Unlocking The Potential of Hydrogen

For many, unlocking the potential of hydrogen represents a familiar, easier and more cost-effective way to transition to more sustainable heating practices in buildings. It is also increasingly seen as a core shift in the energy trade and critically, in the wake of demands to reduce dependency on Russian oil and gas, the future for regionalisation of energy supply.

In the recent report, Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation, from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), hydrogen it is estimated will cover up to 12% of global energy use by 2050, with at least two-thirds of total production being green hydrogen (produced with renewable electricity) with the remainder blue hydrogen (derived from natural gas).

Here in the UK, the status of hydrogen remains to be confirmed as part of the government’s push towards attaining net zero by 2050. The Heating and Buildings Strategy published in late 2021 does however begin to give an indication of the growing support for the technologies currently being tested.

The government’s commitment so far extends to the testing and evaluation of the potential of hydrogen as an option for heating workplaces. In partnership with industry, the intent is to “clearly define the evidence needed to make a policy decision about the role hydrogen for heating can play in our future energy system.”

To this end, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), supported by Innovate UK and Innovate UK KTN, have launched the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund (NZHF) which was most recently cited in this month’s Energy Security Strategy to focus on unlocking the potential of hydrogen. A funding sum of up to £240m has been made available to explore the development and deployment of low carbon hydrogen production. The funding is intended to de-risk investment and reduce lifetime costs of multiple hydrogen production projects this decade to help ensure a diverse and secure decarbonised energy system that meets the UK government’s stated ambition of 10GW low carbon hydrogen production by 2030, and commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

This investment comes in advance of a declared strategic decision by 2026 on the role of hydrogen in heating buildings. This decision will consider the success of development projects that focus on appliances, such as new gas boilers that can be readily converted to hydrogen (‘hydrogen-ready’) and the testing of conversion of the gas grid. The latter in particular is critical in terms of evaluating the technical and practical feasibility of using hydrogen instead of natural gas for heating. This assessment process is also expected to consider the expected costs, benefits, impacts, and practical delivery implications.

This consultation process will also be a factor in decisions in relation to the future of broader boiler and heating system efficiency and explore the best ways to reduce carbon emissions from our heating systems

According to IRENA, the rise of hydrogen’s potential is linked to the plummeting costs of renewables and electrolysers. This greatly improves the economic attractiveness of ‘green’ hydrogen which also can help deliver on the demands for storage that comes hand-in-hand with greater dependence on wind and photovoltaic (PV) power generation. From this perspective, ‘green’ hydrogen becomes an important technology in the extension of renewable electricity developments.

Although ‘Grey’ hydrogen production, which is solely based on fossil fuels, is expected to be rapidly phased out in the coming decades, ‘Blue’ hydrogen, although also based on fossil fuels, is expected to play a complementary role to ‘Green’ hydrogen, so long as the carbon capture and storage (CCS) is proved viable. As a result, hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels are now projected to meet a sizeable share of final energy demand in 2050, up from virtually nothing today. To achieve this in the UK, the Heating & Building Strategy report outlines the key processes of consultation required for unlocking the potential of hydrogen beyond 2026.

  • large-scale hydrogen trials: BEIS and Ofgem have liaised with the gas distribution network operators on the conducting of a ‘village’ scale deployment trial by 2025, and a possible town scale conversion project before the end of the decade.
  • Hydrogen blending in the gas grid: to develop the safety case, technical and cost-effectiveness assessments of blending up to 20% hydrogen (by volume) into the existing gas network. This has the potential to deliver up to 7% emissions reductions from the grid. The assessment of indicative cost and value of blending hydrogen is intended to be delivered this Autumn, with the possibility of a policy decision in 2023. This in particular would represent a major first step towards integrating hydrogen in the grid at a potentially national level, but would not require building projects to replace existing natural gas boilers/water heaters.
  • Hydrogen-ready boilers: Consideration will be given to the case for enabling, or requiring, new natural gas boilers to be easily convertible to use hydrogen (‘hydrogen-ready’) by 2026 (in domestic projects). This consultation would also test proposals on the future of broader boiler and heating system efficiency and explore the best ways to reduce carbon emissions from gas heating systems over the next decade. The Heating & Buildings strategy makes clearer the commercial implications where, for the moment, if your business uses gas, then you can upgrade to new gas appliances up until 2035, with hydrogen-ready options extending that window well into the 2040s based on current appliance lifespan.

