Heating and cooling homes comprise around half of the UK’s energy consumption and generate a third of its carbon emissions. Around 80% of homes are heated by natural gas (methane), and when burned by boilers – as well as cookers and other gas appliances – the process produces carbon dioxide (and steam), which then enters the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
As the UK moves to meet its 2050 target of net zero carbon emissions, finding alternatives to natural gas as a domestic fuel is high on the government’s hitlist of priorities. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is looking at ways of decarbonising heat, and one option is replacing methane with hydrogen.
The three-and-a-half-year, £25m UK Hy4Heat programme, launched in late 2017, aimed to provide the technical, performance, usability, and safety evidence to de-risk the use of hydrogen and establish the foundations for a community trial. Central to achieving this would be the development of affordable hydrogen appliances, ready for use in homes and businesses.
10 interrelated work packages
Providing an integrated service
Leading the programme was Arup+, a team that brought together our programme management expertise and thought leadership in energy and hydrogen, coupled with technical and industry specialists: Kiwa Gastec, Progressive Energy, Embers and Yo Energy.
This programme drew upon a range of our areas of expertise, including programme and change management, technical and safety risk management, commercial procurement and contract management, and stakeholder engagement.
The team also led the technical management of the entire programme, coordinating the delivery of each work package and working on preparations and plans for a potential community trial.
Dispelling scepticism and fostering innovation
Arup+ first had to encourage participation in the programme to generate a competitive environment, which meant dispelling the scepticism that clouded the gas appliance industry. Not only did a transition to hydrogen seem a long way off, but there were significant technical challenges that deterred manufacturers from developing hydrogen appliances.
By adopting an evidence-based, stakeholder-led approach, Arup+ mobilised manufacturers, supply chains and academic partners to develop the boilers, meters, cookers, heaters and other appliances that will be central to a community-level trial – the first step towards large-scale conversion.
A key to the success was making the two-year product development timescale feel realistic and achievable to encourage consortia to participate. Despite industry feedback arguing prototype appliances would take nearer five years, Arup+ broke down the demanding timelines and asked consortia to demonstrate critical components at regular intervals, making the ‘impossible’ milestones achievable, dramatically accelerating the innovation cycle to develop prototype products.
Developing a safety assessment
To ensure safety is not compromised with the use of hydrogen, Arup+ developed a comparative assessment and evaluation approach, demonstrating that the overall level of risk associated with hydrogen can be managed to a level no greater than that currently associated with natural gas. The assessment approach was continuously adapted by rigorously reviewing and evaluating existing evidence and knowledge.
Arup+ compiled learnings from the safety assessment to provide a robust Safety Annex, which outlines recommendations for appropriate risk reduction measures that should be put in place for any community trial.
The HSE has independently reviewed Hy4Heat’s safety assessment. This process involved continuous engagement, culminating in HSE providing Hy4Heat with a ‘letter of assistance’, demonstrating its satisfaction that the Hy4Heat Safety Annex can be used as a basis for community trials to proceed.
Hy4Heat has been our flagship decarbonisation innovation programme. Arup+ has achieved much in a short space of time - not least the acceleration of Technology Readiness Levels to a point where hydrogen-ready boilers will be commercially available soon enabling a potential transformation in the way the UK powers its homes, as we build back greener. ” Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
Moving towards a hydrogen future
In three-and-a-half years, the Hy4Heat programme, led by Arup+, has instigated a transformation in the industry’s mindset towards a hydrogen future and put the UK at the forefront of international efforts to develop safe, high-performance hydrogen technology for heating.
The programme has ensured the affordability of the new generation of appliances and encouraged the development of like-for-like, ‘hydrogen-ready’ replacements of existing appliances, maximising their convenience and acceptability for customers. It has pioneered ‘a Hydrogen Neighbourhood and scaling up to a potential Hydrogen Town before the end of this decade’. This promise adds even greater momentum to the drive for hydrogen.