Heat represents nearly half of the UK’s energy consumption and currently gas provides around 80% of our heat at times of peak demand.
Gas is a flexible fuel that is already supplied to industry and households by well-established infrastructure. It is widely recognised that decarbonising the gas network is an important part of achieving low-carbon energy targets as well as ensuring households have affordable heat.
The District will adopt various initiatives to both provide lower carbon gas and efficient heat sharing networks.
What can the Energy Innovation District offer?
Developing hydrogen generation and bio-gas production are two key areas of activity.
A Hydrogen Hub has already become established within the District with UK wide membership and stakeholders – exploring fuel cell deployment (both static and automotive), local community trials around a decarbonised grid and the potential for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).
The investment necessary to deliver a hydrogen economy will be significant and to efficiently address feasibility it is important that the various initiatives across the UK work closely together and complement each other. We are aware and support the work of others across the country.
Downstream utilisation: the Energy Demonstrator at Thornton is already working with AFC Energy and Powerhouse Energy. Existing industry already produces hydrogen as part of processes which can be harnessed to enable the testing and proving of downstream technologies, i.e. fuel cells. These industrial trials compliment the more extensive HyDeploy programme at Keele and the Leeds 21 City Gate Project.
Upstream production: Powerhouse Energy is located within the Energy Demonstrator and is developing a distributed bio-hydrogen technology. The Hydrogen Hub partners are developing larger scale feasibility around steam methane reforming (SMR). Masterplanning around the Protos development makes provision for large scale SMR, connectivity within the District and to a wider Mersey Hub as well as the ability to deliver CCS. Bio-methane developments are also proposed within the development which, when commercially proven, have the ability to provide a distributed bio-methane/bio-SNG network.
Hydrogen storage: the development of hydrogen uses will necessitate the construction of hydrogen storages above ground or underground. A recent study commissioned by ETI (“The role of hydrogen storage in a clean responsive power system”) shows that the salt deposits in Cheshire are ideally suited and offers the most economic solution for large-scale hydrogen storage. Storengy is actively participating in various R&D programs in Europe that are aiming at demonstrating the feasibility of hydrogen storage.
Indeed, if SMR is to be the technology then effective CCS is clearly necessary – we believe the area presents commercially deliverable opportunity in the southern Irish Sea (“The East Irish Sea CCS Cluster – A Conceptual Design [Eunomia 2011]).
Within the District the key parts of a low-carbon gas network already exist and, whilst the level of planned investment is difficult to appraise, there is a clear appetite amongst industry to innovate and develop.
Key short term deliverables are:
• Fuel cell and bio-methane trials at the Energy Centre
• Commercial scale bio-methane facility within Protos
• £150m committed investment by Storengy UK in gas storage
• Continued work of the Hydrogen Hub to masterplan a low carbon gas network and CCS
• Indigenous methane resources
The second limb of the District’s heat aspirations is the delivery of large scale heating networks to support activity and local communities. Cheshire West and Chester Council, working with the Government’s Heat Network Delivery Unit and industry partners, has secured funding to further assess the feasibility of local heat networks – potentially linking to local industry supplies.
Within the District we would commit to exploring the potential for heat supply networks alongside other utility supplies to move forward the overarching aim of providing total lower cost energy.