The HyDeploy project will blend up to 20% hydrogen into an existing natural gas network.
Eventually it could help Britain dramatically cut its carbon emissions and open the door to a low-carbon hydrogen economy.
"The significance of this announcement, allowing up to 20% green hydrogen to be injected into a UK gas network, is hard to overstate,” said ITM’s chief executive Graham Cooley.
“Power-to-gas in the UK is under active consideration by all gas grid operators and its significance as an energy storage technique is growing globally. This announcement is an important advance."
HSE green light
His comments followed official sanction by the Health and Safety Executive for the £7mln HyDeploy collaboration.
Backed by regulator Ofgem's Network Innovation Competition, it is being led by gas network Cadent in partnership with Northern Gas Networks, Keele University and a consortium of technical experts.
ITM Power is supplying the electrolyser system at the heart of the 12-month study, which begins next year.
Hydrogen will be pumped into the Keele University gas system serving 17 faculty buildings and 100 domestic properties.
"The importance of this trial to the UK is unmeasurable. This is the first ever practical demonstration of hydrogen in the modern gas network in the UK,” said Simon Fairman, director of safety and network strategy at Cadent.
“Hydrogen has the potential to address one of the most difficult sources of carbon emissions - heat.”
The trial could pave the way for a wider roll out of hydrogen blending, enabling the country begin cutting carbon emissions from heat as early as the mid-2020s without need to change or upgrade appliances, the Cadent director added.
Fairman believes HyDeploy could be the “launch pad” for a wider hydrogen economy, fuelling industry and transport and bringing with it new jobs.
“The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underlines the need for urgent action on carbon emissions and HyDeploy is an important staging post on that journey in the UK," he explained.
Hydrogen for the pilot will be produced by electrolysis using specialist kit developed by ITM, which splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.
Construction is due to start at the end of this year.
· Heating homes and industry accounts for nearly half of all energy use in the UK and one third of the country's carbon emissions
· If hydrogen were blended with natural gas across the UK at a similar level to HyDeploy, it could save around 6mln tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the equivalent of taking 2.5mln cars off the road.
· Hydrogen was a major component in 'town gas', gas created from coal and used widely throughout Britain before the discovery of North Sea gas in the 1960s. Up to 60% of the gas (by volume) being used by consumers was hydrogen
· Across Europe, permitted levels of hydrogen in the gas supply vary, from 0.1% in the UK to up to 12% in parts of the Netherlands