Village becomes first in UK to burn HYDROGEN in boilers and hobs

Village becomes first in UK to burn HYDROGEN in boilers and hobs

Village becomes first in the county to burn HYDROGEN in boilers and hobs in trial that could be rolled out to millions of homes in next few years

  • Hydrogen trial involves 650 homes in Winlaton village in Newcastle-upon-Tyne 
  • Hydrogen is making up 2% of gas being burned before being increased to 20% 
  • The gas does not produce CO2 when it is burned and can cut overall emissions

A village has become the first in Britain to burn hydrogen in its boilers as part of a trial which could see millions of homes follow suit in the next few years. 

Some 650 homes in Winlaton, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, have been using hydrogen to power their boilers, cookers, hobs and fires. 

The trial is being run by Cadent and Northern Gas Networks (NGN), which sent a letter to residents last month to let them know it would be starting ‘soon’. 

However it withheld the exact start date to avoid the change being blamed for any boiler problems – and residents did not seem to notice. 

Some 650 homes in Winlaton (pictured), near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, have been using hydrogen to power their boilers, cookers, hobs and fires

What is the difference between blue and green hydrogen? 

Blue hydrogen is when natural gas is split into hydrogen and CO2 either by Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) or Auto Thermal Reforming (ATR), but the CO2 is captured and then stored. 

As the greenhouse gasses are captured, this mitigates the environmental impacts on the planet.

The ‘capturing’ is done through a process called Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS). 

Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced by splitting water by electrolysis. 

This produces only hydrogen and oxygen. 

We can use the hydrogen and vent the oxygen to the atmosphere with no negative impact.

To achieve the electrolysis we need electricity, we need power. 

This process to make green hydrogen is powered by renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar. 

That makes green hydrogen the cleanest option – hydrogen from renewable energy sources without CO2 as a by-product.  

Source: Petrofac.com 

The hydrogen is currently only making up for 2 per cent of the gas being burned but will increase over the coming days to 20 per cent. 

For hydrogen to make up a larger proportion, new appliances or pipes would need to be fitted. 

A successful trial in Winlaton could mean millions of homes across Britain will be fed a 20 per cent hydrogen blend in a bid to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. 

Hydrogen does not produce CO2 when it burns and can cut overall emissions. 

It is also hoped the trial in Winlaton will confirm whether or not adding hydrogen to the gas supply causes more leaks. 

However some residents complained of the fact that they were unaware it had started. 

Henry Anderson, 67, told the Times: ‘I guess it’s about the carbon footprint, but is it safe? I’m not very happy being a guinea pig.’ 

However George Robson, 81, said he was happy to take part in the experiment, adding: ‘Something has to be done about climate change…not for my benefit but for the young ones.’

The village was deemed a good guinea pig as like many towns across the country it has a mix of modern plastic and old metal pipes, which are typically leakier. 

The concern over leakages comes from the fact that hydrogen molecules are much smaller than those of methane, meaning they can escape through cracks more easily.  

It comes after a recent government-backed study suggested hydrogen boilers could ignite four times as many explosions as those using natural gas. 

However if every home in Britain ran on 20 per cent hydrogen, it would cause a drop in CO2 emissions equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars off the road.

And while a 100 per cent hydrogen future is possible, the gas grid would have to build new pipes with more safety valves first.   

Some 300 homes in Fife will be the first to trial 100 per cent hydrogen at the end of 2022. 

And as part of its commitment to tackling climate change, the government is looking into creating a ‘pilot hydrogen town’ before 2030.     

A recent government-backed study suggested hydrogen boilers could ignite four times as many explosions as those using natural gas (file photo)

Head of hydrogen projects at NGN Tim Harwood told the Times that while the industry had an interest in promoting the gas alternative, as ‘we have billions of pounds of assets that we can reuse’, there would also be benefits to households because hydrogen would be less disruptive than installing expensive electric heat pumps.

However, Richard Lowes, a lecturer in energy policy at Exeter University, disagreed, arguing that heat pumps are much cheaper to operate compared to a hydrogen boiler. 

The expert said making hydrogen from electrolysis takes six times as much electricity to obtain the same amount of heat from a heat pump.   

He added that a blend of 20 per cent ‘green hydrogen’ would only cut emissions by 7 per cent, due to its lower calorific value. 

