Support Leeds H21 Project – Hydrocarbon

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2018 Energy Service Group Conference
26 February 2018

UNISON welcomes the partnership between UNISON employers Northern Gas Networks and Leeds City Council together committed to pursuing the conversion of Leeds to a 100% hydrocarbon city. Converting the UK gas grid to hydrogen will be a major step towards meeting the UK’s carbon reduction targets. Currently, over 30% of all UK carbon emissions come from domestic heating and cooking. A UK-wide conversion to hydrogen gas will reduce heat emissions by a minimum of 73% as well as supporting decarbonisation of transport and localised electrical generation. This will be a major contribution to achieving the goals of the COP21 Paris Agreements and the UK 2050 targets.

The UK gas industry is over 200 years old and UNISON has a long history of association with it. For the first 150 years gas provision was delivered through town gas containing 50% hydrogen and carbon monoxide and methane. In the 1960/70’s following the discovery of North Sea Oil, the UK took to converting to natural gas made up of predominantly methane. This programme to Natural Gas required the national wide conversion of domestic appliances to accommodate the predominantly methane base North Sea gas supply. This gas supply still feeds over 80% of UK population for their heating and cooking. Conversion to cleaner greener and more sustainable hydrocarbon takes this conversion one step further but using the same infrastructure, pipelines and appliances. It is within our recent experience to conduct such a large scale conversion and is therefore realistically achievable, cost effective and environmentally necessary.

Such a development would not only secure UNISON energy members jobs but provide a great opportunity to build increased employment and membership in the sector. It is also the best demonstration of what a just transition for energy members really looks like.

Northern Gas Networks which recognises UNISON is working in partnership with Leeds City Council to develop Project H21 in Leeds and the objective is to make Leeds one of the UK’s largest cities to run on 100% Hydrogen.

The project has already shown that:

a. The gas network has the correct capacity for such a conversion

b. It can be converted incrementally with minimal disruption to customers and at the same cost as natural gas.

c. Minimal new energy infrastructure will be required compared to alternatives.

d. The existing heat demand for Leeds can be met via steam methane reforming and salt cavern storage using technology in use around the world today.

We therefore call on the Energy Service Group Executive to

1. Continue to promote Hydrogen conversion of the Gas Network as the best and most cost effective way forward to achieving a clean future for the heating of homes and businesses in the UK.

2. Promote the H21 project as Leeds based example of what can be achieved.

3. Recognise the huge energy jobs potential of such a conversion programme and organise to recruit in this area.

4. Support the development of an all party parliamentary group to promote this conversion and lobby MPs and the Government to take this challenge seriously.