£50bn plan to heat UK cities with hydrogen

The vision to decarbonise Britain’s heating network by switching to the clean-burning gas is set out in a report by Northern Gas Networks (NGN), which runs distribution networks across northern England, reports The Telegraph.

Earlier this year, the Telegraph revealed that NGN was working on proposals to make Leeds the world’s first “hydrogen city”, replacing the natural gas currently used for heating and cooking with hydrogen within as little as a decade.

A detailed feasibility study published today concludes that the plan is viable and should be a precursor to converting 16 more major urban areas by 2050, resulting in a 73pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Although this would require the upgrade or replacement of all gas boilers, cookers and fires, the report’s authors say this could be done with relatively limited hassle, and “with far less disruption and expense than converting to alternative energy sources”.

NGN proposes that households would face no upfront costs for the appliances, with the costs of the entire scheme instead paid for gradually by all consumers through regulated levies on their energy bills – the same way gas networks are currently funded.

However, this could still add £170 to a typical household energy bill by 2050.

Converting Leeds alone would cost £2bn, with £139m a year in initial running costs; the nationwide plan could cost £50bn, with £2.8bn a year running costs.

Natural gas, which is primarily methane, would be processed in “steam methane reformer” plants to extract the hydrogen, leaving carbon dioxide that would be pumped out for storage in disused gas fields.

Dan Sadler, who led the project for NGN, said: “A nationwide conversion to a hydrogen gas grid is technically possible, economically viable and will be a significant contributor to meeting the UK’s decarbonisation targets.”