well as similar schemes across Europe to decide in 2026 whether and how hydrogen could help households in the journey to net zero.
As it announced the Redcar trial cancellation, the UK government unveiled measures to bolster UK hydrogen production, including £400m of private investment gained via agreement for project support.
Whitaker added: “The push for hydrogen boilers was just a blatant attempt by the fossil fuel industry to keep us hooked on gas – which hydrogen is often made from. Green hydrogen – produced from renewable energy – is genuinely low carbon and will play a vital role in cutting emissions from industries, like steel and glass production, so the investment announced today is extremely welcome. But heat pumps are the only sensible option for home heating.”
A recent survey found that 55% of IChemE members believe the UK should abandon plans to install hydrogen boilers and pipe the gas into homes. Richard Boocock said: “A domestic hydrogen boiler installation in a kitchen cupboard, dependent only on natural ventilation, infrequently maintained by sometimes unqualified personnel, is literally an accident waiting to happen.”
Meanwhile, the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission argued for heat pumps for keeping households warm, saying there was no public policy case for hydrogen in heating individual homes.
It said: “Heat pumps and heat networks are the solution. They are highly efficient, available now and being deployed rapidly in other countries.”
Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.