The UK's National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and Norwegian assurance and risk management provider DNV are partnering to explore the potential use of advanced nuclear technologies for the conversion of UK gas networks to hydrogen. The collaboration will enable both the nuclear and gas sectors to gain a deeper understanding of priorities and assess barriers and next steps on aspects including regulation, safety, siting and economics.

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Converting national and regional natural gas networks to hydrogen could be a powerful decarbonisation solution, by distributing the gas to millions of individual users across the country, where it can be burnt without releasing carbon dioxide, NNL said. "This will enable consumers to continue using gas in homes, businesses and industry, in an effective way that is net-zero compliant.

"To successfully achieve this transition, large quantities of hydrogen would be needed, and the ability of nuclear to drive production at gigawatt-scale could be of great value. This project is a key step in bringing nuclear-derived hydrogen into the public domain, demonstrating that a UK hydrogen network could have a wider range of options for hydrogen supply."

A wider range of organisations from the nuclear and gas sectors will be engaged via the two companies' respective networks, which will help bring together decades of learning and experience.

NNL said the Nuclear-Derived Hydrogen to Gas Networks collaboration is set to provide deeper evidence to support key upcoming government policy decisions on the role of hydrogen in buildings and for heating, scheduled for 2026.

Part of the Advanced Nuclear Skills and Innovation Campus (ANSIC) pilot, located at NNL's Preston Laboratory on the Springfields nuclear licensed site, the scheme is funded by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to promote academic and industrial innovation in advanced nuclear technologies (ANTs).

"ANTs have the potential to play a major role in delivering net-zero, and this scheme would consequently de-risk a future hydrogen gas network conversion programme," NNL said. "ANSIC will allow researchers and innovators to access some of the world's most progressive nuclear facilities and receive support from technical and operational subject matter experts."

As part of the ANSIC pilot's ongoing commitment to help reach net-zero, NNL is running three hydrogen workshops, with the first commencing on 30 November. This will develop a common understanding of the subject matter, with the second and final workshops taking place in January and March 2022.

"Innovation, specialist skills and expertise are recognised as fundamental to maximising the potential of ANTs to support decarbonisation and are a key focus of the ANSIC pilot programme," said NNL CEO Paul Howarth. "Nuclear offers the potential for large-scale, low-cost production of hydrogen with zero emissions and could be an ideal energy source to drive transition of our gas networks towards net-zero. This project paves the way for nuclear to support climate change mitigation across home heating, industry and transportation and we are excited about how our collaboration with DNV can drive the pace of change required to meet our clean energy goals."

Hari Vamadevan, Regional Director, UK & Ireland, Energy Systems, at DNV, added: "The pathway to 1.5 degrees requires the creation of a robust hydrogen economy. Hydrogen will account for 13% of energy demand by 2050 and crucially it is urgently needed for the decarbonisation of hard to electrify sectors. Our forecasts predict that one-third of global hydrogen and synthetic fuel demand by 2050 will be used for industrial heating. We will need to consider multiple pathways to achieve the hydrogen economy, nuclear is one such path."

The UK government says nuclear will play a significant role in developing a thriving low-carbon hydrogen sector to meet the country's ambition for 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. Releasing its Hydrogen Strategy in September, BEIS said a hydrogen economy could support over 9000 UK jobs and unlock GBP4 billion (USD5.5 billion) in investment by 2030, potentially rising to 100,000 jobs and worth up to GBP13 billion by 2050.

By 2030, the government says, hydrogen could play an important role in decarbonising polluting, energy-intensive industries like chemicals, oil refineries, power and heavy transport like shipping, trucks and trains, by helping these sectors move away from fossil fuels. By 2050, 20-35% of the UK's energy consumption could be hydrogen-based. It says hydrogen could be critical in meeting the UK's targets of a 78% reduction in emissions by 2035 and net zero emissions by 2050.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Saturday, 27 November 2021
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