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Conversion of the UK Gas System to Transport Hydrogen


One option to decarbonise residential heat in the UK is to convert the existing natural gas networks to deliver hydrogen. We review the technical feasibility of this option using semistructured interviews underpinned by a literature review and we assess the potential economic benefits using the UK MARKAL energy systems model. We conclude that hydrogen can be transported safely in the low-pressure pipes but we identify concerns over the reduced capacity of the system and the much lower linepack storage compared to natural gas. New hydrogen meters and sensors would have to be fitted to every building in a hydrogen conversion program and appliances would have to be converted unless the government was to legislate to make them hydrogen-ready in advance. Converting the gas networks to hydrogen is a lower-cost residential decarbonisation pathway for the UK than those identified previously. The cost-optimal share of hydrogen is sensitive to the conversion cost and to variations in the capital costs of heat pumps and micro-CHP fuel cells. With such small cost differentials between technologies, the decision to convert the networks will also depend on non-economic factors including the relative performance of technologies and the willingness of the government to organise a conversion program.

Funding source: The long-term development of the UK MARKAL model has been supported by the UK Energy Research Centre, while the analysis reported in this paper was supported by the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Supergen Hub. Both of these initiatives are funded by the RCUK Energy Programme
Countries: United Kingdom

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