Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions

The long-term mission of Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions (HI-ACT) is to conduct multidisciplinary, qualitative, and quantitative research that will identify and map the complex relationships, interdependences, risks, expectations and needs of energy citizens and stakeholders. In doing so, we aim to provide open and informed scrutiny of hydrogen integration, to unlock new insights to hydrogen pathways, and to protect national energy resilience.

NEWS: View our webinar on Future Hydrogen Systems - A North East and North West Perspectives and Presentation: Dynamics of the Transition to Renewable Hydrogen

Speaker Biographies:
Professor Joseph Howe has extensive experience in working interchangeably with industry on major environmental projects and initiatives across the UK, including the opportunities afforded to UK industry in delivering of the £600bn of infrastructure projects by 2030. Joe is pro-actively engaged with the UK’s emerging clean growth agenda including his roles on the UK Decarbonised of Gas Alliance, chairing of the NW Hydrogen Alliance and being the North West academic lead for the UK Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre. Joe is particularly passionate about the STEM skills and sits on the Board of the Department of Education: Engineering Construction Industries Training Board.

Keith Owen is Head of Systems Development and Energy Strategy at Northern Gas Networks. His areas of interest and skill sets align to the identification of new and existing technologies to progress the transition to low carbon gas infrastructure, to support the government climate changes targets (NetZero) through to 2050. He is responsible to research across a range of themes such as digital, heat, transport, customer vulnerability and whole systems looking across gas, electricity water and communication networks, considering the energy transition to net zero through a whole energy systems approach. Keith is actively involved with a range of universities, notably Newcastle, Durham and Northumbria, a board member of the North East Energy Catalyst, a member of the Industrial Advisory Board for the Supergen Network and, the recently finished project National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI). He also chairs the IGEM Hydrogen committee tasked with management and development of new hydrogen standards for the gas industry.

NEWS: HI-ACT is delighted to bring you a podcast series, featuring guests from a wide range of hydrogen integrated speakers. Click here for more.

Our pilot episode welcomed Professor Sara Walker, HI-ACT's Principle Investigator from Newcastle University, and Professor Karen Henwood, Co-Investigator from Cardiff University. Professor Walker and Henwood set the scene for HI-ACT and the importance of the hydrogen integration work to the public and different communities.

In Episode 2, we introduce Professor Jianzhong Wu from Cardiff University and Professor Rachael Rothman from University of Sheffield and discuss how HI-ACT and the HyRES Hub will work together to create a scalable hydrogen economy for the UK.



Watch our recent Webinar on Community Perspectives, held on Weds 1st February 2023.


 Click here to view on our HI-ACT Youtube channel



  • Introduction – Prof. David Flynn, University of Glasgow (5 mins)
  • Matthew Scott, NEA: Hydrogen transitions and fuel poverty in the UK’ (20 mins)
  • Neil Kermode, EMEC: Orkney Wind Energy, perspectives on green hydrogen (20 mins)
  • Discussion and Q&A

About the Speakers:

Dr Matthew Scott is a Senior Research and Policy Officer at National Energy Action (NEA), the UK’s national fuel poverty charity working across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. He works across several of NEA’s research and evaluation projects, and previous worked on hydrogen transitions and energy justice at Newcastle University.

Neil Kermode is the Managing Director of EMEC - the world’s leading test facility for wave and tidal energy converters. EMEC is also pioneering the development of a hydrogen economy in Orkney and is Project Director for the ReFLEX Orkney which is seeking to develop an integrated, affordable, low-carbon energy system for the future.

About us

Our proposal has been submitted to EPSRC – thank you to everyone who supported and assisted us with this process.

What next?

Our consultation stage will continue until April 2023 – please keep an eye out for our upcoming events and get in touch with us to find out how we can collaborate: HIACT@newcastle.ac.uk

In the Spotlight - We are pleased to promote two recent publications in IEEE Access and the Journal of Bioresource Technology - Click here to read more

IEEE Access

Smart Local Energy Systems: Optimal Planning of Stand-Alone Hybrid Green Power Systems for On-line Charging of Electric Vehicles

