SGN has requested permission by the energy regulator Ofgem to build the world's first renewable hydrogen network for homes in Scotland.

The proposed H100 Fife facility would provide energy for 300 homes in Levenmouth, and have the option for further expansion.

Hydrogen would replace natural gas as a green alternative for heating and cooking. The hydrogen itself would be created from water through a process called electrolysis, and the electricity required for that would come from offshore wind turbines.

If given the go-ahead SGN hope to have the site operational within three years. They do not believe work will be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, and anticipate construction to begin in early 2021.

Director of energy futures at SGN, Angus McIntosh, said: ''Hydrogen is an exciting energy vector that at scale could provide similar levels of safe, secure, reliable and affordable energy to what we enjoy now, with minimal disruption for customers. The project will provide key national evidence for hydrogen's role in the UK's energy transition and critical insight into the customer value proposition of hydrogen for heat.''

In this project new pipes would be laid alongside 1,000 properties, giving home owner the option to receive their existing gas supply or hydrogen alternative.

There is ongoing work to determine the of replacing natural gas currently used with hydrogen but using the existing pipes and infrastructure. If SGN can show that hydrogen can be safely piped through existing pipes it ensures a green future for itself. There will even be the possibility to also tap into hydrogen and the transport market.

HSE resume site inspections
Published: 27 May 2020

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have announced they are resuming proactive site inspections. They had stopped undertaking their usual spot-check inspections after the UK went into lockdown in March, the decision was taken in order to reduce the risk to employees in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

HSE inspectors still carried out re-active inspections to follow up reports or concerns from employees about their health and safety, in particular reports raised concerning the risk of infection from COVID-19 in the workplace.

The HSE have responded to around 5,000 workplace concerns raised since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the UK on 9 March.

An HSE spokesperson stated: ''Inspectors continue to visit workplaces following up any reports or concerns about safety in the workplace including over COVID and ensuring compliance. On the spot inspections are resuming imminently. As businesses start getting back to work, we can see scope for making further proactive enquiries of employers. We’re pulling together plans as we speak.''

Additional funding up to £14 million has been made available to the HSE to help with extra inspectors, call centre staff and equipment during the easing of the lockdown.

The HSE spokesperson added: ''We’ve been given the encouraging news of access to additional funding to support our advice and regulatory activity as businesses implement the new guidance on working safely during corona virus. The funding will help support HSE’s capability to address an increased number of concerns and enquiries from workers, their families and employers alike.''

As more businesses have returned to work since the easing of lockdown measures and more will be hoping to return to work in the coming weeks, it is important that employers ensure their workplace is safe for employees and any contractors or visitors on site.

The HSE's guidance for employers and those who are self-employed, is designed to help you work safely and control the risks associated with running your business during the coronavirus (COVID 19) outbreak, and help facilitate those returning to work.

For more information, see the:

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a safety alert for air suspension systems on vehicles.

It is aimed at those undertaking or responsible for work on vehicles with air suspension systems, including motor vehicle repair workshops, the roadside repair and recovery industry and customer sites where work is undertaken.

The HSE has investigated serious incidents involving vehicle air suspension systems, some of which included fatal injuries. There were two main causes in these incidents:

  • collapse of inadequately supported vehicles; and
  • unintended rupture or release of components from the air suspension system.

These were caused by work:

  • being undertaken on vehicles supported by the air suspension system and the airbags catastrophically failed;
  • carried out on the suspension control system or vehicle sensors and unexpected suspension movement has occurred;
  • carried out without de-pressurising the air suspension systems and the pneumatic air bag or associated components have ejected or ruptured. 

The HSE safety alert sets out the required actions to prevent these kind of serious incidents occurring. 

It emphasises the importance of ensuring tasks are adequately planned, taking into account specific tasks and control measures required, including:

  • confirming the configuration of particular suspension systems;
  • assessing the risks associated with each task;
  • explaining each task so it is fully understood by the technician undertaking the work;
  • providing the necessary equipment to undertake the job safely and developing safe systems of work.

It is recommended that minimal repair work should be carried out at the roadside or third-party premises, and work should be undertaken in an adequately equipped vehicle repair facility.

When working on vehicles with air suspension systems:

  • the movement of suspension should be prevented by either fully deflating the system of using suitable props or stands to prevent the chassis lowering. Air suspension should not be relied upon to maintain a vehicle's height or position under any circumstances when people can gain access to areas where they may become trapped;
  • lifting axles should be isolated to prevent movement when working near them;
  • visual checks should be undertaken on the configuration and condition of the air suspension system.

