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The CEO of Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has today welcomed Boris Johnson’s ambitious Ten-point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which lists hydrogen as a key component.

The pledge forms part of the government strategy which the Prime Minister believes will deliver on Net Zero commitments by 2050, and regenerate industrial heartlands in the North, creating jobs, prosperity and economic growth.

The details of the plan include the aim of heating a neighbourhood with hydrogen gas by 2023 and then an entire town, with tens of thousands of homes, by the end of the decade.

Currently heating the 85 percent of UK homes connected to the UK gas grid contributes one third to the UK’s total carbon emissions, meaning decarbonisation of this sector presents a huge and complex challenge.

NGN transports gas to 2.7 million homes and businesses from the Scottish borders to South Yorkshire and the North East coast to northern Cumbria. It believes clean hydrogen, which, produces no carbon when burned, can provide the solution to greener heating.

Mark Horsley, CEO of Northern Gas Networks said:

“We’re delighted to see hydrogen and carbon capture and storage have formed such a key part of this bold plan, which demonstrates the ambition there is for the UK to lead on climate change strategy and ensure those plans support Green Recovery and job creation.

“Our hydrogen demonstration projects are delivering essential evidence on which policy can be formed, to ensure that customers continue to have choice in terms of low carbon energy, which can be delivered with minimal impact.

“We will continue to work closely with the government and partners to support the plan and ultimately to delivering on Net Zero.”

NGN’s company’s flagship hydrogen programme is H21, a suite of projects demonstrating that the UK gas network can be converted to carry 100 percent hydrogen to homes and businesses.

H21 is a collaborative partnership between NGN, Cadent, SGN and Wales & West Utilities, National Grid Gas Transmission, along with the Health and Safety Executive Science Division (HSE-SD) and DNV GL.

It is backed by £16 million of Ofgem Network Innovation Competition (NIC) funding.

The next phase of the project will demonstrate how gas distribution companies would manage the network and the conversion to 100 percent hydrogen safely.  Tests will be carried out on a gas microgrid at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria, which is H21 partner DNV GL’s test and research facility.

The site is already home to three houses called the HyStreet, which are fitted with fully working hydrogen boilers to provide hot water and heat radiators. In another phase of the project, trials will be carried out on an unused section of the gas network in the South Bank area of Middlesbrough.

In addition, NGN is a partner in HyDeploy, a project to blend 20 percent hydrogen with natural gas. Following successful trials on a private network at Keele University, the next phase of the project will see Northern Gas Networks supply a 20 percent hydrogen blend to the community of Winlaton in Gateshead in 2021.

Tim Harwood, NGN’s Project Director for H21 said: “We believe the gas network can operate on 100 percent hydrogen in the future to achieve net zero carbon emissions. The gas network is a huge asset which transports gas reliably and has the flexibility to meet a winter demand which is five times as great as that in the summer.

“Hydrogen boilers have already been developed by leading manufactures Baxi and Worcester Bosch and are now up and running in our H21 demonstration homes at Spadeadam. They look and feel just like the boilers we use today.

“When the time comes a simple conversion by a gas engineer, taking perhaps 30 minutes would be all the disruption that is needed for a customer to switch to hydrogen.

“Whilst heating houses with electric may provide an economical solution for newly built homes, for the vast majority of UK housing stock, hydrogen gas would provide a more cost efficient and less disruptive carbon-free solution for customers.”