Abstract: Multi-vector smart local energy systems are playing an increasingly importantly role in the fast-track decarbonisation of our global energy services. An emergent contributor to global decarbonisation is green hydrogen. Green hydrogen can remove or reduce the burden of electrification of heat and transport on energy networks and provide a sustainable energy resource. In this paper, we explore how to optimally design a standalone hybrid green power system (HGPS) to supply a specific load demand with on-line charging of Electric Vehicles (EV). The HGPS includes wind turbine (WT) units, photovoltaic (PV) arrays, electrolyser and fuel cell (FC). For reliability analysis, it is assumed that WT, PV, DC/AC converter, and EV charger can also be sources of potential failure. Our methodology utilises a particle swarm optimization, coupled with a range of energy scenarios as to fully evaluate the varying interdependences and importance of economic and reliability indices, for the standalone HGPS. Our analysis indicates that EV charging with peak loading can have significant impact on the HGPS, resulting in significant reductions in the reliability indices of the HGPS, therefore enhance the operation of HGPS and reduces the overall cost. Our analysis demonstrates the importance of understanding local demand within a multi-vector optimization framework, as to ensure viable and resilient energy services.

Full paper available here or by following URL: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/10018211 


Elsevier's Journal of Bioresource Technology.

Life cycle assessment of waste-to-hydrogen systems for fuel cell electric buses in Glasgow, Scotland

Abstract: Waste-to-hydrogen (WtH) technologies are proposed as a dual-purpose method for simultaneous non-fossil-fuel based hydrogen production and sustainable waste management. This work applied the life cycle assessment approach to evaluate the carbon saving potential of two main WtH technologies (gasification and fermentation) in comparison to the conventional hydrogen production method of steam methane reforming (SMR) powering fuel cell electric buses in Glasgow. It was shown that WtH technologies could reduce CO2-eq emissions per kg H2 by 50–69% as compared to SMR. Gasification treating municipal solid waste and waste wood had global warming potentials of 4.99 and 4.11 kg CO2-eq/kg H2 respectively, which were lower than dark fermentation treating wet waste at 6.6 kg CO2-eq/kg H2 and combined dark and photo fermentation at 6.4 kg CO2-eq/kg H2. The distance emissions of WtH-based fuel cell electric bus scenarios were 0.33–0.44 kg CO2-eq/km as compared to 0.89 kg CO2-eq/km for the SMR-based scenario.

Full paper available here or by following URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960852422007933

Click Here to read our blog on the latest Hydrogen research at Newcastle University

Net zero, the target of being carbon neutral by 2050, requires us to stop releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Heating including domestical and industrial processes, is the largest contributor of carbon emissions in the UK and responsible for 37% of emissions. Thus one of the most important things to decarbonise is how we heat our homes.  

Currently, 74% of homes in the UK are heated by natural gas. Replacing natural gas with low-carbon hydrogen is a potential way to decarbonise heating. This would involve converting the existing gas networks to carry hydrogen. However, it is not possible to do this yet – a lot of research and trials must be completed first. The government has set a target for a neighbourhood trial by 2023, a village scale trial by 2025 and (hopefully) a hydrogen heated town by 2030. Using results from these trials, the government aims to decide regarding the repurposing of the gas network in 2026. 

To help with this, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), now the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ)  ran a consultation called “Hydrogen for heat: facilitating a grid conversion hydrogen heating trial.” They asked stakeholders how the government could change legislation to allow the village trial to take place. They received 18 written responses in total, including a response from HI-ACT Director Professor Sara Walker, Newcastle University.. 

Newcastle’s Existing Hydrogen Research 

Newcastle University is at the forefront of hydrogen research, exploring the technical, economic, and societal aspects of hydrogen.  

Along with leading on HI-ACT, Newcastle University champions a whole-systems approach to hydrogen research. The ESPRC funded National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) brought together energy experts to develop flexible, smart energy infrastructure. With partners Northern Gas Networks and Northern Powergrid, they have established InTEGReL, an integrated whole energy systems development and demonstration facility, funded by the government. The facility aims to break down barriers between sectors for a more secure, low carbon energy system, with a project focused on housing decarboniszation. 

Following on from CESI, the HI-ACT hub will begin to address the integration challenges of hydrogen that are needed to be addressed for an effective hydrogen economy to be scaled-up. The HI-ACT hub’s vision is to ensure that hydrogen is appropriately integrated in a future equitable energy system, through holistic multi-disciplinary research, to deliver a fundamental shift in critical analysis of the role of hydrogen and alternative liquid fuels in the context of the overall energy landscape. 