For work on the air suspension system itself:

  • you must undertake the actions for working on vehicles with air suspension systems;
  • prior to work on it, exhaust the air from the suspension system;
  • isolate the system by physically disconnecting the air supply;
  • when leak testing, visually inspect the empty system, inflate and raise to full travel before leaving for a short period of time before inspecting for leaks.

Anyone working with air suspension systems on vehicles should take notice of the recommended actions in the safety alert to ensure their activities are undertaken in a safe manner. 

For more information, see the:

A £40 million Clean Growth Fund has been launched by the Government and the CCLA to provide funds for green start-ups.

The fund made up of joint contributions from the treasury and the CCLA, one of the UK's largest charity fund managers, hopes to accelerate the development of next-generation clean technologies.

It will be available to UK-based companies developing green solutions across the power, transport, waste, and building energy efficiency sectors. Examples of eligible projects include smart grid systems, energy storage, biofuel development and clean heating and ventilation technologies.

By Autumn 2021, the Government have predicted that the fund could total as much as £100 million through private sector fundraising contributions.

Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, commented: ''The need for innovative and ambitious ideas across green industries has never been greater. I am pleased that with the help of this fund, promising clean growth start-ups will be able to step up to accelerate the UK's recovery, while supporting our path to Net Zero by 2050. This pioneering new fund will enable innovative low carbon solutions to be scaled up at speed, helping to drive a green and resilient economic recovery.''

Two historical sites given protection
Published: 26 May 2020

Historic England has announced that two historic and significant sites in England have been given protected status to ensure their survival.

One of the sites is a former dance hall and cinema located in St. Ives, which was purchased by renowned artist Dame Barbara Hepworth in 1961 and used as a studio and workshop. Although it was built as a stone cottage in the late 18th century, the building has had a varied history, which includes use as a navigation school, cinema, dance hall, auction house and ballet school.

The now Grade II listed building was eventually used by Dame Barbara Hepworth to develop several of her signature works, including a 21-foot 'Single Form' created for the UN in 1963. Ultimately, the historical and architectural interest in the building has resulted in being protected in accordance with the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

The second site comprises the remains of a rare 19th century dock on the River Roach near Paglesham, which has been designated as a scheduled monument. The dock once accommodated the now-famous HMS Beagle when it served as a Coastguard Watch Vessel in Essex. The Beagle was famously used by Charles Darwin in order to travel and make observations so support his theory of natural selection. After three long voyages, the Beagle was refitted and became a static watch vessel in Essex to curb smuggling.

The mud dock was constructed around 1851 to accommodate the static Beagle after complaints were made that the ship was blocking the river. In 1870, the Beagle was sold and likely dismantled within the mud dock. Whilst the upper portion of the ship may have been carefully removed and re-used, the lower timbers, such as the keel, would have been very difficult to remove from the mud, leading to a theory that it may still be there. However, no archaeological investigations are planned to confirm this. For now, the site can enjoy protected status as a scheduled monument hopefully ensuring its survival for many future generations to enjoy and learn from.

For more information, see the:

Latest research has found that it is likely we have underestimated the levels of microplastic pollution in our oceans.

In a recent study scientists trawled waters off the UK and US coast and discovered many more particles using a fine mesh net than a coarser one usually used to filter microplastics. Based on levels they found they suggest that the amount of microplastic particles in our oceans are at least double the amount we previously thought.

The smaller particles they found increase the range of global estimates for surface microplastics from 5-50 trillion up to 12-125 trillion particles. This data suggests that there may be more microplastic particles in our oceans than zooplankton.

It is widely known how harmful plastic pollution is to marine life, affecting fertility, growth and their survival. This discovery is particularly important because smaller particles of plastics are especially concerning. Microplastic particles are the same size as the food eaten by zooplankton, which are the corner stone to the marine food chain and play a vital role in regulating global climate.

Professor Pennie Lindeque, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK, who led the research said: ''The estimate of marine microplastic concentration could currently be vastly underestimated. There may well be even smaller particles than those caught by the fine mesh nets, meaning the numbers could be even larger again''.

There are many new studies showing the harm caused by microplastics entering the food chain. We are now finding greater quantities of microplastics than ever before. Microplastics have caused pollution world-wide, from oceans, mountain soils and even in Arctic snow. It is not just the marine life that is impacted by its presence, as humans too are consuming and inhaling microplastics.

Whilst we know how damaging microplastics can be within the marine food chain, the health impacts for humans and certain other species are still unknown. Whilst only time will tell how truly harmful microplastic pollution can be, it is important not to wait to address this issue and for every effort to be made to prevent and reduce the amount of plastics waste produced to minimise the impact on both the environment and our health.

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