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Vaillant team reflects on the future of hydrogen

With one of its first certificated 100% hydrogen boilers now in place at the H21 test site in South Bank, Middlesbrough, the team from Vaillant involved with its installation and testing reflect on what it means to the industry, and what the results will feed into.

The H21 South Bank project, led by Northern Gas Networks with support from DNV, is carrying out research to assess the suitability of the UK’s existing gas network – with a view to eventually transforming this it to 100% hydrogen. The site is key to helping the UK move towards the reality of using hydrogen as a fuel in our homes.

Mark Wilkins, technologies and training director at Vaillant comments; “Vaillant has carried out a great deal of work testing the appliance in a lab, so this is a chance to get the boiler into the field and use it in the real world. Our installation will start to inform the project on findings such as controlling flammability and installation requirements, ahead of hydrogen boilers being produced on a mass scale.

“This trial will also provide validation of the various steps required between installation and commissioning of the appliance and will start to inform the next stages of field trials as we move from a single house to a village, to a full town. Getting us even closer to a hydrogen reality.”

“We are very proud to be part of the field trial here at Middlesbrough as it is a ground-breaking project in terms of the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy grid.” adds Paul Honeyman, head of product development for Vaillant.

“This is the start of a new generation of energy products in the UK, and we are delighted to have a boiler running efficiently on 100% hydrogen. The boiler itself is a result of many years of development and predevelopment work by our teams in Remscheid, Germany. This has involved multiple teams working on each separate element of the boiler, resulting in a high-quality product that will help pave the way for our net-zero future. I’m delighted that this hard work and expertise has paid off, and we are now able to install and commission a 100% hydrogen boiler for the first time.”

Developing 100% hydrogen

In terms of the product development taking place in the background, David Parker, product manager for Vaillant’s hydrogen ready and 100% hydrogen products, explains; “This boiler has been specifically designed to run solely on hydrogen from the outset. The burner is a smaller design, the ports are smaller and grouped differently because of the flame speed. Flame detection equipment is specifically made to read the hydrogen flame and the fan system designed expressly for this purpose.”

“Vaillant is an active member of many heating industry associations who are also helping shape the future of hydrogen. The work we are doing here will help to understand how hydrogen products work in real situations and will inform consultations for the future. The site here was perfect as it uses existing gas pipework that has been adapted to replicate how the gas would work across the grid on a domestic scale. This will help answer many of the questions installers have on how it will perform in our homes.”

Assessing installation

As one of the engineers tasked with fitting the boiler on-site, Steve Dixon, field service support manager for Vaillant, found installing the boiler was not dissimilar to the products heating engineers will be familiar with.

“There was very little difference when installing a hydrogen boiler over a natural gas version,” Steve said. “The boiler we have installed here is running very smoothly. At first fire we were struggling to hear if it had ignited, it was so quiet.”

“The main difference during commissioning and testing of the boiler is the measurement of the flue gases. We use O2% to determine correct combustion as there is no longer any CO in the products of combustion. The best advice I would give to installers when the time comes to install a 100% hydrogen boiler is to follow gas regulations and correct standards to the letter, particularly when purging the installation pipework.”

“Hydrogen boilers work the same way as a natural gas boiler,” adds Colin Box, technical quality manager at Vaillant, who also assisted with the installation of the boiler. “It is a pre-mix gas and air appliance. For this project we are using a combination boiler to power the heating and hot water at the facility, and we are getting the same outputs you would expect from a natural gas version.

“We are at the front of this development for a new type of gas and have moved the timeline forward and shown that the appliances can be ready. We have a boiler that is a similar size to what installers expect, the installation is no different. This is a really big step. These projects are not only being monitored on-site, but also remotely by our product team in Germany, so we can see how it is performing in a real-world situation. This is new technology, and we want to be there at the forefront creating the best products for installers and homeowners when hydrogen becomes mainstream.”

To find out more about Vaillant’s 100% hydrogen boiler and the many trials it is currently involved with, visit vaillant.co.uk/hydrogen.