30% of the UK's natural gas could be replaced by hydrogen, cutting carbon emissions

30% of the UK's natural gas could be replaced by hydrogen, cutting carbon emissions
H2 (hydrogen as a gas) combined with CH4 (methane) produces hydrogen-enriched natural gas (HENG). This can help lower carbon emissions (CO2). Credit: Swansea University

Almost a third of the natural gas fuelling UK homes and businesses could be replaced by hydrogen, a carbon free fuel, without requiring any changes to the nation's boilers and ovens, a pioneering study by Swansea University researchers has shown.

Over time the move could cut UK by up to 18%.

Natural gas is used for cooking, heating and generating electricity. Domestic gas usage accounts for 9% of UK emissions. In an effort to reduce annual emissions, there is presently a concerted effort from researchers worldwide to offset our usage of natural gas.

Enriching natural gas with is one way forward. Experiments have shown that modern-day gas appliances work safely and reliably with hydrogen-enriched natural gas as the fuel. It is already used in parts of Germany and the Netherlands, with a £600m government-backed trial in the UK taking place this year.

Natural gas naturally contains a small quantity of hydrogen, although current UK legislation restricts the allowed proportion to 0.1%.

The question the Swansea team investigated was how far they could increase the percentage of hydrogen in natural gas, before it became unsuitable as a fuel, for example because the flames became unstable.

The team, Dr. Charles Dunnill and Dr. Daniel Jones at the University's Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI), found:

  • An enrichment of around 30% is possible, when various instability phenomena are taken into account
  • Higher percentages make the fuel incompatible with domestic appliances, due to hydrogen's relatively low energy content, its low density, and a high burning velocity.
  • 30% enrichment by hydrogen nevertheless equates to a potential reduction of up to 18% in domestic carbon dioxide emissions;
30% of the UK's natural gas could be replaced by hydrogen, cutting carbon emissions
30% of the UK's natural gas could be replaced by hydrogen, cutting carbon emissions, Swansea University researchers have shown. Credit: Swansea University

The research was published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the Sustainable Energy & Fuels.

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 , hydrogen-enriched can cut our , 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."

Explore further

How do we make hydrogen from coal, and is it really a clean fuel?

More information: Daniel R. Jones et al. Hydrogen-enriched natural gas as a domestic fuel: an analysis based on flash-back and blow-off limits for domestic natural gas appliances within the UK, Sustainable Energy & Fuels (2018). DOI: 10.1039/C7SE00598A
Provided by Swansea University
Citation: 30% of the UK's natural gas could be replaced by hydrogen, cutting carbon emissions (2018, June 11) retrieved 20 October 2019 from https://techxplore.com/news/2018-06-uk-natural-gas-hydrogen-carbon.html
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Jun 11, 2018
One tiny problem: hydrogen leaks through joints that would hold methane...

Jun 11, 2018
Yes, a couple of glaring problems:

Hydrogen is as nasty as fuck, you can't store it...and you can't transport it and you can't pipeline it.

I'm exaggerating - but not by much.

Jun 11, 2018
So, so they are looking to do an add or percentage of hydrogen. Not so bad, then.

However, the ignored aspect of gasoline and specifically..Diesel cars and specifically transport trucks...to use a "brown's gas" electrolysis system..and add an HHO mix to the prefuel.

This additive burn technique has the effect of reducing unwanted released gasses and contaminants by over 80%. Emissions reduce to zero, essentially.

The oil companies have wanted this technique DEAD for decades, now. Fuel efficiency takes a big jump, 20% is an easy achievement. With co2 and then zero complex emissions--as the only effluent.

Look up brown's gas as this hydrogen bit is the same effect/technique.

Key words: Eagle research, yule brown, Rhodes gas, George wiesmann, etc.

Hundreds of videos on youtube about this. See living working systems in diesel trucks.

Fringe science wins again, but only after decades of attacks and smearing.

Tip of the iceberg - people have died over this.

Jun 11, 2018
From this article one would think that we had a way to produce and store H2 that did not require huge amounts of energy. I will guarantee that using the electricity required to produce H2 directly in say a heat pump would be a much cheaper way to heat a home.
Now if they are trying to store excess peak renewable energy production in the form of H2 for later use perhaps they should go all the way and convert it into some sort of liquid fuel. Or just store it and use a fuel cell to convert it back into heat and electricity. At one time, in the US, the electric company in New York City took the waste heat from their coal fired plants and produced steam, which it sold to buildings for heating and cooling purposes. These coal plants have been shut down.

Jun 11, 2018
BTW I just love the euphemism of "Enriched" natural gas. In reality it is diluted natural gas.

Jun 11, 2018
Delivering blends of hydrogen and methane (the primary component of natural gas) by pipeline also has a long history, dating back to the origins of today's natural gas system when manufactured gas produced from coal was first piped during the Gaslight era to streetlamps, commercial buildings, and households in the early and mid-1800s. The manufactured gas products of the time, also referred to as town gas or water gas, typically contained 30%–50% hydrogen, and could be produced from pitch, whale oil, coal or petroleum products (Castaneda 1999; Tarr 2004; Melaina 2012). The use of manufactured gas persisted in the United States into the early 1950s

Jun 11, 2018
Town gas aka water gas, a noxious mix of CO + H2, was humid enough for 'traditional' pipe seals to hold. IIRC, there were huge problems during conversion to methane. That dried out joints, caused slow leaks and large explosions until the gas was humidified. This could be the same in reverse, as 'plumbers tape' is no match for slippery hydrogen...

I used H2 for GC detection, never, ever got a seal 'perfectly' tight. FWIW, helium was worse...

Jun 11, 2018
My concern would be hydrogen embrittlement of metals, especially steel.

Jun 11, 2018
That's nice. And how are the British going to produce hydrogen?

Jun 27, 2018
Hydrogen is the devil to transport, it'll diffuse through plastic, or dissociate and then tunnel through metal, embrittling it. Pipelines have to be plastic/metal laminate, with a water jacket, and regular tests for leaking, last I knew.

Rather than seeing hydrogen as the fuel of the future, instead look for how to make hydrogen bonds. Ammonia is one method, hydrocarbons are another, assuming you've got some CO2 to recycle. The simplest steps yield cryogenic liquids that are easily pipelined.

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