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CCC views “fully functional” Hydrogen boiler prototype

Influential organisation that has pushed government towards recent net zero commitments is in the process of looking at industry efforts to explore viable low carbon gas heating

A prototype boiler designed to run on 100 per cent hydrogen is among the innovative technologies viewed by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in the push to decarbonise heat.

CCC chief executive Chris Stark was shown an appliance that can run entirely on the gas as part of efforts by a number of manufacturers to look at appliances designed  specifically for fuels that can curb carbon emissions.

Manufacturer Worcester Bosch has claimed the prototype, shown to Mr Stark during a recent tour of the company’s headquarters, is the first fully-functional device of its kind with regards to hydrogen heat.

The company is among a number of heating specialists and organisations exploring how hydrogen may facilitate lower carbon heating functions in a way that is both safe and sustainable.

The site visit occurred ahead of the announcement this month that government would be committing to recommendations by the CCC for the UK to adopt stricter emissions targets that seek to completely eliminate carbon output by 2050. The previous target had been for the UK to curb emissions by 80 per cent of 1990 levels over the same period.

Martyn Bridges, director of technical communication and product management with Worcester Bosch, welcomed efforts by the CCC to meet with manufacturers to discuss decarbonisation work.

Mr Bridges added that upcoming trials at Keele University to introduce natural hydrogen into its existing gas network and the government’s recent net zero commitments highlighted the need for viable alternative energy for heating and hot water.

He said, “Now there is a confirmed commitment on net zero, it is the responsibility of all of us in the heating sector to contribute fully. We believe hydrogen has a major part to play so we are happy to have been able to show Chris what our research and development has produced.”

“With the Keele University trials due in a couple of months, the recent Drax coalition on a Humber-based hydrogen facility and our prototype boiler, we believe hydrogen is definitely the way forward when it comes to tackling decarbonisation of heating and hot water.”

The UK government said earlier this year that heating appliances designed for fossil fuels will not be viable for use in new homes constructed from 2025 onwards. This will preclude the use of all existing boiler technologies in new build properties. No clear direction on the role for a greener gas grid to support heat has been formally set out by Whitehall at present.

Mike Foster, chief executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) trade association, has responded that gas boilers should not be dropped from heating policy, despite a need to phase out the use of methane and its impacts on carbon emissions.

He said, “Using low or zero carbon gas in our homes will keep them warm and keep bills down, as well as saving the planet.”

Hydrogen switch

Environmental groups have argued that the promotion of hydrogen as an out and out replacement for natural gas heating was not necessarily a fully viable carbon neutral solution due to current production and scale challenges. A process such as Steam Methane Reforming as a means to produce hydrogen requires natural gas.

Environmental NGO Friends of the Earth said that it was vital to switch to renewable methods of heating homes in the next twenty years in a way that didn’t seemingly punish consumers and industry.

Friends of the Earth head of science Mike Childs said, “In order to deal with the climate crisis, we need to move away from using gas to heat our homes. But we can do that with home-grown renewable energy, and hydrogen made from water using renewable energy.”

“The UK has such plentiful renewable energy resources we could become an energy exporting country again, with all the jobs that promises. By doing this over the next 20 years, we can create a smooth transition.”

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