Rule changes required to enable ‘deblending’ on the GB gas networks
Blending low-carbon hydrogen into the gas networks may be a transitional step towards the UK meeting its net zero carbon emissions goal by 2050. It is expected that up to 20% hydrogen can be blended into the gas networks without needing to change most end-user appliances such as domestic boilers. However, some non-domestic gas users may be sensitive to receiving hydrogen blends, and wish to continue consuming natural gas during this transition period. Other users may wish to extract hydrogen instead, or a specific hydrogen blend level. Deblending technologies that can separate hydrogen from natural gas could play a role in helping to manage these needs during the transition to a fully net-zero compliant system.
Our new report, commissioned by National Grid Gas through the Network Innovation Allowance (NIA), sets out the changes that are needed to gas frameworks in order to enable the use of deblending technologies in the UK gas networks, and provides a roadmap for the industry to make these changes in time for the start of commercial-scale hydrogen blending in the gas networks. Frontier and Dentons collaborated closely with a group of industry experts to identify the necessary changes.
Overall, we have found that changes are needed in three main areas of the gas frameworks.
- Network planning. Deblending is one of multiple possible solutions to meeting customers’ gas quality needs. Alternative solutions include managing upstream hydrogen and methane injections, or customers adapting their equipment to handle hydrogen blends. It is therefore important that where deblending investments are made, these are efficient from a whole system perspective. Processes therefore need to be put in place to enable customers to apply for specific gas quality needs, for network operators to assess these applications, and for investment decisions to be made only after weighing up alternative solutions.
- Managing system impacts. Deblending will have an impact on downstream hydrogen blend levels if unwanted gas is reinjected into the system. Processes need to be put into place to enable network operators to manage these blend levels and prevent breaches of the hydrogen blend cap.
- Recovering the costs of deblending. Decisions will need to be taken regarding how to recover the costs incurred by network companies, if they build and operate deblending facilities. Absent any government policy decision to the contrary, we recommend that the costs of building and running deblending facilities should be recovered through targeted charges. In addition, changes to charging methodologies will be needed to ensure that customers owning and operating deblending do not face ‘double charging’ of gases that are not consumed, but simply withdrawn and reinjected into the grid.
Our report sets out specific recommendations in each of these areas, and a clear roadmap of actions to be taken forward by gas industry participants in order to implement those recommendations. While some of these actions can be taken forward by the industry with low regrets, some of the work required will only be likely to start in earnest once BEIS provides a policy decision about the role of blending in the energy transition, and the nature of any funding arrangements to support low-carbon hydrogen production for blending.
We recently hosted a webinar in partnership with National Grid Gas Transmission and DNV, where we provided an overview of the findings of our work, and DNV provided an overview of the engineering work that was carried out in parallel. You can watch the recording here.
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