When it comes to using hydrogen to reduce emissions from our heating, hot water and cooking, what do we know about how the public feels about it from a safety perspective?
Last summer, Leeds Beckett University published the findings of a survey of over 1,000 members of the public, living in three cities across the UK, of their views about using hydrogen to reduce their carbon emissions from their heating, hot water and cooking.
So, what did it say about the critical issue of hydrogen safety?
The Leeds Beckett research team held deliberative workshops with members of the public and hydrogen experts, which are facilitated group discussions that explore an issue in depth, challenge each other’s views, and to consider evidence and reach an informed view. The experts were members of the H21 project team and the Health and Safety Executive team conducting safety tests on hydrogen.
The research found the safety of using hydrogen for heating, hot water and cooking was not a major concern for participants, because they assumed that if their supply is converted to hydrogen then it will have been robustly tested and found to be safe. There were more concerns about how securely carbon dioxide is stored, through carbon capture and storage, than the safety of using hydrogen in their home.
While participants talked about how it is important that hydrogen is safe to use in their homes, the workshops found that they were easily reassured when more information was provided. A few asked about whether hydrogen is flammable or explosive, or what would happen if an unconverted appliance were run on hydrogen and a few asked whether there might be any harmful environmental effects, including effects that we may not currently be aware of.
Most, however, were not at all anxious about safety.
From those conversations, they appeared to assume that if the conversion happens, all the safety testing would have been completed. Instead, there was more interest in the safety advantage that hydrogen cannot produce the carbon monoxide poisoning (because it does not contain carbon), that can come from faulty or poorly maintained household appliances.
The workshops showed that all participants objected to vague answers from those responsible for testing hydrogen that left a sense of uncertainty about safety. They recommended that information provided to them avoids vague statements.
That's why last week we published our Gas Goes Green 'Our Expertise, Your Security' hydrogen safety commitment, which sets out clearly how all five of Britain's gas networks will ensure that the transition to hydrogen means that our gas grid remains as safe, if not safer, than it is today. Signed by all five CEOs of Britain's gas network companies, the commitment reflects just how importantly gas networks are treating this issue, as we transition away from natural gas.
When it comes to hydrogen safety, the world leading research being undertaken through our members’ gas network innovation projects are just another example of how tomorrow’s heat, is today’s opportunity.
Notes to editor
Gas Goes Green #H2Explainers are a series of blogs setting all the key information you need to know about how Britain’s gas networks are working to deliver hydrogen to our homes, as part of our 'Tomorrow's Heat, Today's Opportunity' campaign. Check out the ENA Newsroom to find other articles and updates from both gas and electricity network companies.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 40,000 people in Great Britain.