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Hydrogen to smell like natural gas for the first time

Published by , Senior Editor
World Pipelines,

A pioneering energy project to gather vital evidence about the suitability of the gas network to transport hydrogen will see the clean burning fuel odourised to smell like natural gas for the first time.

Hydrogen to smell like natural gas for the first time

The project, located on a disused network of gas mains in the South Bank area of Middlesbrough, will test operational procedures under 100% hydrogen conditions on an existing network for the first time.

Natural gas, just like hydrogen, is odourless, so a distinct and widely recognised odour is added to warn everyone of a potential gas leak. Following decades of familiarising the public with the smell of natural gas it is expected that, if hydrogen is widely used in the gas network, it will be odourised in the same way.

A bespoke unit has been built to odourise the hydrogen at the South Bank site, with odorant added to hydrogen as it is distributed into the gas mains in the same way that natural gas is odourised today.

The UK has set a target of achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 to help reverse the impact of climate change. The natural gas currently used by the 85% of homes connected to the gas grid is responsible for up to 30% of the UK’s carbon emissions. Hydrogen produces no carbon when burned, making it a greener energy solution for heating and cooking.

The South Bank project is part of the next phase of H21, a major collaborative UK gas industry hydrogen programme led by Northern Gas Networks (NGN) to assess the suitability of the UK’s gas network to carry hydrogen.

Neil Travers, H21 Project Manager for NGN said: ““There is widespread awareness of the distinct smell of ‘gas’ amongst the general public, built since the natural gas conversion of the 1960s and 70s. It’s vitally important hydrogen can be smelt to identify a gas escape in the same way and I’m delighted that our project will see hydrogen odourised, as well as gathering vital information about converting an existing gas distribution network from natural gas to 100% hydrogen for the first time”.

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