There are two main methods used to obtain hydrogen, the results of which are known as ‘blue hydrogen’ and ‘green hydrogen’.  

Blue hydrogen is when natural gas is split into hydrogen and CO2 either by Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) or Auto Thermal Reforming (ATR), but the CO2 is captured and then stored. 

Green hydrogen is produced through electrolysis which is a process of separating water into hydrogen and oxygen. 

How much will alternatives to gas boilers cost you to install at home? 

GROUND SOURCE HEAT PUMPS (£14,000 – £19,000)

Ground source heat pumps use pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground, which can then heat radiators, warm air heating systems and hot water.

They circulate a mixture of water and antifreeze around a ground loop pipe. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger.

Installation costs between £14,000 to £19,000 depending on the length of the loop, and running costs will depend on the size of the home and its insulation.

Users may be able to receive payments for the heat they generate through the Government’s renewable heat incentive. The systems normally come with a two or three year warranty – and work for at least 20 years, with a professional check every three to five years.

AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMPS (£11,000)

Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air at low temperature into a fluid to heat your house and hot water. They can still extract heat when it is as cold as -15C (5F), with the fluid passing through a compressor which warms it up and transfers it into a heating circuit.

They extract renewable heat from the environment, meaning the heat output is greater than the electricity input – and they are therefore seen as energy efficient.

There are two types, which are air-to-water and air-to-air, and installing a system costs £9,000 to £11,000, depending on the size of your home and its insulation.

A typical three-bedroom home is said to be able to save £2,755 in ten years by using this instead of a gas boiler.

HYDROGEN BOILERS (£1,500 – £5,000)

Hydrogen boilers are still only at the prototype phase, but they are being developed so they can run on hydrogen gas or natural gas – so can therefore convert without a new heating system being required.

The main benefit of hydrogen is that produces no carbon dioxide at the point of use, and can be manufactured from either water using electricity as a renewable energy source, or from natural gas accompanied by carbon capture and storage.

A hydrogen-ready boiler is intended to be a like-for-like swap for an existing gas boiler, but the cost is unknown, with estimates ranging from £1,500 to £5,000.

The boiler is constructed and works in mostly the same way as an existing condensing boiler, with Worcester Bosch – which is producing a prototype – saying converting a hydrogen-ready boiler from natural gas to hydrogen will take a trained engineer around an hour.

SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS (£4,800)

Solar photovoltaic panels generate renewable electricity by converting energy from the sun into electricity, with experts saying they will cut electricity bills.

Options include panels fitted on a sloping south-facing roof or flat roof, ground-standing panels or solar tiles – with each suitable for different settings. They are made from layers of semi-conducting material, normally silicon, and electrons are knocked loose when light shines on the material which creates an electricity flow.

The cells can work on a cloudy day but generate more electricity when the sunshine is stronger. The electricity generated is direct current (DC), while household appliances normally use alternating current (AC) – and an inverter is therefore installed with the system.

The average domestic solar PV system is 3.5 kilowatts peak (kWp) – the rate at which energy is generated at peak performance, such as on a sunny afternoon. A 1kWp set of panels will produce an average of 900kWh per year in optimal conditions, and the cost is £4,800.

SOLAR WATER HEATING (£5,000)

Solar water heating systems, or solar thermal systems, use heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water.

A conventional boiler or immersion heater can then be used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable.

The system works by circulating a liquid through a panel on a roof, or on a wall or ground-mounted system.

The panels absorb heat from the sun, which is used to warm water kept in a cylinder, and those with the system will require a fair amount of roof space receiving direct sunlight for much of the day to make it effectively.

The cost of installing a typical system is between £4,000 and £5,000, but the savings are lower than other options because it is not as effective in the winter months.

BIOMASS BOILERS (£5,000 – £19,000)

 

The renewable energy source of biomass is generated from burning wood, plants and other organic matter such as manure or household waste. It releases carbon dioxide when burned, but much less than fossil fuels.

Biomass heating systems can burn wood pellets, chips or logs to heat a single room or power central heating and hot water boilers.

A stove can also be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating, and experts say a wood-fuelled biomass boiler could save up to £700 a year compared to a standard electric heating system.

An automatically-fed pellet boiler for an average home costs between £11,000 and £19,000, including installation, flue and fuel store. Manually fed log boiler systems can be slightly cheaper, while a smaller domestic biomass boiler starts at £5,000.

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