Peak power: hydrogen to be injected into UK station for first time | Energy industry | Catch My Job


Hydrogen will be injected into an emergency gas-fired power plant for the first time in a pilot backed by owner British Gas.

Centrica has invested in an industry joint venture that will trial the use of hydrogen at an existing “peak plant” at its Brigg station in Lincolnshire, the Guardian can reveal.

The pilot, which will be launched in the second half of next year, aims to examine the role that hydrogen can play in energy production.

Peak power plants generally operate only when there is a high or peak demand for electricity. The 49MW gas station in Brig is designed to meet demand during peak times or when renewable generation is low, typically operating for less than three hours a day.

The pilot is one of 20 projects part-funded by an £8 million program from the Net Zero Technology Center (NZTC), which receives funding from the UK and Scottish governments.

Centrica also increased its stake in HiiROC, the start-up behind the project, from 2% to 5%, a small investment for the £4bn energy giant. In November 2021, HiiROC raised £26m from a collection of investors including Centrica, industrial buyout firm Melrose, investment fund HydrogenOne and carmakers Hyundai and Kia.

The project is designed to test the practicality of blending hydrogen with natural gas in a power plant, with the goal of reducing the overall carbon intensity of the site. In the early stages, only 3% of the gas mixture is expected to be hydrogen, increasing gradually to 20%. The partners in the initiative hope to eventually power the plant using only hydrogen and set a precedent for decarbonizing other gas-fired power plants.

Hydrogen is produced by splitting water using electricity, with minimal emissions. It is seen as key to decarbonising energy-intensive industries, although there is fierce debate over its use and the motivations of the army of lobbyists pushing its cause in Westminster.

HiiROC, founded in Hull in 2019, has developed an electrolysis process using technology that can create hydrogen at a lower cost and with lower emissions than other methods.

His process turns biomethane, flares or natural gas into hydrogen and carbon black, a byproduct that can be used in tires, tires and printing inks.

Greg McKenna, managing director of Centrica Business Solutions, said: “Gas continues to play a huge role in keeping the UK’s electricity supply secure, stable, with around 40 per cent of our energy coming from natural gas. So it is vital that we find ways to reduce the carbon intensity of gas plants like the one in Brig.

“We are delighted to have received a grant from the NZTC to explore the role of hydrogen in providing the low-carbon back-up energy we need to maintain security of supply as more renewable energy comes on stream.”

Centrica increased profits and restored its dividend this year as the price of wholesale gas rose after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Centrica is already converting part of the Brigg site into a battery storage facility designed to store energy produced by nearby onshore wind farms.

This article was amended on 24 October 2022. HiiROC has developed an electrolysis process that can create hydrogen at a lower cost and with lower emissions than other methods, not “at a lower cost or with higher emissions than other methods”, as stated in an earlier version.


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