It's no secret that fossil fuels are a limited resource that's only to get scarcer and scarcer over time, so there is work being done to develop more sustainable alternatives that also happen to be kinder to the environment. While this news isn't a major solution, research claims that it's possible to reduce our gas consumption by up to 30 per cent by mixing it with hydrogen.
Hydrogen is good for burning because it's the most common element in the universe and only produces water in the process, which is why people have been putting it in cars. It's also mixed in with natural gas that's piped to houses, though current legislation limits the quantity to 0.1 per cent of the total mix. But research from Swansea University claims that adding up to 30 per cent hydrogen would mean we can cut down the amount of natural gas we use, without risking incompatibility with existing boilers and ovens.
The purpose of the research was to see how much hydrogen could be added to natural gas before the flames became too unstable to be used as a reliable source of fuel. It turns out anything higher than 30 per cent is unsuitable due to how low in energy the gas is, combined with its low density and penchant for burning. So anything higher would require home equipment to be modified, which isn't really ideal.
At the moment home gas accounts for around nine per cent of the UK's carbon emissions, and it's estimated that this move could reduce them by 18 per cent. Mixing natural gas and hydrogen is already in use in Germany and the Netherlands, and has been proven to work safely and reliably with modern equipment. So it's no surprise that the government is also launching a £600 million trial later this year.
Dr Charles Dunnill of the Energy Safety Research Institute at Swansea University said:
“Up to 30 per cent of the UK’s gas supply can be replaced with hydrogen, without needing to modify people’s appliances. As a low carbon domestic fuel, hydrogen-enriched natural gas can cut our greenhouse gas emissions, helping the UK meet its obligations under the 2016 Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Hydrogen-enrichment can make a difference now. But it could also prove a valuable stepping-stone towards a future, pure hydrogen, zero carbon gas network.”