The local trials and planning, research and development and testing outlined will help develop necessary evidence on the role hydrogen can play in the heating of buildings, enabling strategic decisions to be taken on the role of hydrogen in heating buildings in 2026. This timeframe, and the necessity of its elements, are very important to remember when the media is constantly calling for a decision to be made more rapidly. The implications of a transition to a hydrogen grid are immense, but so are the challenges. It cannot be rushed and it cannot fail if net zero is to be realistically attained, especially across the commercial & public sector built environment.

On the global stage, green hydrogen may strengthen energy independence, security, and resilience by cutting import dependency and price volatility.  However, the raw materials needed for hydrogen remain exposed to shortages and price fluctuations that could negatively affect hydrogen supply chains, cost and revenues. For this reason, hydrogen, if it is green-lit as a core contributor to the UK’s net zero delivery will not do so in isolation. Just as most buildings will currently rely on both gas and electricity, net zero ‘ready’ organisations will most likely have embraced a mixed approach. This will leverage the advantages of air source heat pumps (ASHP), proven solar thermal and natural gas with a hydrogen blend as a redundancy/peak demand back-up through the 2030s and early 40s. Hydrogen ready’’ adoption should be a necessity by the early to mid-2030’s. Then the UK could look forward to full transition to ‘Blue’ then ‘Green’ hydrogen from the late 2030s and throughout the 2040s at a national scale. Regional rollouts will of course redefine these timelines, but, if the policy supports the adoption of hydrogen from 2026, the technology usage path should remain fairly clear for commercial projects looking at unlocking the potential of hydrogen as a part of their corporate drive toward net zero sustainability by 2050.

Adveco AD: Providing Continuity of Service in Soft Water Conditions

• The Adveco AD range of compact commercial semi-instantaneous gas condensing water heaters
• Perfect for applications requiring direct contact with soft and softened water
• Highly efficient modular design offers continuity of service in one appliance.  Or can be deployed as an on-gas system backup for larger-scale heat pumps projects

Commercial hot water specialist Adveco, presents the new AD range for 2022. This latest generation of sleekly designed, modulating commercial floor-standing gas condensing water heaters is conceived to be used with a buffer for high demand semi-instantaneous hot water applications in sports & leisure centres, hotels, spas, schools, stadia, and large commercial buildings.

With each water heater composed of one to four 70 kW heat exchangers, the Adveco AD range offers appliances from 70kW up to 280 kW. This approach optimises the supplied output (up to 160 litres/minute) ensuring maximum efficiency when providing DHW. Models with multiple integrated heat exchangers offer load balancing for optimal long-life operation and inbuilt redundancy guaranteeing continuity of service.

Bill Sinclair, technical director, Adveco said,” As well as the continuity of service seen in individual units, the AD is perfect for integrating into large scale heat pumps systems seen in hotels and hospitality. So long as there is an existing gas connection, AD can be used to provide a cost-effective and easy to accommodate back-up for assured continuity of business-critical water heating.”

Tough and efficient, AD water heaters are all equipped with premix burners made of Fecralloy metal fibre for large modulation range with excellent functionality at extremely high temperatures. Using a premix burner ensures the AD requires less gas, making it more cost-effective, plus reducing harmful NOX and CO emissions.

The titanium-stabilised stainless-steel construction of the AD range’s heat exchangers is the perfect response to counter corrosion typically seen in high-pressure circuits in soft, or softened water applications. The heat exchangers work with an electronically controlled variable stainless steel modulating recirculating pump and two-way motorized valves to ensure a perfect balance between water flow and supplied output.

The AD range can also be configured to operate in a cascade of up to eight water heaters. The AD’s controller provides full temperature control and self-check maintenance functions. The controller also accommodates 0-10 input, MODBUS communication, and alarm output for seamless system integration.

