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QEM Solutions used their understanding of the water industry to develop a management system that satisfied the requirements of ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001:2004 and OHSAS 18001:2007. QEM Solutions continue to manage and improve the organisations processes both on a corporate and project specific level.

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Overseas Featured Project: Capita Symonds - Valve Inspections

QEM Solutions were contracted to carry 3rd party inspection and witnessing activities on a series of valves fabricated in Germany for a series of SGN contracts throughout Scotland.

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28 Sep 2017

Leeds H21 Project: Why hydrogen could be the future

The Climate Change Act commits our Government to reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels. Challenging enough. But this has all got to happen by 2050.

Northern Gas Networks ­(NGN) – distributors of gas to homes and businesses across the north of England – have made addressing the challenges of the Climate Change Act a primary objective. And as one of the professional services provider for NGN, QEM Solutions have recently become involved in an NGN project that might just have the solution the UK needs.

In the UK right now, heat accounts for more than 30% of the nation’s emissions, so it’s not rocket science that this area should be high up on the list of priorities. What’s more, more than 80% of people get their heat from natural gas, or methane. So, address heat, and specifically that provided by gas, and you’ve got a significant dent in greenhouse emissions right there.

So, what are the alternatives? Well, there’s electricity, but a fair portion of that is generated using gas already. It’s problematic too, because unlike gas, electricity can’t be stored to manage the huge seasonal swings in demand that we see through summer and winter. Further, the electricity we can get from renewables is, as yet, just a drop in the ocean of the net energy the UK needs. Feasibly, what’s left? It’s de-carbonising the gas grid.

The gas grid comprises a hugely intricate network from gas production, to transportation, to consumption in towns and cities across the UK. Replacing this existing system with one that carries a new type of gas would not only be incredibly expensive, but create massive disruption to essential services across the UK. So, whatever we do, it must work within an existing system.

Cue hydrogen. Unlike methane, this gas has no carbon element in it. When it’s burned, it creates just water and heat, no carbon. Could it be the answer?

Led by NGN, the H21 project was launched in 2016 to establish whether the existing gas grid of a UK city could be converted to hydrogen. They chose Leeds as a test area because of its size, location, grid complexity, and high demand. It serves gas to 1.25% of the UK’s population alone. Simply put: if it worked there, it would work anywhere.

Having identified the volume of hydrogen required to meet demand from Leeds, the project team established that four Steam Methane Reformers or SMRs could provide the hydrogen needed to supply demand. These would be ideally located in Teesside, with potential there for carbon capture and storage. Further, intra-day storage of hydrogen at Teeside, and inter-seasonal storage in Humber area salt caverns, would provide stable supply all year round. Last on the checklist was the existing distribution system itself, which was analysed to check whether it was appropriately sized for carrying hydrogen. With only minor adjustments required there, it was time to address conversion, with the customer experience firmly in mind.

Using the strategies successfully applied in the 70s when the gas grid was converted from towns gas to natural gas, the H21 project proposed an incremental conversion of the City of Leeds during the summer months when demand is invariably at its lowest. Upgrades to customers’ existing appliances complete the loop, and it’s foreseeable that Leeds could be methane-free in three years.

A comprehensive programme of testing is under way, expected to complete in 2020. The immediate benefits for Leeds and the North looks positive with a growth in the economy, new jobs, and a position as leader in hydrogen production – the carbon-free “Powerhouse of the North”.

The H21 Project team have not only proven that a City can be converted to a hydrogen economy, but have projected what the impact would be to roll this out to the UK as a whole. A UK-wide conversion to hydrogen gas could reduce heat emissions by a minimum of 73%, a huge step towards the UK’s de-carbonisation goals. Not only that, but hydrogen could support the decarbonisation of transport and electricity generation too, taking the country even further towards meeting the 2050 challenge of the Climate Change Act.