Our Hydrogen Future?
Adveco looks at a hydrogen future for the commercial heating and hot water industry. The commercial heating and hot water industry is currently responsible for a significant portion of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. With the UK government committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, there is an urgent need to find low-carbon alternatives to traditional fossil fuel-based heating systems. One potential solution that has gained a lot of attention in recent years is hydrogen.
Hydrogen is a versatile, clean-burning fuel that produces only water and heat when burned. It has the potential to play a key role in the transition to a low-carbon economy, particularly in industries that are currently reliant on fossil fuels, such as the commercial heating and hot water sector.
The UK government has recognized the potential of a hydrogen future in this sector and has set out a plan to develop a hydrogen economy in the country. In its Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, the government committed to investing £500 million in hydrogen production and infrastructure over the next five years.
One of the key advantages of a hydrogen future in the commercial heating and hot water industry is its versatility. It can be used to fuel a range of different heating systems, including water heaters & boilers. This means that it can be used to replace existing fossil fuel-based systems without the need for major infrastructure changes.
There are already a number of hydrogen heating trials underway in the UK. For example, in 2020, a hydrogen-powered boiler was installed in a commercial building in Northumberland as part of a pilot project. The boiler was able to provide heating and hot water for the building using hydrogen produced from renewable sources.
Another advantage of hydrogen is that it can be produced using a range of different methods, including electrolysis of water using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. This means that it has the potential to be a truly green fuel, with no emissions produced during the production process or its subsequent burning as a fuel.
One of the biggest perceived challenges of net zero is the need for infrastructure to store and transport green energy. Despite hydrogen having a lower energy density than natural gas, which means that it requires more storage space and specialised transport infrastructure, the existing gas grid is ready-made with some 90,000 miles of pipes that can store hydrogen. Concerns over leaks and danger of ignition are overstated. A large proportion of the gas grid pipework has already been upgraded with MDPE plastic pipes. This rectifies fears over leakage, as the new resistant pipework has been selected for its low-pressure loss, high compression strength, and low permeability to liquids.
Should there be a leak, hydrogen disperses rapidly and safely into the atmosphere with no effect on global warming. Accidental ignition is only really possible in a completely sealed environment and at high hydrogen density which would become quickly apparent to anyone in the room before levels would be high enough to ignite.
Despite its many advantages, there are still some challenges that need to be overcome before a hydrogen future can become a widespread option in the commercial heating and hot water industry. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the cost of hydrogen production. While the cost of producing hydrogen using renewable energy sources is falling, it is still more expensive than producing natural gas. But hydrogen has the advantage of being a very efficient fuel. When burned, it produces around three times as much heat as natural gas, which means that less fuel is needed to achieve the same level of heating. This not only reduces emissions but helps offset the initial production costs of hydrogen, though likely to cost around 50% more than natural gas, this makes it a realistic and affordable alternative to higher-cost electricity-only systems for businesses seeking to achieve net zero before 2050. The hope is that the UK government’s commitment to investing in hydrogen production and infrastructure should help to bring down costs over time.
A proposed hydrogen future has the potential to play a significant role in the UK commercial heating and hot water industry in the coming years. Its versatility, efficiency, and potential for green production make it an attractive option for businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint and manage energy costs. While there are still some challenges to be overcome, the UK government’s commitment to investing in hydrogen should help to accelerate its development and deployment in this sector over the course of the coming decade.
Adveco ADplus & AD water heater ranges and MD boiler ranges are already capable of accepting a 20% Hydrogen blend without requiring any alteration. Discover more about our 20% hydrogen blend-ready products here.