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Robots set to police the H2 gas networks

Advanced trials of robots that are able to detect H2 leaks and fix pipes have concluded. The research could help to pave the way for H2 to be used in industry, transport and heating. Harrogate-based Synovate, part of the Synthotech Group, teamed up with Northern Gas Networks to undertake the trials at a test facility in Spadeadam, Cumbria.

The testing program assessed if a robot could identify a H2 leak and repair an operational pipe. The Spadeadam research and testing facility is operated by DNV, a company that specializes in evaluating the effects of significant hazards on people and property.

The LeakVISION robots can be deployed remotely for long distances, which speeds up the investigation process to aid safety and reduce environmental impact. H2 can be used as a clean and renewable energy source to power homes in various ways. For example, H2 fuel cells can convert the chemical energy stored in H2 into electrical energy that can power homes.

Fuel cells combine H2 and oxygen to produce water and electricity. The process produces zero greenhouse gas emissions and only emits water vapor. Fuel cells are considered efficient and reliable and can be used to power homes in conjunction with other renewable energy sources like solar, wind or heat source pumps.

The government's H2 Strategy aims to attract £4 B in investment and launch a leading H2 economy that will create over 9,000 jobs by 2030. The aim is for all residential gas boilers to be H2-ready by 2026. The change is predicted to save 21 MMt of CO2 and lower electricity costs by 2050.

Simon Langdale, engineering director at Synovate said, "H2 has the potential to play a significant role in decarbonizing the UK. As technology and infrastructure continue to develop, H2 is likely to become an increasingly important energy source. Our advanced robot technologies will be essential to ensuring the optimization and safety of the network."

H2 can also be injected into the natural gas grid, which is used to supply homes with natural gas for heating and cooking. By blending H2 with natural gas, homes can use a cleaner energy source that emits fewer greenhouse gases than natural gas alone. The process of injecting H2 into the gas grid is being explored and tested by energy companies in several countries.

H2 can be burned in boilers to provide heat and hot water for homes. H2 boilers are similar to natural gas boilers and can be used to replace natural gas boilers in homes. H2 boilers produce only water vapor and heat, making them a clean and renewable energy source for homes.

Further trials are scheduled for this summer to test the robots in a variety of situations. As H2 technology advances, it will be essential to put in place systems to ensure that the network can be maintained safely and cost-effectively.