U.S. natgas companies put hydrogen to the test


NEW YORK, July 1 (Reuters) – At least two dozen U.S. energy companies, including Dominion Energy Inc (DN) and Sempra Energy (SRE.N), have started producing hydrogen or testing its viability in natural gas pipelines to leverage infrastructure as the world prioritizes low carbon fuels.

Nations around the world are trying to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050, but that will depend heavily on technology – like hydrogen – which is in the development stage. Utilities have a potential advantage if they discover that clean-burning hydrogen can be successfully transported through existing gas lines and power plants.

But governments need legislation and regulation to encourage energy companies to spend billions to reduce the costs of producing green hydrogen, analysts said, before it can replace fuels. fossils. Almost all of the world’s hydrogen production today is done using fossil fuels, and major utilities are currently testing primarily mixtures of natural gas and hydrogen in their pipelines. Read more

Companies experimenting with hydrogen are in their infancy. The Canadian company Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO) mixes up to 2% hydrogen in its natural gas distribution networks in Ontario and has just obtained authorization to mix hydrogen in Quebec.

“We are looking to understand the potential of the existing system or, as we continue to modernize the pipeline system, to ensure new builds are hydrogen-ready,” said Pete Sheffield, Director of Sustainability at Enbridge.

Sempra’s Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) utility, which supplies gas to 22 million consumers, is working on pilot programs to test fuel in its pipelines and see how mixing with natural gas affects company pipes , as well as appliances and other equipment.

The first project would mix hydrogen in a predominantly residential area that SoCalGas can isolate from the rest of its distribution system, said Jawaad ​​Malik, environmental director.

Dominion, based in Virginia, is testing a 5% hydrogen blend at a training facility in Utah and recently proposed a similar pilot project in North Carolina, Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby said.

Hydrogen is only considered clean if it is produced using energy sources that emit little or no carbon such as biomass, nuclear, renewables or fossil fuels combined with capture technology. carbon.

“These types of proposals have yet to point the way to a deeply carbon-free gas system,” said Julie McNamara, senior energy analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Almost all gas turbines used to generate electricity can burn fuels containing about 5% to 10% hydrogen, said Jeff Goldmeer, General Electric (GE.N) director of emerging technologies for decarbonization. This would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas from the electricity sector, which has been one of the fastest growing sources of gas demand.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), around 36% of energy-related carbon emissions come from the production of electricity from fossil fuels.


To achieve net zero emissions by 2050, global hydrogen consumption must rise to more than 200 million tonnes in 2030, from less than 90 million tonnes in 2020, according to the IEA.

Achieving this goal will be difficult. The production and transport of hydrogen is more expensive than natural gas, at the moment. Evercore ISI analysts said in a report this week that green hydrogen could become competitive with less clean versions by 2030.

GE has more than 75 turbines around the world that use or have used hydrogen-containing fuels, which produced more than 450 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity. Large-scale U.S. facilities generated approximately 4,009 TWh of electricity in 2020, according to U.S. federal data.

Technology will still have to advance to burn hydrogen as a viable fuel rather than as a small percentage of a mixture of natural gas.

“Clean hydrogen will be limited in supply for the foreseeable future,” said McNamara of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Embedding it at a low level in a pipeline that is slated to go electrified is just not the right way to go today.

Reporting by Stephanie Kelly and Scott DiSavino in New York and Nia Williams in Calgary Editing by Marguerita Choy

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