Compact, lightweight yet still powerful, the Adveco AD’s patented space-saving design makes it equally applicable to both new projects or renovation work where a lack of space would traditionally stall or quickly drive up costs of a project.

Additional information
• Five-year warranty on AISI 316Ti heat exchangers with
• 10-year warranty on pre-mix burner
• Compact floor standing arrangement: AD 70T & AD140T H1180xW600xD945mm / AD210T & AD280T M1880xW600xD896mm
• High maximum run pressure up to 11 bar
• Low emissions, built with Class 6 technology for NOₓ at 27 mg/kWh GCV
• Available for natural gas or LPG
• Acid condensate neutraliser included
• Ideal for soft water applications. Hard water areas over 150ppm require use of a water softener down to 100ppm.
• Supports standard flue systems using low cost 110-160 mm diameter PP

Prefabricated Hot Water Systems For Schools

Prefabricated Hot Water Systems For Schools Prefabricated hot water systems for schools can drive real value from previously underutilised space as well as address the need to introduce new, more sustainable practices…

With larger class sizes demanding more extensive facilities, the most valuable assets any school can have are its internal spaces to grow, develop and drive advantage. Within the school building, this leads to a balancing act between granting usable, comfortable space for staff and pupils while meeting the demands of a building’s critical operating systems that include hot water and heating.

School plant rooms will vary from purpose-built to jury-rigged spaces used to accommodate heating and hot water systems. Basements are typically repurposed in older buildings, whilst it is not unusual to find them tucked in amongst other rooms creating a mixed-use setting. Education estates need to understand how advantageous it can be to separate such building services and relocate them away from those using the building whilst improving the efficiency of the system for a host of benefits including lower operational costs and reduced emissions.

Simply upgrading to a new boiler or electric water heater can deliver notable efficiency improvements over models from just 10 years ago, and today’s modern appliances pack that into much more compact, space-saving formats. So, you can gain greater capability from a smaller footprint in the plant room, and potentially reclaim a few square meters. But what if you could reclaim the entire plant room?

Refurbishing plant to a new location may sound drastic, but that need not be the case if we apply offsite construction. This enables the creation of modular units or systems that are sized and pre-installed and ready for relatively quick and simple connection once delivered to a site. Depending on the chosen location, such prefabricated plant rooms can be of considerable size and complexity.

Prefabricated Hot Water Systems For Schools

With production work located offsite in a controlled, purpose-made factory environment, the system build gains enhanced quality control with manufacturer assured standards. Importantly for education projects where works windows can be extremely limiting the plant room element of a project can progress at the same time as other groundworks or site installations. This work will also not be affected by any forced downtime on-site, such as from Covid outbreaks, which can quickly become a major issue for a time-sensitive school building project. Without distractions from other typical construction site activities, the plant room work can be rapidly progressed ready for delivery and final fit. Faced with narrow construction windows allowed within the school holidays, a completely new plant room can be craned into position on day of delivery. Without the need for extended plumbing and electrical installation, final connections are simplified and can be completed in a matter of days. This is not only more cost-effective, but it also helps simplify and accelerate final system commissioning.

As well as extending options for refurbishment, this approach also provides greater flexibility when designing new builds. Adveco recently designed and built a complete, prefabricated plant room for a Berkshire school. In this case, hot water and heating demands had increased due to a growing number of pupils, which in turn was limiting the incorporation of large scale plant room space within a new building. The GRP enclosure, which was sited on the new building’s flat roof, incorporated a complete integrated system built around a cascade of condensing boilers with an intelligent control system for optimised performance and continuity of service.

Flat rooftops, commonly used in school building design, are truly ‘dead space’ for most buildings, but they provide a broad opportunity to relocate heating and hot water plant safely and more securely. They are also excellent for positioning hybrid systems that integrate renewable and sustainable technologies.  By locating a packaged air source heat pump (ASHP) based system onto a rooftop, the application gains unimpeded airflow while operating noise becomes almost unnoticeable, preventing any distraction in the classroom.

