22 December 2020
What is the future of gas?

What is the future of gas?

Learn more about the plan to switch the UK’s gas grid from natural gas to hydrogen for the 85% of UK households, creating the world’s first net-zero gas network.

Gas plays an enormous role in the UK energy system. Gas central heating is installed in 22 million out of 29 million homes in the UK.

2019 saw a record number of gas boilers sold in the UK with 1.67 million units, an increase of 1.8% on 2018 figures.

Gas is convenient, clean, quiet, simple to use, safe, and affordable. It heats our homes and cooks our food. It helps create the electricity that we use every day too.

But the UK's use of gas is also responsible for 35% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonisation is essential if the Scottish Government is to meet its current ambitious climate target of net zero emissions by 2045.

Decarbonising the gas network will be a major undertaking necessitating changes to the gas network on a scale not experienced since gas first arrived in homes more than 60 years ago.

Introducing the Gas Goes Green programme

The UK’s five gas network operators, coming together as the Energy Networks Association (ENA), have set themselves the challenge of delivering the changes needed to move the country’s gas network from methane-based natural gas to a zero-carbon alternative.

Gas Goes Green is their blueprint for cutting out carbon emissions using wind power and hydrogen.

Why hydrogen?

Hydrogen is an ideal replacement for natural gas in our heating systems and here’s why:

  • Hydrogen doesn't produce carbon when it burns, only water and heat
  • Hydrogen is a highly efficient fuel containing a lot of energy (1kg of hydrogen contains the same amount of energy as 2.8kg of gasoline)
  • Hydrogen will remove the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in homes, hotels, and other buildings across the UK – saving around 60 lives each year
  • A hydrogen network would use the same pipelines, fittings and boilers as natural gas so there would be very little need to invest in changing the infrastructure
  • A hydrogen gas boiler would be very similar to today’s natural gas boiler but potentially cost less to run
  • Homes and buildings can use their existing heating system including pipework
  • There will effectively be no change to the way you heat your property, use hot water or cook your food

Another benefit of the Gas Goes Green programme is that it will create new demand for clean technologies and green gas, stimulating new green industries in Scotland. This will unlock green jobs and regional economic growth.

How is hydrogen made?

The emergence of wind power as a large-scale source of clean energy is a crucial part of the hydrogen growth puzzle. It provides the scale necessary to generate large amounts of clean power needed for electrolysis – the process that creates hydrogen.

When powered by renewable energy, the generation and burning of hydrogen produces no carbon, making it the most effective, scalable way of providing heating while fighting climate change. It’s a clean energy combination that could put Scotland on track to hit net zero by 2045.

Wind turbines off the Aberdeen coas

Photo: Wind turbines off the Aberdeen coast

When will the change to hydrogen happen?

It’s early days in the programme at the moment, and there is no exact date for switchover. However, an estimate of between 10 and 12 years has been given by the ENA for the majority of the UK to be switched over.

Pipelines

Nearly two-thirds of the UK’s local pipelines have already been replaced with new, hydrogen-ready pipes. It’s estimated that this work will be completed across the UK by 2032.

H100 Fife

A pilot project in Levenmouth called H100 Fife is already underway. This hydrogen-to-homes heating network will bring 100% renewable hydrogen into homes in 2022 and is a world-first. It will provide zero-carbon fuel for heating and cooking.

In the project’s first phase, the network will heat around 300 local homes using clean gas produced by a dedicated electrolysis plant, powered by a nearby offshore wind turbine. Learn more about H100 Fife.

Aberdeen Vision project

Scottish Gas Network (SGN) aims to demonstrate the commercial viability of injecting 2% hydrogen into the gas network through their Aberdeen Vision project. The project begins at St Fergus Gas Terminal and will encompass Aberdeenshire.

The project aims to provide a case for constructing a new 100% hydrogen pipeline between St Fergus and Aberdeen that would initially supply the network with a hydrogen blend of up to 20%, increasing to 100% following a complete network conversion to hydrogen.

Learn more about Aberdeen Vision.

Is hydrogen safe?

The hydrogen-based gas network will be designed and built to ensure the same high safety and reliability standards expected from the current gas system.

Hydrogen appliances will require the same Gas Safe checks as appliances today.

Using hydrogen will remove the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from homes and buildings across the UK.

Will hydrogen be more expensive?

It’s not currently known exactly how much homeowners will save on their monthly heating bill with the switch to hydrogen-powered heating. However, it’s estimated that a zero-carbon gas grid in the UK could save bill payers up to £13bn a year compared to the alternative methods of decarbonising heat and transport.

Will my current heating system and boiler work with hydrogen?

Hydrogen can be used with your existing central heating system, avoiding the need for expensive changes to the structure of your home (for example, pipework).

Modern condensing gas boilers and household cookers will be able to be powered with the initial hydrogen supply (probably 20%) mixed with natural gas that will happen first. So initially you will be able to avoid the costs involved in replacing your heating system as hydrogen is introduced into the UK.

However, your gas boiler will eventually need to be replaced with a fully hydrogen-ready gas boiler when the network becomes 100% hydrogen in the future. A hydrogen boiler will work in a similar way to existing gas boilers. The key difference is that it could not only heat the home with natural gas but pure hydrogen too.

Information about the impact of hydrogen gas heating on a home

Source: ENA. View larger image

Can I buy a hydrogen boiler now?

It isn't yet possible to buy a hydrogen boiler.

But, while they might not be available to buy yet, some boiler manufacturers including Baxi and Worcester Bosch have been developing prototypes of hydrogen-ready boilers.

The ENA recently co-signed an open letter to the Prime Minister along with the UK’s leading boiler manufacturers, calling for hydrogen-ready boilers to be mandated in our homes from 2025.

Will installation and servicing be more complicated and expensive?

Hydrogen boilers will be installed in the same way as today’s gas boilers. These boilers will be the same size and shape as regular gas boilers and won’t require significant changes to install them.

They will be connected to the gas network, with fuel being delivered to the unit as and when heating and hot water is needed.

Many of the internal parts will be identical too. Only a handful of components, such as the flame detector and burner, will need to be replaced to suit hydrogen.

Should the gas network be converted to a 100% supply of hydrogen then Gas Safe-registered engineers, including the team here at Kingdom Gas, will be trained to install them.

We will be watching this space and providing updates as we get them.

Want to save money on your heating today?

Although the future is hydrogen, the reality is it’s still quite far away for most of us. In the meantime, a modern, efficient gas boiler can help you use less energy and spend less money. Modern condensing gas boilers are highly efficient and can make your home more comfortable. Not only that, but you will also reduce your carbon emissions.

We supply and install new, efficient gas heating systems and boilers for homes, landlords, housing associations, and businesses right across the East Coast of Scotland.

Free quote

Call our friendly team on 0800 3899 463 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 5pm) for a free quote, or use our easy online form to get a free quote.


Written by Kingdom Gas Services team