December 27, 2021 • Paul Rodden • Season: 2021 • Episode: 76
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In episode 076, What is hydrogen blending? Today I’ll cover what it is, and a few projects that have been announced recently that you need to know about all that on today’s hydrogen podcast.
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What is hydrogen blending? Today I’ll cover what it is, and a few projects that have been announced recently that you need to know about all that on today’s hydrogen podcast.
So the big questions in the energy industry today are, how is hydrogen the primary driving force behind the evolution of energy? Where is capital being deployed for hydrogen projects globally? And where are the best investment opportunities for early adopters who recognize the importance hydrogen, I will address the critical issues and give you the information you need to deploy capital. Those are the questions that will unlock the potential of hydrogen. And this podcast will give you the answers. My name is Paul Rodden. And welcome to the hydrogen podcast.
So to start off, I want to talk about what hydrogen blending is when someone in the hydrogen industry talks about blending? Well, hydrogen blending is one of the ways that natural gas companies are working to clean up their carbon footprint. And that’s by blending hydrogen into their natural gas lines. Now, there are several projects that have been announced within the last year and even more so recently, and I’ll go into those a little bit later. But at a higher level, what are some of the positives and negatives about blending hydrogen into a natural gas pipeline? And what are the some of the considerations that need to be addressed as the hydrogen percentage in natural gas lines gets ramped up? Okay, first, let’s get some of the negatives out of the way. So at standard temperatures and pressures, hydrogen is less energy dense than natural gas. But for that point, there is something that you need to consider. And that is, when you’re burning natural gas, what you’re just burning is the hydrogen, meaning that the carbon that’s attached to it just gets released, that also makes it inefficient. So as you increase your hydrogen capacity for burning, the more efficient that burning process will be. Another consideration to take in is that hydrogen when it’s burning, is odorless and colorless. Now, as I’m sure you probably know, there are additives that are put into natural gas to give it that unique smell.
And that additive in and of itself is a greenhouse gas. So in the future as this transition continues to take place in the blending of natural gas and hydrogen operators will need to find a way to address that complication in the color and odor of hydrogen burning. And the third detractor from adding hydrogen into a natural gas line is the fact that it’s very difficult to contain hydrogen, it is such a small atom, the smallest atom and loves to bond with everything, meaning that traditional pipelines could become brittle in the joints especially and cause damage to the pipelines. Now, this is why blending starts off at such a very small amount, roughly 5% or lower. Now there are projects that have been done in the past and will be done in the future, that bump up that ratio past 20%. But it’s very important to start low on that scale of blending to ensure that our current infrastructure can handle a certain amount of hydrogen.
Now, that being said, new products and materials are being developed every day to make this much less of an issue. And that includes everything from pipelines welds and joints to end user products, which don’t just include turbines for energy generation, but also home use products like gas ranges, and home heaters. What with those are the negatives. What’s the positive? Well, the biggest positive with this? Is it with hydrogen blending, you have a cleaner, more energy efficient fuel to burn. So with that brief introduction into hydrogen blending, what are some of the projects going on right now? Well, the biggest and most relevant, at least to us in the United States is the high blend initiative set out by the US Department of Energy. This initiative aims to address technical barriers to blending hydrogen and natural gas pipelines.
Key aspects of high blend include materials compatibility, r&d, techno economic analysis, and lifecycle analysis that will inform the development of publicly accessible tools that characterize the opportunities, costs and risks of blending. This effort supports the DoE h2 at scale vision for clean hydrogen use across multiple sectors in the economy. In the overview from their website, it states that the United States has an extensive network of approximately 3 million miles of natural gas pipelines, and more than 1600 miles of dedicated hydrogen pipeline. Hydrogen produced through clean pathways can be injected into natural gas pipelines, and the resulting blends can be used to generate heat and power with lower emissions than using natural gas alone. Blend limits depend on the design and condition of current pipeline materials of pipeline infrastructure equipment, and of applications that utilize natural gas.
The high blend team will test pipeline materials in varying concentrations of hydrogen at pressures of up to 100 bar to assess their susceptibility to hydrogen effects. Now the key deliverables will include a publicly accessible tool that characterizes the cost of blending and its potential to reduce emissions relative to alternative pathways like renewable natural gas, a publicly accessible tool that assesses the risks of blending to a pipeline system, given the materials in use age of the system, and blend concentration. And now I’d like to discuss some of the projects that have been recently announced. Now, if you’ve been a listener to this podcast, you’ll know that I’ve covered a few of these projects recently in Europe, but haven’t really covered it here in the United States. So I’m going to list some of the projects that have been announced recently, that showcase that this work is being done now here in the US. The first was a press release on December 14, Southern California Gas Company or SoCal Gas, the nation’s largest natural gas distribution, utility and Bloom Energy today announced a project to showcase the future of the hydrogen economy and the technologies needed to help California reach carbon neutrality.
