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Hydrogen project leaders testing integration ahead of regulations: experts

Highlights

FutureGrid project will test UK gas network

Linde testing green hydrogen at German plant

London — Hydrogen project leaders are testing different ways to integrate hydrogen into the gas network, and trying to demonstrate if their methods will work ahead of the expected regulations, panelists said at a virtual summit March 10.

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Projects are still in the "prove it" phase that typically comes ahead of government regulations, Antony Green, head of hydrogen for the UK's National Grid, said at the World Hydrogen Summit.

The National Grid's FutureGrid project will decommission existing parts of its extensive gas network for hydrogen blends at 2%, 20%, and 100%, Green said. The UK's Transmission System Operator will create a closed loop of those decommissioned assets.

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Construction is slated to begin in April. After a year-long construction phase, National Grid will test for an additional year to determine risks and impacts on the network, he said.

"We've got to make sure the whole value chain works," he said. "We will be developing the evidence base to prove it can be done. Only then can you begin to talk to the government."

The TSO estimates the project cost to total GBP12.7 million ($17.02 million), and received GBP9.07 million in funding from the Network Innovation Competition to look at the possibility of converting the National Transmission System to transport hydrogen.

National Grid is also looking to develop a hydrogen backbone project for the UK as part of Project Union, which would be similar to the European Hydrogen Backbone project, Green said.

Project Union would re-purpose existing gas assets around industrial clusters to transport hydrogen.

Another project, Northern Lights, received Nkr14.2 billion $$1.63 billion) from the Norwegian government to transport and store CO2 under the North Sea.

Equinor partnered with other oil giants Shell and Total on the project. The JV contributed the remaining Nkr3.8 billion.

Northern Lights would enable the industry to manage CO2 emissions and also be a solution for fossil-based hydrogen produced using carbon capture technology, also known as blue hydrogen, said Steinar Eikaas, Vice President of low carbon solutions for Equinor.

"At a very high level, we are putting a constraint on the energy system [with the ultimate goal] that wants to be carbon neutral," Eikaas said.

Norway is subsidizing the overall project to the tune of some $17 billion, around two-thirds of the expected total. The storage component is expected to cost NOK6 billion ($710 million) in investment, with annual running costs of $370 million, Norway's petroleum and energy ministry said in a statement March 9, Platts reported earlier.

Northern Lights is due to become operational in 2024, with an initial capacity to sequester 1.5 million mt/year of CO2 and subsequent plans to increase this to 5 million mt/year.

Green hydrogen scale up

Industrial gas producer Linde also is testing methods of integrating hydrogen into existing gas networks, and teaming up with government agencies and industrial partners to develop infrastructure and technology, said Philip Severin, Linde's senior director of business development.

Linde has a power-to-gas project in Germany, which produces green hydrogen from renewables using PEM electrolyzers, and connects the hydrogen to the grid.

The 24 MW Proton Exchange Membrane electrolyzer will produce green hydrogen to supply Linde's industrial customers through the company's existing pipeline network. The project is intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions across many industries, and demonstrate the ability of electrolyzers to scale up to meet industry needs, the company and its partners said in January.

Linde also has worked on technological solutions to extract hydrogen from natural gas to allow the use of existing natural gas infrastructure to transport hydrogen over long distances.

"We believe this technology can be key to reduce the costs to transport large volumes of hydrogen," Severin said.

Panelists agreed blue hydrogen will be needed initially to scale-up hydrogen production but ultimately shifted to green hydrogen to meet climate goals.