HyNet concept is becoming reality explains Damien Hawke, director of future networks in his blog

future of energy

Blog by Damien Hawke, director of future networks

HyNet concept is becoming reality
As I write (18 February) we’re celebrating a great day for hydrogen and for progress towards a net zero future by 2050 which is good news for the whole of the UK.  It’s also a really proud day for Cadent because the HyNet concept which received government funding today is a concept originated and promoted by Cadent and Progressive Energy Ltd back in 2017.  

Our HyNet concept proposed that hydrogen be produced on an industrial scale, using Carbon Capture Utility and Storage (CCUS) to make the gas zero carbon and cost effective; the captured carbon would be stored in offshore caverns left empty after oil and gas extraction.   The locally produced hydrogen would be shipped through a newly installed hydrogen pipeline to energy-hungry industries such as glass production and this would in turn make hydrogen available to provide decarbonised heating for 2m homes and hydrogen fuel cells for HGVs and other heavy freight transport.  When we launched HyNet in 2017, we did so with the knowledge that is has considerable support, political and industrial, local and national.  So to see this North West project lead the way with a new form of energy that helps solve some of the UK’s biggest decarbonisation challenges is really gratifying and we should congratulate the new government for its forward thinking attitude.   

With today’s announcement, most of the key elements of HyNet are set to become a reality: industrial scale hydrogen production takes the form of the UK’s first low carbon hydrogen plant at Essar Oil UK’s Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port.  The £7.5m project will produce 3TWh of low carbon and low-cost hydrogen and capture over 95% of the carbon used in the process.  In an operational year, the facility will capture 600,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum - the equivalent of taking over 250,000 cars off the road. That’s a huge benefit to the environment. 

HyNet has also received £5.2m to fund live trials of hydrogen fuelling at Unilever’s Port Sunlight manufacturing site, and at Pilkington’s Greengate Works glass-making plant in St Helens which will be a world first.  The projects will demonstrate that hydrogen can be used as a substitute fuel for natural gas in manufacturing processes, helping industry transition to a low-carbon future and leading the way for others to follow.

One of the partners in the project – Pilkington UK Ltd – made the very important point that “not only will this lead to significant carbon savings, but it will help to safeguard and grow jobs in the manufacturing sector.”  There is real potential to develop a national hydrogen economy, creating and maintaining jobs and make the UK a world leader in this technology – a great thing to be in a post Brexit world. 
The Government investment enables the North West to become a trailblazer in the UK for the transition to a low carbon economy.  The next step, clearly, will be to scale up these operations once the recently funded demonstrations are proven and, in time, to maximise these environmental benefits across the UK by distributing hydrogen using a new national pipeline network. 

I am delighted to celebrate this significant step forward in making our hydrogen future a reality and I congratulate all those who made it happen.  We at Cadent look forward to continuing to support the drive for net zero by continuing to be innovative, collaborative and practically orientated.  We’ve long believed that the UK gas network has a role to play in delivering green gas and it’s great to see this belief becoming a reality.  One day soon I hope to be celebrating the creation of a hydrogen economy for the world to see and be inspired by. 

Damien Hawke, Director of Future Networks Safety & Network Strategy
The HyNet Consortium consists of Progressive Energy, Pilkington, University of Chester, CF Industries, ENI, Unilever, Essar, SNC Lavalin, PEEL Land and Property and Cadent. 


Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Future of Gas: Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

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