The companies will collaborate to generate and then blend hydrogen into a university customer’s existing natural gas network to demonstrate how the natural gas infrastructure can be decarbonized while balancing future energy supply and demand, the project is set to launch next year on the campus of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. According to the California State Assembly member Chris Holden, California has ambitious climate goals and a successful energy transition require companies to collaborate and implement innovative projects. This unique demonstration could help our state transition to a carbon neutral future. The collaboration will utilize Bloom Energy Solid oxide high temperature electrolyzer to generate hydrogen, which will then be injected into Caltex natural gas infrastructure.
The resulting 10% Hydrogen blend will be converted into electricity without combustion through the existing Bloom Energy fuel cells downstream of the SoCal gas meter, producing electricity for a portion of the university. For the purpose of this project. The electrolyzer is designed to generate hydrogen from grid electricity. At scale, the electrolyzer and fuel cell combination could enable long duration clean energy storage and low carbon distributed power generation through the gas network for businesses, residential neighborhoods and dense urban areas. When configured as a micro grid, it could also provide resilient power when and where energy is needed most protecting businesses, campuses or neighborhoods from widespread power outages.
And according to Maryam Brown President of SoCal Gas, we need to pursue a diverse set of decarbonisation levers. Projects like this expand and accelerate clean fuel initiatives, which help decarbonize California faster. Blooms high temperature electrolyzer produces hydrogen more efficiently than low temperature PEM and alkaline electrolyzers. Because it operates at high temperatures, the bloom electrolyzer requires less energy to break up water molecules and produce hydrogen. electricity accounts for nearly 80% of the cost of hydrogen from electrolysis. By using less electricity, hydrogen production becomes more economical and will accelerate adoption. The Bloom electrolyzer is also designed to produce green hydrogen from 100% renewable power and in a quote from Sharelynn Moore, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Bloom Energy with our technology and collaborations like this one, Bloom Energy continues to lead advancements in decarbonizing today’s energy system and accelerating a hydrogen fueled economy, enabling both the production and utilization of hydrogen Bloom Energy Solutions are well suited to support use of the natural gas network to reduce carbon emissions while bolstering energy resilience. A new economy wide technical analysis released by SoCal Gas revealed that fuel cell technology powered by clean fuels like hydrogen can provide additional reliability and resiliency, there will be an increasing demand as California moves towards its decarbonisation goals.
Today SoCal Gas is actively engaged in more than 10 pilot projects related to hydrogen, including its award winning h2 Hydrogen home. SoCal Gas is also evaluating the potential to use existing infrastructure for transporting hydrogen through testing and demonstration at its engineering analysis center and is collaborating with California’s other gas utilities and research institutions to develop a hydrogen blending standard for regulatory review. Bloom energy is engaged with industry leaders to accelerate the global hydrogen economy, including projects related to producing low cost green hydrogen, and utilizing nuclear energy to create clean hydrogen. So this project is a prime example of the demonstration of pilot projects being done right now to test hydrogen blending. But blending doesn’t just affect pipelines that also affects things like turbines and generators. In a press release on December 2, MWM will begin a staged rollout of commercially available generators configure to enable operations on natural gas blended with up to 25% hydrogen for continuous prime and load management applications.
Additionally, the company will offer retrofit kits that provide hydrogen blending capabilities up to 25% hydrogen for select generator sets built on certain platforms. A staged rollout of new natural gas generator sets and retrofit kits capable of 25% hydrogen will begin in the fourth quarter of 2022. The use of renewable hydrogen fuel can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and a quote from Tim Scott MWM director. We are delighted to offer our customers hydrogen based high performance energy solutions that can help them reduce carbon emissions and use more sustainable energy sources. Now, the company’s current gas engines can already be operated with hydrogen blends of up to 10% and are characterized by their high efficiency and decentralized energy generation. So just a couple of press releases, showcasing how hydrogen blending is being tested and the importance that it has in various industries.
Alright, that’s it for me everyone. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about today’s episode, come and visit me at thehydrogenpodcast.com. Or you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d really love to hear from you. And as always, take care. Stay safe. I’ll talk to you later.
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