Flat roofs are also perfect for the installation of solar thermal systems, where a frame is constructed to align the collectors for optimal heat collection and transference to the building’s water system. Location at height is recommended from a system security perspective because vandalism, usually because of hurled missiles, can prove highly expensive to resolve. But perhaps one of the biggest operational threats is to the efficiency of a solar thermal system, which comes in the form of heat loss from long pipe runs between collector and hot water storage. By locating the plant room on the roof, long pipe runs and resultant thermal losses are minimised helping to protect the investment.

With the proliferation of car ownership, it might at first seem unlikely that the staff car park is being underused. But the drive to encourage walking, cycling and car-sharing has had an impact, and developers who have previously pushed for more open parking space are now being challenged to repurpose some of that space. In terms of identifying functional opportunities to better leverage this space, the siting of plant fits the bill. Turing over just one or two car spaces can have a dramatic impact on the capability of heating or hot water system, providing enough square meterage to easily accommodate a mid-sized packaged plant room offering, or the space could be used to locate air source heat pumps (ASHP) that drive system sustainability whilst lowering CO₂ emissions.

Offsite construction is the perfect example of where application design, system prefabrication and expertise in hybrid and renewable technology can help maximise underutilised space on an education project. Prefabricated hot water systems for schools are one of the easiest ways to combine the latest in commercial ASHP technology with high-efficiency direct electric water heaters, or solar thermal with gas-fired appliances to provide reliable high-temperature water in a convenient, packaged system that delivers truly sustainable applications that demand less fuel, reducing emissions and lowering ongoing operational costs. That is a core demand for any education estate manager faced with driving sustainability in buildings within the limits of often tight budgets.

Discover more about packaged plant rooms and sustainable systems for education buildings from Adveco.

Scenarios For Greener Buildings in the UK

Building Back Greener is the government’s campaign to improve the energy performance of buildings, reduce costs, minimise the impacts of transition on the energy system, and make switching to low carbon systems easier in order to reduce emissions and achieve net zero by 2050. Underpinning this process are three illustrative scenarios for greener buildings that reflect different technology mixes that would allow the decarbonisation of heating in buildings. The three scenarios are high hydrogen, high electrification and a dual-energy system scenario.

Today, the importance of driving these scenarios forward has been given greater urgency by the long-awaited report  from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). To stay under the critical 1.5C threshold, according to the IPCC, means that carbon emissions from everything that we do, buy, use or eat must peak by 2025, and tumble rapidly after that, reaching net-zero by the middle of this century.

To put it in context, the amount of CO2 that the world has emitted in the last decade is the same amount that’s left to us to stay under this key temperature threshold. “I think the report tells us that we’ve reached the now-or-never point of limiting warming to 1.5C,” said IPCC lead author Heleen De Coninck. This is why quickly achieving goals towards net zero by 2050 is so important if we are to curb the worst implications of global warming – heat waves, drought & flooding.

The immediate focus from the government is to achieve Carbon Budget 6 targets, to ensure the UK is on target to achieve net zero, although many already doubt these budgets will be met as simple measures such as closing down coal-fired power stations are replaced by a far more complex mix of options that deliver more incremental steps to reducing carbon emissions. To achieve the level of emissions reductions across the built environment in line with the government’s delivery pathway to 2037, will take an estimated additional public and private investment of approximately £200 billion which will need to be focused upon one or more of the outlined scenarios.

Three Scenarios for Greener Buildings

The high electrification scenario assumes that there is no significant use of hydrogen for heating in buildings. This may be because hydrogen is not proven to be feasible, cost-effective, or preferable as a solution for low carbon heating, or because its deployment has been significantly delayed.

Under such conditions, the choice would be to continue the rapid growth of the heat pump market which the government has already seen as the best low carbon heating option for new buildings or those off the gas grid.  This would mean increasing new installations (domestic and commercial) beyond the currently envisaged minimum of 600,000 per year in 2028 to up to 1.9 million per year from 2035. Currently, the UK sees approximately 35,000 heat pump installations per year, and commercial demands are already outstripping available stocks in the market as a result of raw material and component shortages caused by Covid.

To ensure the extended level of heat pump deployment, further policy would be required to phase out installation of new fossil fuel heating faster while continuing to follow natural replacement cycles. The proposed increased deployment of heat pumps will need to be accompanied by investment in the infrastructure needed to meet increased electricity demand, including the generation of low carbon electricity and additional grid capacity.

