UK trial will inject hydrogen right into a gas-fired, grid-connected energy station

An Iberdrola facility photographed in Spain. Europe is looking to develop a number of hydrogen projects over the coming years.

Angel García | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Hydrogen will be injected into a gas-fired, grid-connected power station during a trial project set to last 12 months, in the latest example of how major companies are looking to integrate the energy carrier into their operations and existing infrastructure.

In a statement earlier this week, London-listed centrica said the hydrogen would be injected by Centrica Business Solutions into a gas-peaking plant in Lincolnshire, east England.

Centrica said the 49-megawatt facility had been “designed to meet demand during peak times or when generation from renewables is low, typically operating for less than three hours a day.”

“Mixing hydrogen in with natural gas reduces the overall carbon intensity,” it added.

Some of the funding for the project is coming from the Net Zero Technology Centre, which was established in 2017 with backing from the UK and Scottish governments.

The trial will also involve a firm called HiiROC, which specializes in the conversion of hydrocarbons into hydrogen and what it calls a “solid carbon byproduct.”

The latter substance can be used in inks, car tires and plastics, among other things. On Monday, Centrica said it had upped its stake in HiiROC to around 5%.

“It’s anticipated that during the trial, getting underway in Q3 2023, no more than three per cent of the gas mix could be hydrogen, increasing to 20% incrementally after the project,” Centrica said.

“Longer term, the vision is to move towards 100% hydrogen and to deploy similar technology across all gas-fired peaking plants[s].”

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Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier,” hydrogen has a diverse range of applications and can be deployed in a wide range of industries.

It can be produced in a number of ways. One method includes electrolysis, with an electric current splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen.

If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar then some call it “green” or “renewable” hydrogen.

Today, the vast majority of hydrogen generation is based on fossil fuels. HiiROC says it uses a process called Thermal Plasma Electrolysis to produce hydrogen.

The last few years have seen big companies like Centrica make moves in the hydrogen sector.

Just this month, Madrid-headquartered energy firm Cepsa said it would work with the Port of Rotterdam to develop “the first green hydrogen corridor between southern and northern Europe.”

In an announcement, Cepsa said the project would establish “a green hydrogen supply chain” between the port of Algeciras in southern Spain and Rotterdam, the Dutch city that’s home to Europe’s largest port.

In September, the European Commission approved up to 5.2 billion euros (roughly $5.13 billion) in public funding for hydrogen projects, a move it said could unlock a further 7 billion euros of investments from the private sector.

The EU’s executive branch has said it wants 40 GW of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers to be installed in the EU by 2030.

Last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed support for hydrogen during her State of the Union address.

In remarks translated on the commission’s website, von der Leyen said “hydrogen can be a game changer for Europe. We need to move our hydrogen economy from niche to scale.”

In her speech, von der Leyen also referred to a “2030 target to produce ten million tons of renewable hydrogen in the EU, each year.”

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