For starters, hydrogen has to be kept cold and pressurized, making it difficult to deliver. To be sure it is bonafide “green,” the hydrogen itself must be generated through renewable energy sources, which are intermittent by nature, creating a logistical nightmare for trucking, shipping and transportation companies. Finally, the lack of hydrogen pumps makes switching to hydrogen difficult for gas stations.
A new Hydrogen Blending Demonstration Program in California is trying to solve all of these problems — by injecting hydrogen in existing natural gas pipes. While similar trials have been run elsewhere in the world, the program, which was announced in late 2020 by SoCalGas and San Diego Gas and Electric, is believed to be among the first of its kind in the U.S. and should yield the first preliminary results in early 2021. Here’s the lowdown on how it works:
“Natural gas transportation and distribution networks are seen as essential alternatives to road transport of hydrogen. In this case, the hydrogen is injected into the network and then selectively picked up at a point of use. The injection rate depends on the nature of the network and can reach a volume of 20% as demonstrated in the GRHYD project coordinated by ENGIE Lab CRIGEN.
In general, transport networks can only handle hydrogen content of up to a few percent points. Getting high-purity hydrogen then becomes a challenge and developing highly selective technologies becomes essential. Electrochemical compression is a promising solution, since it could allow hydrogen to be separated and compressed simultaneously to pressures compatible with mobility. Nevertheless, developments must continue in order to achieve the expected technical and economic performance.” — Camel Makhloufi, research engineer with the Hydrogen Lab at ENGIE Lab CRIGEN.
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