Energy bosses suppressed hydrogen explosion risk report ahead of Fife trial
Energy bosses suppressed hydrogen explosion risk report ahead of Fife trial.
Energy bosses deliberately suppressed a report revealing hydrogen had a higher explosion risk than natural gas ahead of a world-first trial in Fife.
Almost 300 people in Buckhaven and Methil have signed up to SGN’s four-year pilot to heat their homes using hydrogen.
They were promised free hydrogen-ready boilers and cooking appliances, as well as £1,000 to compensate for any disruption.
However, they were not told the results of independent tests commissioned by the gas company in 2018.
The tests found that without additional safeguards, a build-up of hydrogen could result in more damage and injury if ignited by a light switch.
A video of the experiments was finally released on Wednesday.
It shows the damage caused during a controlled explosion of high levels of hydrogen was worse than with methane, the standard household gas.
And experts say the potential for serious injury was also greater.
SGN ruled additional safety controls would need to be put in place before hydrogen could be used for heating and cooking in homes.
They insist the measures ensure it is as safe as using natural gas, and add: “Safety is at the heart of everything we do.”
Fife Council states it has confidence in SGN to deliver the Levenmouth trial.
Company did not share full report
SGN released some details of the tests a year ago following a freedom of information request.
However, it did not share the full report in case the conclusions were “taken out of context and misinterpreted”.
But the Information Commissioner ruled this week the company must publish the 2018 testing report in full.
It includes the finding that hydrogen would take less time to build up during a leak.
And ignition could result in significant damage to brickwork and probable severe injury to householders.
The company said the build-up of hydrogen tested was 64kw – far greater than would be used within the home.
None of the homes in the trial will have supplies above 40kw.
It also found the damage caused by igniting lower levels of the gas was similar to that caused by methane.
Nevertheless, it was recommended valves be fitted to meters in any house where hydrogen is used to ensure the gas automatically switches off if the flow rate is too high.
Other recommendations include regular safety checks and strategically-placed hydrogen detectors.
‘Why are they trying to hide it?’
Buckhaven Labour councillor Tom Adams described SGN’s actions as “damning”.
Tom Adams, Buckhaven Labour councillor, said:
They’ve tried to suppress this information. Why are they trying to hide it?
“People must be given everything they need to make an informed decision.
“And suppressing it just makes it look bad.”
The £32 million Buckhaven project, known as H100, is finally due to get under way next year and new hydrogen pipes are already being laid to deliver the gas to participating homes.
Those taking part will not save any money as household bills will remain the same.
The project will provide data to the UK Government to inform decisions on the future of the fuel.
SGN believes green hydrogen is more environmentally-friendly than natural gas and it could be available across the country within 12 years.
SGN ‘committed to being open and transparent’
In response, SGN said:
Safety is at the heart of everything we do.
“That’s why we carried out these tests and shared the results with industry.
“The key findings were made public in 2021 as part of the Government-commissioned Hy4Heat programme to explore the evidence case for the use of hydrogen in homes.
“We decided not to share some of the material because of concerns this would be used out of context and could have been misinterpreted.
Carol Connolly, Fife Council, said:
We have confidence in SGN as the provider to deliver the H100 Fife trial.
“H100 Fife has the backing of the energy regulator Ofgem, the UK and Scottish Governments and crucially hundreds of residents who are supporting this world-first green hydrogen project.
“SGN is committed to being open, transparent and engaging with the community to clearly explain all aspects of the project.”
Meanwhile, Fife Council says it is working with SGN to ensure Levenmouth residents and businesses are accurately informed.
Director of place Carol Connolly said:
“We have confidence in SGN as the provider to deliver the H100 Fife trial.
“H100 Fife offers an opportunity for local people to adopt clean, green hydrogen technology by opting into the project.”