UK shelves hydrogen town trial

Article by Adam Duckett

THE UK has shelved plans to trial using hydrogen to heat homes at town-scale until after 2026. The decision follows failed attempts to establish smaller village trials in Whitby and Redcar.

Plans were to launch a town trial by 2030, backed by evidence from village trials that had been scheduled to start operations by 2025.

The plans began to unravel last July after strong local opposition to a village trial in Whitby, Cheshire saw the scheme abandoned. The plan to replace residents' boilers with ones that can burn hydrogen brought up concerns about safety.

Questions were also raised about whether it made environmental sense to prioritise hydrogen for home heating when there are alternative domestic options such as heat pumps which can be powered using renewable power. Furthermore, less than 1% of UK hydrogen is produced using green methods and it might be better used by heavy industry that does not so readily have low-carbon alternatives for process energy and feedstocks.

Then in December, the sole remaining village pilot, planned for Redcar, was abandoned after Northern Gas Networks was unable to source the low-carbon hydrogen it needed to run the 2,000-home trial.

The government said its decision on a town trial will now wait until after 2026 once it has more evidence including from a smaller neighbourhood trial under development in Fife, Scotland, and schemes across Europe.

In a statement, the government said: “We believe that low-carbon hydrogen may have a role to play in heat decarbonisation, alongside heat pumps and heat networks, but in slower time in some locations. We plan to take a decision in 2026 on whether, and if so how, hydrogen will contribute to heating decarbonisation.”

The neighbourhood trial under development in Fife is set to start in 2025. A new 8 km pipeline network will provide 300 homes with hydrogen for heating and cooking. The hydrogen will be produced using an electrolyser powered by offshore wind.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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