Hydrogen tests begin on gas distribution infrastructure 30 November 2018

TUV SUD NEL in East Kilbride, Scotland has begun a research project that might help determine the distribution infrastructure for hydrogen and other clean gaseous fuels.

“This is a programme of work to determine if the existing installed gas meter stock could be used to meter hydrogen accurately,” says head of R&D, Martin Hanton. “Accurate measurement will be crucial if hydrogen becomes widely used as a fuel, since flow meters will be used to bill customers for the amount of gas consumed.”

The project is funded by Northern Gas Networks and Cadent Gas. Both of these companies run gas distribution networks that transport gas to millions of homes across the UK. The work is part of a wider project called H21. This is being led by the companies and aims to demonstrate the feasibility of converting the existing natural gas network in Leeds to 100% hydrogen.

The first phase of the TÜV SÜD NEL research will involve the design of a rig to allow the necessary meter testing to be done. This phase will take about six months to complete. Once the test rig is designed, the subsequent phases of the project will include its construction, followed by the roll out of the testing programme itself.

“There is currently no suitable infrastructure in the UK able to do the necessary work,” explains Hanton. “The planned facility will be used to understand and quantify the effect of hydrogen on meter performance. It will also be used to investigate the safety and technical challenges involved.”

Technical lead on the project Marc MacDonald says: “This is an exciting project for us as the use of hydrogen for domestic heating is one potential way to significantly reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions. The area where TÜV SÜD's experience will be especially valuable is the design of an accurate reference measurement system traceable to National Standards.”

He continues: “Hydrogen gas has a few properties that are problematic for some types of flowmeters. It leaks very easily and has a much lower density than natural gas. These issues could cause metering errors, but it is likely that many of these problems could be calibrated out. The challenge is therefore to select a reference flow device that can be operated using hydrogen without significant deterioration in performance.”

Will Dalrymple

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