Hydrogen can be produced in different ways. Efficient large scale hydrogen production is a fast developing area.
Ideally, hydrogen production uses renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power to generate electricity. The electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, via a process called electrolysis.
Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) is another way to produce hydrogen at scale. SMR heats the methane from natural gas with steam and a catalyst to produce a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This is used today to produce large volumes of hydrogen in the UK and world-wide. For low carbon hydrogen, the use of SMR requires Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). There are projects in the UK and internationally looking to develop CCS technology.
Find out more about CCS here. Biohydrogen can also be produced from certain kinds of biomass, e.g. waste.
The hydrogen for HyDeploy will be produced using electrolysis using an electrolyser which will be installed on the Keele University campus.
An electrolyser is the most practical way to produce hydrogen for a project of this size and duration. It avoids the need to transport and store hydrogen on site, or build extensive infrastructure. Project partners ITM Power, an energy storage and clean fuel company will be supplying the 0.5MW electrolyser.
Find out more about ITM Power’s other projects here.
Blending hydrogen and natural gas
The mixing of the hydrogen and the normal gas will happen before the gas enters the pipes.
This will be done in a special injection and mixing unit which can be carefully controlled and monitored to ensure that the hydrogen and natural gas blend remains consistent as gas flows vary.
Hydrogen in the pipes
A national programme of gas pipe replacement is currently underway, changing old iron mains gas pipes to new plastic pipes.
This UK wide programme is over 50% complete. The new plastic pipes are suitable for transporting hydrogen.
The gas network is complex and there are other pipe materials found underground which need to be tested with hydrogen. HyDeploy and other energy industry projects are also investigating this as part of the programme.