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Wales & West Utilities is looking to develop ‘hydrogen hubs’ to help reduce emissions from transport and heat combined, with funding awarded for a new research project.

The gas distribution company will lead on the three-month feasibility study, partnered with Guidehouse, National Grid Electricity Distribution, RWE and Pembrokeshire County Council.

The project will determine whether hybrid hydrogen and district heating systems can support the decarbonisation of transport and heat at the lowest cost for customers.

With both Government and industry looking for ways to efficiently decarbonise heat and transport, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle technology is seen as a credible option to decarbonise vehicles. Reducing the cost of green hydrogen production and distribution would help make this a more viable option for a wider range of uses.

Using the waste heat from electrolysis – the process used to produce green hydrogen – could be a means to reduce the costs of production, whilst offering solutions in the supply of low carbon heat to homes, businesses and public buildings.

This project will identify opportunities for the co-location of electrolytic hydrogen refuelling stations and heat demand, where the cost-benefit of waste heat will also be assessed to minimise the cost of hydrogen for consumers. 

Partners will explore revenue stacking and financial optimisation of electrolysers, integrating the response to multiple energy demands and facilitating efficient infrastructure provision. They will also explore the extent to which exploiting these opportunities will help to de-risk development projects.

Matt Hindle, Head of Net Zero and Sustainability at Wales & West Utilities, said:

Hydrogen hubs could help find solutions for vehicles which need a low carbon fuel; local authorities, housing owners and commercial building operators looking to decarbonise their estates; and by renewable generators looking to make use of curtailed power. This project will explore sites where co-locating hydrogen production for transport with heat demands could maximise its value and cut emissions from both.

This project will develop our understanding of the data and technology to understand how integrated hydrogen hubs could make hydrogen more economic. It will also look at how their location can support energy networks and make efficient use of our infrastructure as we progress to Net Zero.

The project is expected to deliver many benefits including reductions in the cost of operating the gas and electricity network, savings on consumer energy bills, whilst also having a positive environmental impact.

The project will run until June 30 2023.

This project is funded by energy network users and consumers through the Strategic Innovation Fund, a programme from the UK’s independent energy regulator Ofgem managed in partnership with Innovate UK.

Wales & West Utilities is the company that look after the pipes that keep the gas flowing to heat the homes and power businesses of 7.5m people across Wales and south west England. They operate the gas emergency service, connect new homes and businesses, and upgrade the gas network so it’s safe today and fit for the future.

The company is investing £400m between 2021 and 2026 to deliver a Net Zero ready gas network by 2035, while looking after the most vulnerable in communities across Wales and south west England.

The company is also committed to playing its part in getting to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. It has 49 power stations connected to its network to support renewables like wind and solar power, while 20 green gas sites inject enough decarbonised green gas to power approx. 180,000 homes, Additionally, the company’s network supplies bus garages in three locations across the south west of England, fuelling CNG buses that improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions from public transport.