If hydrogen proves both feasible and preferable as a method for heating most UK buildings, and decisions taken in 2026 support a path to converting most of the national gas grid to hydrogen then the high hydrogen scenario would take effect. Pilot projects to provide heating for an entire town by the end of the decade would, once successfully implemented, see an accelerated rollout on a national scale. The conversion would likely start by building out from existing hydrogen production and use in industrial clusters, and roll-out would involve switchover on an area-by-area basis in different locations.

Due to the infrastructure and supply chain requirements of a hydrogen conversion the government estimates new heating system installations should be low carbon or hydrogen-ready, meaning ready for a planned future conversion, from 2035, with approximately 30% of existing low carbon buildings to be supplied by hydrogen at that time.

This does mean approximately 53% of buildings with low carbon systems would be reliant on heat pumps and 15% heat networks. This is why the third, and most realistic of the scenarios for greener buildings is one based around a dual-energy system, where both hydrogen and electrification prove feasible and preferable for heating buildings with a widespread demand for hybrid systems that utilise a mix of energy sources.

For example, if all, or most of, the gas grid is converted to low carbon hydrogen, but the costs and benefits of switching to hydrogen versus installing a heat pump are viewed differently by organisations we might see a high switchover to both hydrogen and heat pumps on the gas grid. Based on differing geographical or built environment factors, there may be a partial, but still extensive, conversion of the gas grid to hydrogen. Under this latter scenario, more careful consideration would be required of which parts of the grid would be converted and where responsibility for decisions about the costs and benefits of converting different areas should lie.

While the government claims it remains early days in terms of determining the policy framework that might support this mixed transition, global conditions, both political and environmental, are driving fresh demands on the government to accelerate commitments.  Any scenario in which hydrogen is an available option from the grid will require public policy decisions to enable cost-effective and coordinated investment in infrastructure and supply chains. If the case for converting the network to hydrogen differs strongly from area to area, more preparation may need to take place at a regional or local level.

What does this mean for the commercial sector?

Whichever scenario becomes the one of choice, you can expect greater consultation over new regulatory powers that can be brought to bear on the commercial sector to bring it into alignment with the government’s goals for delivering these scenarios for greener buildings.

Initially expect to see the phasing out of heating appliances that are only capable of burning fossil fuels. This would be consistent with the ambition to phase out the installation of new and replacement natural gas boilers by 2035, and the phasing out of the installation of high-carbon fossil fuel boilers in commercial properties not connected to the gas grid by 2024.

The government’s Energy White Paper has already set a minimum energy efficiency standard of EPC Band B by 2030 for privately rented commercial buildings in England and Wales. And you can expect further consultation on regulating the non-domestic owner-occupied building stock and consideration on whether this should align with the private rented sector minimum energy efficiency standards. There is also an expectation for a response to the 2021 consultation on introducing a performance-based policy framework in large commercial and industrial buildings, with the aim to introduce a pilot scheme sometime in 2022.

Further consultation is expected on the Small Business Energy Efficiency Scheme (SBEES). This scheme aims to remove barriers for SMEs in accessing energy efficiency measures, drive forward better buildings performance and aid SMEs in meeting regulatory standards.

Finally, you can also expect to see a strengthening of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), which is a mandatory energy assessment scheme for large businesses’ energy use and opportunities to improve energy efficiency.

What is very clear at this stage is that commercial organisations face a complex technical and regulatory challenge in the coming decades if they are to successfully navigate to a future with decarbonised buildings across their estates.   Consulting with expert providers at the earliest planning stages can pay dividends in the longer term, balancing the use of cost-effective and familiar technology now with new developments in the mid-to-long term. From a business perspective, the advantages of decarbonisation can be valuable in terms of operational savings and corporate social responsibility gains, but higher capital and operational expenditure also need to be considered if realistic steps are to be made. With more than 50 years of experience delivering bespoke commercial hot water and heating applications and deep knowledge of renewable systems,  including both heat pumps and solar thermal, Adveco is perfectly positioned to advise and assist organisations seeking to begin the decarbonisation process now.