UK Could Replace 30% of Its Natural Gas With Hydrogen in Effort to Curb Climate Change

Researchers have discovered how much natural gas can be enriched by hydrogen to reduce carbon emissions.

A new study has shown that the UK could replace almost a third of the natural gas it consumes with hydrogen and cut carbon emissions by up to 18%. Natural gas is used for heating and cooking in both residential and business in the UK. 

Hydrogen is a carbon-free fuel that could replace natural gas in many instances with no changes to existing infrastructure to boilers and ovens. The research was done by Swansea University who investigated how much natural gas could be enriched by hydrogen and maintain a stable flame. 

Currently, there is some hydrogen present in the natural gas used in the UK, but that percentage is capped at 0.1%. So far experiments are looking positive for enriching natural gas with hydrogen.

Studies show that modern-day gas appliances work safely and reliably with hydrogen-enriched natural gas as the fuel. Natural gas, enriched with hydrogen is already used in parts of Germany and the Netherlands. 

A £600m government-backed trial will begin this year in the UK. The Swansea University researchers have discovered that natural gas can be enriched with up to 30% of hydrogen. 

Study shows hydrogen-enriched gas safe for domestic use

Higher percentages than this can cause problems with domestic burners. The research went on to show if the enriched gas is adopted through the UK, it has the possibility to reduce domestic carbon dioxide emissions by 18%. 

Dr. Charles Dunnill of the Energy Safety Research Institute at Swansea University said: "Up to 30% of the UK's gas supply can be replaced with hydrogen, without needing to modify people's appliances. As a low carbon domestic fuel, hydrogen-enriched natural gas can cut our greenhouse gas emissions, helping the UK meet its obligations under the 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement. Hydrogen-enrichment can make a difference now. But it could also prove a valuable stepping-stone towards a future, pure hydrogen, zero carbon gas network." 

Domestic natural gas usage contributes currently approximately 9% of the United Kingdom's nationwide carbon dioxide emissions. The full research has been published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the Sustainable Energy & Fuels. 

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The University of Swansea does a lot of research into the use of Hydrogen across a range of applications including for fuelling batteries in hybrid vehicles. Research into hydrogen is also investigating how it can be efficiently produced from water using renewable electricity, then transported replacing petrol or natural gas.

Hydrogen is being billed as a crucial element in the battle to wean off fossil fuels. There are many good things about hydrogen including its essentially endless supply and the fact it can be locally extracted and used so it has minimal transport costs. It is also safe to store and transport. 

The UK's trial run of hydrogen-enriched natural gas is just one of many hydrogen focused projects the UK and Europe are working on.

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