Testing underway on ‘unique’ H2 distribution grid

3 August 2021

A first-of-its-kind gas distribution test grid (‘MicroGrid’) is being employed to aid understanding of any changes to operational procedures needed for the gas network to transport up to 100% hydrogen transmission in the future.  

The MicroGrid has been purpose-built by DNV, and led by Northern Gas Networks (NGN) as part of the H21 project and is located at DNV’s test and research facility at Spadeadam in Cumbria, UK. The MicroGrid mirrors a typical UK distribution network and will be used to understand how gas distribution companies would manage and operate the networks under 100% hydrogen conditions. It comprises approximately one km of pipework of varying pressure tiers and diameters, which will link to three demonstration houses featuring hydrogen boilers.

Construction of the £1.8 million project was funded from the £6.9 million grant awarded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition (NIC) as part of the H21 programme.

H21 is a suite of pioneering gas industry projects, aimed at proving that the existing gas network can be converted to transport 100% hydrogen, in order to support UK Climate Change Act obligations to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In 2022 the MicroGrid will also link to FutureGrid, a gas transmission test network being built at Spadeadam by National Grid with partners including NGN. At this point the network will represent a unique ‘beach to meter’ hydrogen demonstration facility.

The rigorous testing procedures under 100% hydrogen conditions planned include purging, venting, repairs and maintenance which will all be tested to validate the suitability of existing procedures as well as validating gas flow and pressure modelling software. Testing will continue for nine months after which a report of results and findings will be prepared and publicly released.

Ryan Mallinder, Northern Gas Networks’ H21 Project Manager said: “This facility is the first of its kind and scale anywhere else in the world as far as we are aware. As well as furthering our research into operations, the MicroGrid can be used for engineers to learn any new skills and competencies needed for operating a hydrogen gas network. It can also be used by suppliers to develop innovative new solutions and any tooling which may be needed as we move towards 100% hydrogen networks.”

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