The University was able to draw on this work produced by CESI and from findings during HI-ACT 6-month consultancy phase when creating our response. The main author of the response was Professor Sara Walker, who worked closely with the strategic communications company WA Comms, policy and industry experts in the process. Our response was an important addition to the consultation, with several proposals being referenced in the final report. 

Final Report 

Newcastle provided answers to questions: 

1) List the major activities necessary to set up, run, and conclude a grid conversion trial, to ensure that premises and the gas distribution network are ready to use hydrogen for heating. 

4) Which aspects of a grid conversion trial could lead to consumers being treated unfairly or not being protected? 

5) Which of the consumer protections listed on p.14 are necessary to ensure that energy consumers are protected in a grid conversion trial? Please explain why they are necessary 

6) Are there other consumer protections not set out on p.14 which it would be necessary to implement? If so, please explain why they are important. 

7) How should each of the consumer protections you have listed in response to questions 5 and 6 be implemented? 

In Newcastle’s answer to question 4, particular focus was given to protecting consumer’s rights to switch suppliers. It could be considered unfair that individuals could not “opt-out” of the trial, as everyone within the village would have to transition from natural gas to hydrogen. To mediate this, the government recognised that consumers their right to switch suppliers should be protected, and that the billing and payment process is no more complicated than current arrangements. 

In response to question 5, Newcastle strongly believed that no consumers in the trial area should be financially disadvantaged because of the trial taking place. In the answer, research was referenced which showed that cost is consistently a high priority for energy consumers, and that some consumers have less capacity for involvement in innovation. In response the government ensured that no one participating in the trial would be financially disadvantaged from taking part, including installation and maintenance of new systems and appliances in homes. They also recognised that consumers should not pay more for hydrogen than natural gas and would be working with the gas networks to achieve this. 

Finally, Newcastle proposed that all data collected during the trial should be anonymised to protect consumers, and that agreements on access to data should be clearly outlined prior to the trial. In response, the government strategy will include a section on how consumers data will be used and protected. 

Given Newcastle’s ethos of inclusivity and fairness, we are pleased that our response contributed to the governments understanding in such a positive way. The University are also continuing its important work in Hydrogen research and will continue to work with key stakeholders to conduct research and disseminate the findings. We are also working to make our research findings more accessible to the public and will soon be starting a hydrogen podcast series to introduce more people to the research being conducted by HI-ACT.  

View our Q&A Blog, where HI-ACT responds to recent government consultation on new business models for hydrogen transportation and storage infrastructure.

Following on from the government’s commitment in the British Energy Security Strategy to design new business models for hydrogen transportation and storage infrastructure by 2025, we asked our HI-ACT Cardiff team to consider the recent government consultation on the proposals for hydrogen transport and storage business models.

Our HI-ACT team in Cardiff comprises of Professor Jianzhong Wu who is a Co-Investigator for HI-ACT and leads WP1, The Way Forward and is the International Theme Champion. Dr Meysam Qadrdan is a Co-Investigator on HI-ACT for WP1, The Way Forward and WP2, Whole Systems Understanding. He is also the EDI Theme Champion. Dr Modassar Chaudry is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Engineering at Cardiff University.

Q) Do you agree with Government’s analysis and vision for hydrogen network evolution through the different phases as described?

A) We agree with the broad principle that across the various parts of a ‘hydrogen eco-system’ one must start small-scale (production, pipelines, storage, and end users) with the likelihood of clustering around other parts of a hydrogen system or around industrial sites.  From mid to late 2020s we also envisage several clusters potentially joining together to form quasi-regional systems and emerging interactions with the other energy vectors, such as the gas and electrical systems. By early 2030s, as envisioned by National Grid Project Union (National Grid, 2022), connection of regional clusters and hydrogen production centres to industrial, heat, transport, and power consumers could develop a national hydrogen backbone as large parts of the gas network are repurposed.
National Grid (2022), Project Union, Launch report, May 2022 National Grid

Q) In your view, do you agree that uncertain demand and supply and limited user base will be the predominant barriers in a growth phase of hydrogen network development?

