Hydrogen pipeline systems are being installed at the Materials Processing Institute as the initial £270,000 phase of a multi-million project to demonstrate UK innovation in green steelmaking.

Commercial Maintenance Services UK Ltd (CMS) is currently installing the infrastructure as part of the development of a proposed permanent national pilot distribution and production facility at the Institute’s Teesside campus.

The initial part of the project, codenamed H2DRI, will focus on how production can be scaled up and will build practical and scientific understanding on how best to deliver economically and environmentally sustainable green steelmaking. Part of the government’s Net Zero Innovation Portfolio Industrial Fuel Switching Competition that funds low carbon technologies and systems, the project is led by the Institute in partnership with electrical technology developers C-Tech Innovation, Teesside University, the Steel and Metals Institute at Swansea University, and global metals and mining company Rio Tinto.

The use of carbon-free ‘green’ hydrogen could transform the steel industry, currently one of the largest contributors to carbon dioxide emissions, by replacing coke and other polluting fossil fuels that are currently used to power furnaces and convert iron ore to iron metal.

Hydrogen will be used to fuel three phases of the steel making process: converting iron ores into metal (which is then melted electrically to make molten steel), pre-heating a seven tonne capacity ladle ready to receive the molten steel, and later on providing the intense high temperature flames needed to reheat slabs of metal before forming them into finished products.

CMS was engaged to undertake the design, manufacture and installation of the pipework due to its expertise in delivering major nationwide commercial projects across several business-critical services, including gas, plumbing and heating, electricals, renewables and fire safety.

The specially hardened pipework is designed to cope with the high pressures associated with hydrogen. In addition, all welds have been x-rayed as part of a rigorous non-destructive testing process to ensure there are no weaknesses.

Following its installation over and underground, it is attached to a manifold and controls system before the hydrogen can be fed into several buildings, facilities and processes within the campus

Nigel Riley, Senior Project Manager at Gateshead-headquartered CMS, said: “We are proud to be supporting the Institute on such an important initiative. Our engineers are highly experienced at working across a range of sectors, including industrial, defence, commercial, and public sector, but this is one of the most far-reaching projects to date, given it has the potential to transform the steel industry and cut harmful emissions.”

Chris McDonald, Chief Executive of the Materials Processing Institute, added: “It’s exciting to see work progressing on the H2DRI project and in creating a pilot production facility that will be pivotal into proving hydrogen is the answer to decarbonising steel production on an industrial scale. Our new hydrogen infrastructure also opens the door to all sorts of other innovation scale-ups on Teesside”