National Grid Gas Distribution secures funding from Ofgem for research into low carbon innovations
National Grid Gas Distribution and its partners have secured funding of over £11 million from Ofgem for two projects that will open up new routes to a low-carbon future for gas in Great Britain.
The award of £11 million will go to separate but linked programmes that both seek to remove barriers to the increased use of low-carbon gases in the distribution network. The funding comes from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition (NIC), which supports projects that demonstrate environmental benefits, cost reductions and improved security of supply.
Gas used for heating contributes one third of Great Britain’s CO2 emissions. Both programmes have the potential to make a significant contribution to lowering emissions with minimal disruption to gas consumers.
Nearly £7 million of the funding will support the HyDeploy programme, a partnership with Northern Gas Networks set up to carry out live trials of natural gas blended with hydrogen.
The trials will be carried out using Keele University’s private gas distribution network. The private gas network provides heating to a number of faculty buildings, some student residences and a small number of residential homes lived in by academics.
Hydrogen burns without creating any carbon so blending it with natural gas significantly reduces emission levels. If the trial demonstrates that using hydrogen for gas heating is safe and practical, it has the potential to unlock savings of £8 billion to customers and avoid 120 million tonnes of carbon by 2050.
Having gained approval from the HSE, the three-year project will begin in 2017. Results will be widely shared with the gas industry and used to inform a further public trial of the use of hydrogen-blended natural gas in the UK grid, with the intention of eventually rolling out hydrogen blends nationwide.
The trial will see a hydrogen production plant and injection system built at Keele University by ITM Power and clean energy firm Progressive Energy.
David Parkin Director of Network Strategy at National Grid, said: “Ofgem’s decision to award National Grid £6.8 million recognises the important role for the UK’s gas grid in delivering low-carbon heat.
“Introducing a hydrogen blend nationally has the potential to save over six million tonnes of carbon emissions every year and could unlock even higher savings through more extensive use of the gas.”
Future billing changes
Another important project will explore new approaches to gas billing that could ensure a continuing role for the gas grid in a low-carbon energy future. It has been awarded £4.8m by Ofgem and is being launched in partnership with engineering consultants DNV GL.
Since the 1970s the commercial and billing regimes for gas supply have been built around natural gas, mainly from beneath the North Sea. But nowadays, the gas supply market is changing at pace.
Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) now makes up 10% of the supply and another 10% of domestic usage is predicted to come from bio-methane and bio-substitute natural gas by 2030. If the trials of hydrogen blended gas are successful, this could add another gas source to the mix, but this will require a significant change in the way consumers are billed for using gas.
Options for change
The current billing regime is based on a formula for calculating the energy content of a unit of gas (as opposed to the volume) called the Flow Weighted Average Calorific Value.
Producers of gas where the calorific value is low are required to enrich their gas with propane in order to meet a daily calorific value (CV) target. However, low-carbon sources of gas tend to be of a low calorific value too, so this practice is adding carbon to ‘green’ gases, something that works against the drive to meet carbon reduction targets.
This project will look at two options to make it easier for low-carbon sources of gas to be used freely without needing to add propane. The first is to carry out field trials for a number of different scenarios to determine if there is a more specific way of attributing CV to gas flows within different parts of the network to calculate customers’ actual energy usage. These field trials will be carried out by DNV GL.
The second will investigate the possibility of assigning CV to smart meters to enable a specific energy calculation for the gas supplied to an individual property. This is to be carried out at DNV GL’s recently opened smart energy and cyber security test centre at Peterborough, and it could provide the required data structure for gas energy billing in a wholly smart-metered future.
Hari Vamadevan, Regional Manager, DNV GL Oil & Gas, said: “This project will be really significant if we want to assess the financial impact of bills on gas consumers in a future where alternatives are being sought to help us meet our lower-carbon targets.”