The goal of using so-called green hydrogen in a multiprong approach to decarbonization took a big step forward last week when New York announced a demonstration project to assess the feasibility of using hydrogen-blend fuels in an existing power generation facility.
Starting this fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will conduct a pilot project to temporarily replace natural gas with a green-hydrogen-and-natural-gas blend at its Brentwood Power Station on Long Island. GE Power will play an integral role in the project. The power station runs on a GE LM6000 combustion turbine originally derived from an aircraft engine.
While most hydrogen is made via steam methane reforming — in which natural gas (CH4) reacts with steam under pressure and heat to produce hydrogen, CO and CO2 — green hydrogen is made through electrolysis. In this process, an electric current, derived from a renewable power source, splits water (H2O) into its constituent elements to produce oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2). Using renewable power that does not generate CO2 emissions and water that does not contain carbon means there is no CO2 generated in this process.
This is not the first time GE has had a hand in advancing hydrogen fuels. This fall, a 485-megawatt power plant in Hannibal, Ohio, is expected to begin generating electricity using a hydrogen-and-gas blend. The facility, operated by Long Ridge Energy, will be the first one in the United States purpose-built to burn hydrogen. It will use a massive new gas turbine made by GE to output enough power to light up the equivalent of 400,000 U.S. homes.
Long Ridge intends to begin providing lower-carbon power utilizing this hydrogen-and-natural-gas blend, aiming to transition the plant to be capable of burning 100% hydrogen over the next decade.
Meanwhile, south of Sydney, the EnergyAustralia utility is building that nation’s first gas-and-hydrogen power plant, using a GE 9F.05 gas-fired turbine to churn out approximately 316 megawatts of quickly dispatchable power that will go a long way toward replacing the energy provided by a soon-to-be-decommissioned coal-fired facility in the area.
Projects also require policy and governance to play a key role in a successful energy transition. “If society commits to decarbonization, and everyone is willing to make the additional investments, those will combine with government subsidies and other initiatives towards a lower-carbon economy and society,” said GE Gas Power’s “Fuel Guy” Jeffrey Goldmeer.
The New York initiative is part of the state’s long-term decarbonization strategy, which aims to reduce emissions 85% by 2050. The governor also announced that the state will collaborate with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and other hydrogen-focused organizations to inform state decision-making and will award $12.5 million to projects aimed at long-duration energy storage (LDES) solutions that would advance integration of new sustainable energy technologies.
“Part of our ongoing efforts is setting an example for other states and nations to follow,” Gov. Cuomo said in a press release statement. “As we transition to a clean energy economy, we are exploring every resource available as a potential tool to address climate change.”
More than 75 GE gas turbines have already racked up over 6 million operating hours running on hydrogen or hydrogen-like fuels, much of it at factories that create hydrogen as a by-product and feed it back into the turbines that drive their plants.
“Decarbonization was not necessarily the target” when GE built the expertise to run power stations on hydrogen, said Brian Gutknecht, chief marketing officer at GE Gas Power. The idea was to burn waste gas “so economically it had good value. But now we can help the world decarbonize with the experience that we’ve had.”
According to the governor’s announcement, the Brentwood demonstration project also will involve collaboration from the Electric Power Research Institute, engineers Sargent and Lundy, hydrogen supplier Airgas and Fresh Meadow Power. GE’s role will be to “supply a state-of-the-art hydrogen/natural gas blending system and support the project’s planning and execution.” Peer-reviewed results will be shared with the industry and the public upon the project’s completion.
“We look forward to utilizing our 80-plus years of gas turbine development experience — including 6 million operating hours using alternative low-heating-value fuels including hydrogen — to accelerate a reliable, affordable and sustainable energy future,” Scott Strazik, CEO of GE Power, said about the project.