A) We agree these will be the predominant barriers in a growth phase for development of hydrogen networks. Both (National Grid, 2022) and (ENA, 2022) envisage initial supply and demand to develop for industrialised clusters which then extends to blending (important for de-risking investments) for heating purposes in mid 2020s. Beyond this timeframe, a decision on 100% hydrogen for heat must be made in 2026, as this will set in motion decisions on the future of the gas network (how, where and when the gas system can be repurposed) and how hydrogen could complement the expected growth in electrical systems. This will also ensure the ‘demand’ and ‘limited user base’ issues are addressed which would in turn give confidence to investors.
National Grid (2022), Project Union, Launch report, May 2022 National Grid.
ENA (2022), Britain’s Hydrogen Blending Delivery Plan’, Energy Networks Association, 2022

Q) Do you agree that government should develop a dedicated business model for hydrogen storage (subject to value for money and need) and that it should be designed to be technology-neutral?

A) We agree that a dedicated business model for hydrogen is required. Given that each storage is technologically different and are at various levels of maturity, we believe that this should be reflected in the level of support. For instance, above ground compressed hydrogen containers are more established and potentially require less support (operationally and in terms of project lead times) than large scale underground storage facilities in former depleted gas/oil fields. Additionally, aspects such as cushion gas will also need to be accounted for in a dedicated business model for hydrogen storage. The various volumes of cushion gas as a percentage of capacity were highlighted in the Gas infrastructure Europe report on Hydrogen storage (GIE, 2021).
GIE (2021), Picturing the value of underground gas storage to the European hydrogen system, Gas Infrastructure Europe, June 2021

Q) Do you agree that business model support should focus on larger-scale storage, or is there a need to provide further support for small scale storage? 

A) Support should be provided for all types of hydrogen storage. Large scale storage needs more support as the development lead times are much longer and there is likely to be a requirement for cushion gas (GIE, 2021). There is a direct analogy with the gas system, where we have fast response and multi cycle storage facilities that can operate flexibly and on the other hand, we have seasonal capability which for example was provided by the Rough storage facility (Budinger et al, 2015; Fevre, 2013). Both types of storage facilities have served the UK well with different operating criteria. With renewable generation set to increase and demand becoming more difficult to predict, the flexibility provided by fast response hydrogen storage facilities (most likely be smaller scale) are likely to be important. Additionally, the value that large-scale hydrogen storage facilities could provide to security of supply should also be considered in any support package.
GIE (2021), Picturing the value of underground gas storage to the European hydrogen system, Gas Infrastructure Europe, June 2021
Budinger Keith, Harding Colin, Evans David (2015), Fast cycle gas storage, British Geological Survey, Sustainable Exploitation of the Subsurface Conference, 20-21 May 2015
Fevre (2013), Chris Le, 2013, Gas storage in Great Britain, Oxford Institute for energy studies, 2013

Q) In your view, should the build out of hydrogen transport infrastructure evolve through either a) a solely a market-led approach, b) a form of strategic planning, or c) neither?

A) We believe that a hybrid approach would combine the advantages of market and strategic-planning approaches. Allowing the market to innovate and develop hydrogen systems but supported by government through a strategic planner who can provide coordination and general direction in order to move hydrogen from stand-alone-clusters to regional and potentially national system. Like the UK, Germany also has ambitious hydrogen plans (Bundesministerium, 2020) which they hope to implement through a national hydrogen council (involves research, regulators, production, infrastructure owners and users) to co-ordinate the role out. In The UK, initially (early years) we support a market led approach to provide a multitude of ideas but as we move to more integrated systems, technical complexity (and across areas such as energy quality, blending, safety etc) will increase and this will require a strategic direction (co-ordinated approach involving inputs from users and owners of hydrogen infrastructure) to the development.
Bundesministerium (2020), The National Hydrogen Strategy, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Germany), 2020

Q) In your view, should the build out of hydrogen storage infrastructure evolve through either a) a solely a market-led approach, b) a form of strategic planning, or c) neither? 

A) If the overall hydrogen transport infrastructure is provided with strategic direction, we don’t believe it also necessary for storage. Storage is a very important component within hydrogen system development, especially the ability to manage supply and demand (short term and seasonally). If the overall strategic direction and planning is implemented for the overall transport infrastructure, storage will most likely be provided by the market to meet specific needs (balancing etc). But it will still require appropriate support from government (support for large scale storage to valuing the flexibility provided by fast cycling storage facilities). 

The HI-ACT team continue to engage with government on policy in the lead up to the launch of the HI-ACT hub (currently planned for May 2023). Please watch this space for updates.

Please contact HIACT@newcastle.ac.uk if you have any queries.

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