Hydrogen hybrid heating system demonstrated in Wales

a hydrogen heating system demonstated with engineers checking The Milford Haven Energy Kingdom project has unveiled what is believed the world’s first smart hydrogen hybrid heating system.

The project in the Pembrokeshire town of Milford Haven to investigate the role of hydrogen in a decarbonised energy future combined a hydrogen-fuelled boiler with an electric air-source heat pump alongside smart control technology.

The hydrogen hybrid heating system trial conducted in a commercial building at the Port is considered to have proven technology that is expected to become increasingly important in the UK reach net zero. Estimates are that emissions from home heating and hot water need to be cut by an estimated 95% to meet the 2050 net zero target.

Hybrid heating systems can flexibly switch between using renewable electricity when it is available and green gases like hydrogen at other times to optimise the mix and operating costs. Hybrid heating systems also offer an affordable and practical way to decarbonise heating as a cheaper and less disruptive alternative as a typical boiler replacement.

Heat pumps are proposed as the main option for decarbonising heating in the UK. However as much as half of the properties are believed not to be suitable for standalone heat pumps due to their poor thermal properties and other limitations, which would otherwise necessitate extensive and expensive energy efficiency improvement.

“Hybrid heating systems can be easily retrofitted to existing housing stock, without costly changes to radiators or internal pipework, keeping disruption to homes and communities to a minimum. This trial has demonstrated how they can work with hydrogen in place of natural gas,” commented Matt Hindle, Head of Net Zero and Sustainability at Wales & West Utilities, the gas network for Wales and southwest England that are one of the project partners.

“The 2020s must be a decade of delivery for net zero and we’d urge government and policymakers to include hybrids in incentives and support schemes like the Clean Heat Grant, encouraging installations of hybrids to help towards achieving the 600,000 heat pumps per year target, alongside ongoing support to develop hydrogen for heating.”

In the demonstration, testing, inspection and certification company Kiwa UK delivered bottled hydrogen to the boiler to simulate periods when renewable electricity was unavailable to run the heat pump, or when a temperature boost was required.

The smart controls were designed by Passiv UK and integrated with the system seamlessly, automatically switching between the air source heat pump and the hydrogen boiler.

Every 2 minutes the system assesses the energy generation mix and renewable electricity availability on the local grid and requests the boiler to run on hydrogen when unavailable.

The hydrogen boiler was developed by Worcester Bosch as part of the government-funded Hy4Heat project.