Energy storage company ITM Power has teamed up with Shell and the National Grid on a project looking at the operational feasibility of injecting hydrogen, generated from electrolysis fed from renewables, into the UK gas networks.
The project, which could help transport energy from renewable sources by pipe rather than wire, is based on electrolysis, which uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
ITM Power said that the hydrogen produced by wind-power fuelled electrolysis could be injected into the UK’s natural gas network. Once in the network, it would mix with natural gas and comprise a small percentage of the total.
According to Simon Bourne, chief technology officer at ITM Power, small amounts of hydrogen infused in gas do not affect its use in cooking, for example. He said that the process was already being used in Germany and was becoming more widespread.
Bourne explained that an electrolysis system could overcome some of the challenges facing the renewable energy industry. Much of the electricity generated by wind turbines is produced in Scotland, where there is limited demand for the power locally, for example. In addition, wind turbines can generate electricity only when the wind blows, leaving peaks and troughs in supply.
Bourne said: “This project is looking at re-purposing the existing gas infrastructure, so instead of sending the energy by wire you send it by pipe. In that way, you are squeezing as much as you possibly can out of the existing infrastructure and minimising the scenarios when you would have to curtail wind generation.”
He added: “Hydrogen has a zero carbon footprint, so it ultimately reduces the carbon dioxide emissions from using natural gas.”
The project is partly funded by the Technology Strategy Board and will look at the feasibility of bringing such a system to the UK. ITM Power has already designed and developed equipment that can do the job, and is testing some systems on its premises.