LOW CARBON BUILDINGS High time for hydrogen?

The viability of hydrogen as the fuel of the future has become a hot topic within the plumbing and heating industry. Steve Sutton, technical manager at the Heating & Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC), looks at the work being carried out by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to potentially decarbonise the UK’s gas supply with a little help from hydrogen

enough. It converts to heat without releasing carbon dioxide and, it is understood, can utilise the supply network currently providing gas to around 26 million homes. When this figure alone is voiced out loud, talk of other options, such as electrifying the energy supply of these gas-powered homes, sound less and less practicable. For some time, the HHIC has championed the industry and government working together to find a workable solution which realises the benefits of ‘green gas’. The gas grid currently delivers gas into the homes of over 85% of the UK population. Rather than rip out heating systems, the most sensible and realistic option is to decarbonise the gas going into the grid. Green gas, whatever the source, offers a viable way forward using our existing gas infrastructure, which would negate any need to transition homes away from their existing appliance type, stabilising cost and reducing disruption to the consumer. Of course, depending on the method of hydrogen production, there may be a need for carbon capture usage and storage, and it is pleasing to see the government has included this in its clean growth strategy, seemingly beginning to crystallise thinking in this area. However, the scale of the challenge to convert to hydrogen means it cannot be implemented overnight. Political commitment, research, product development and testing are all part of what is needed to make this theory a reality. Thankfully, this is now much closer than ever. The Department for Business,


Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is working alongside the industry to investigate how we get a project of this scale off the ground. Supporting this exploration, the government has allocated £25 million to a new

project in the form of ‘Hy4Heat’ – a range of inter-related ‘work-packages’ that will form a feasibility study, establishing the viability of employing hydrogen as a replacement for natural gas in heating our homes and commercial buildings, through combustion in appliances. This includes gas cookers and fires, which may become known as the low carbon hydrogen fire as a future means of secondary heating. On successful completion the government will be able to make a decision on the next stage which will be a community trial. Work Package 1 (WP1) saw the appointment of Arup+, a professional services provider, to lead a consortium of technical specialists and experts to manage the programme, allowing the government to determine whether to proceed with community trials. The Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers (IGEM) has been appointed by BEIS to develop WP2. Working in close collaboration with leading industry partners such as the HHIC, IGEM will look to develop functional gas standards for hydrogen for use within the ‘Hy4Heat’ demonstration programme. IGEM will introduce three working groups that will review areas such as

DSEAR, materials, leakage rate, and ventilation; appliance location, flueing, installation and air supply. The work will be peer reviewed by the Hy4Heat project board, industry experts from the Health & Safety Laboratory, DNV GL, and the IGEM Technical Coordinating and Gas Utilisation committees. WP3 focuses on certification for domestic hydrogen appliances. Earlier this

year, a survey of Notified Bodies and Test Laboratories reported that hydrogen appliances could be certified under the existing Gas Appliance Regulation (GAR). However, in August, the HHIC attended a stakeholder event that explored the development of test standards for the certification of appliances fuelled by hydrogen. These are independent safety standards that are written to meet the requirements of the Gas Appliance Regulation so appliances can display a “CE

 February 2019

ince the Leeds H21 feasibility study got underway in 2014, the feasibility of using hydrogen throughout the existing network has been publicly debated. When it comes to decarbonisation to meet targets, the benefits seem clear

Mark” and all gas appliances fires are tested and approved to a British or European standard before being placed on the market. Additionally, the group discussed the potential to establish an appliance testing and certification committee to provide guidance on hydrogen standards. In other words, the industry is readying for change. The development of domestic hydrogen appliances is the core focus of WP4, as it looks to demonstrate the safe use of hydrogen as a fuel to provide heat and hot water in our homes which includes secondary heating and cooking. WP4, more formally known as the ‘Domestic Hydrogen Appliance Development Innovation SBRI Competition’, is being carried out with the ultimate aim of providing critical evidence of safety, emissions and functionality of hydrogen-fuelled products within domestic housing. Worth up to £9 million, the competition seeks to encourage appliance manufacturers to push forward the development of boilers (combi and regular/system), cookers (stand-alone hobs, ovens with grills and integrated freestanding cookers) and fires. BEIS is also urging competitors to use development funds to produce innovative domestic hydrogen appliances. The competition is running in three core phases between November 2018 and March 2021, with Phase 1 demonstrating that hydrogen appliances are a viable option for consumers. BEIS will be using this phase to widen their portfolio of appliance types while looking for a diverse range of suppliers to support product development. Phase 2a will see the first physical developments of

appliance prototypes which will be tested for functionality and safety, while Phase 2b will focus on further prototype development ready for potential community trials.

Innovative developments aside, the progression of hydrogen as the fuel of the

future rests on the success of the research and development conducted in the industry. Tenders have already been received for WP5 and WP6 which will see BEIS appoint contractors to deliver comprehensive research reports on the feasibility of converting the industrial and commercial sectors to hydrogen from natural gas. In many ways, the study is akin to those that have already been completed for domestic appliances such as the ‘Appraisal of Domestic Hydrogen Appliances’, written earlier last year by Frazer-Nash Consultancy. With the safety of consumers and installers a priority, a recently formed co-

ordination group will enable gas distributor network operators to agree an approach for WP7 and align ‘Hy4Heat’ with other hydrogen programmes and initiatives. WP8 will see the demonstration of the prototype domestic hydrogen appliances which have been developed in WP4. The final element of Hy4Heat programme is WP9, the planning and preparation for a potential community trial. The Hy4Heat programme has expanded to include the development of hydrogen gas meters with the first engagement event held at BEIS in December 2018.

Where next?

The future is full of unknowns. The fuel potential of hydrogen is not one of them. In Scotland and Germany, hydrogen has already been employed to power a fleet of low-carbon buses, vans and street-sweepers. The car industry already has hydrogen powered cars in production. This is just the beginning for hydrogen. The fuel of the future is already here but to make a real success of it

consumers, the heating and plumbing industry and the government must champion hydrogen. ‘Hy4Heat’ represents a fantastic starting point and will hopefully create the momentum needed to make theory a reality.

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