pathway to hydrogen

Wales & West Utilities is partnering with National Gas and Northern Gas Networks to develop the gas control room of the future, assessing the impact of distributing a wider range of gases, including hydrogen, through the existing network infrastructure to help meet the UK’s future of energy plans to decarbonise heat in buildings.

The UK Government’s Energy White Paper (2020) identified hydrogen as a potential source of decarbonised heat in buildings and, whilst there has been significant progress in recent years to accelerate the shift to green gases, including existing use of biomethane, the transition of a natural gas distribution network to one transporting green gases is recognised as a complex challenge.

The ‘Gas Control Systems’ project will see the networks jointly develop a gas control room of the future, which will be capable of securely managing low carbon hydrogen, either blended or 100%, alongside biomethane, to replace natural gas and help reach net zero by 2050.

The project will assess where we are today against future requirements, including how networks will manage carrying a range of gasses including methane, biomethane, hydrogen blend and pure hydrogen. This project will specifically seek to identify any changes that may be required to our control room systems to ensure they will meet requirements to support operation of the future energy system.

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

This multi-phase project is vital in helping us, as gas distribution networks, to further understand any required changes that may be required of the existing gas network to help us deliver on the future of energy plans.

Hydrogen is a low carbon alternative to gas which can be created here in the UK and stored, ready to be used when there’s high demand for energy. It can be pumped through existing gas pipes and presents an exciting opportunity for the UK to decarbonise without risking the industries and homes that can’t easily use electricity.

Alongside the other UK gas networks, we are committed to converting our existing safe and reliable gas network to transport green gases like hydrogen and biomethane which will help the UK get to Net Zero in a sustainable and affordable way, while minimising disruption to energy consumers.

The 2020s must be a decade of delivery, where we put the research and development work that has been done on hydrogen into practice.”

The project will run until the end of the year.

This project is funded by Wales & West Utilities, National Gas and Northern Gas Networks and is supported by the Network Innovation Allowance (NIA).

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.