Costain has produced a feasibility study that will contribute to ongoing assessments of the ability to use the existing UK gas distribution network to transport hydrogen.
The project is the first to bring together all the gas distribution networks, working collaboratively.
A process called hydrogen deblending would allow for a varying mix of hydrogen and natural gas to flow through the network, before the two gases were separated so a controlled blend can be supplied to the customer.
Costain said the method meant that hydrogen could be supplied to those who are ready and prevented from being received by those who are not.
The study is funded under the Network Innovation Allowance (NIA), which is available for gas and electricity network operators to fund innovative projects which have the potential to deliver benefits to network customers. The objective is to provide evidence as to the technical and commercial feasibility of using deblending to support the transition of the UK National Transmission System and Gas Distribution Networks to a 100% hydrogen gas network.
Blending hydrogen into the existing natural gas pipeline network to relatively low concentrations (less than 20% hydrogen) has already been proposed as a means of transporting hydrogen without significantly increasing the risks associated with utilisation of the gas blend in end-use devices (such as household appliances), overall public safety, or the durability and integrity of the existing natural gas pipeline network.
Costain said deblending could provide a means to transition from a 20% to a 100% hydrogen network, providing customers with the options for either pure hydrogen, hydrogen/natural gas blends or natural gas.
It added that adopting the method could help avoid the cost, estimated at billions of pounds, of building dedicated hydrogen pipelines.
Using the operational data provided by the gas network partners, Costain evaluated the techno-economic feasibility of deblending schemes, and carried out technical evaluation and selection of technologies for hydrogen recovery and purification, development of process schemes, plant designs and cost estimates.
Rob Phillips, energy sector director, Costain, said: “Achieving near 100% decarbonisation of the gas grid will be an essential step in meeting the UK’s commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and is something Costain is committed to driving forward as part of our climate change action plan. Our expertise in deblending offers yet another low carbon solution that will be key to minimising the cost of decarbonising energy infrastructure.”