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Southwest Gas Announces Groundbreaking Hydrogen-Blending Pilot Programs With Arizona and Nevada Universities

By December 9, 2021 6   min read  (1019 words)

December 9, 2021 |

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  • UNLV and ASU conducting studies to determine benefits of combining hydrogen and natural gas particles

LAS VEGAS — Southwest Gas Corporation, a natural gas distribution company that serves more than two million customers in Arizona, California and Nevada, is teaming up with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and Arizona State University in Tempe (ASU) to study how hydrogen-blended natural gas can further reduce carbon emissions while still providing clean and reliable energy.

The complementary pilot programs signify major advancements in using a natural gas and hydrogen blend and are expected to begin concurrently in the first quarter of 2022, with the first phase lasting several months. The results of the first phase will help determine the scope and duration of subsequent phases.

Experts from the UNLV Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, and ASU Lightworks®, a program within the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Future Laboratory™, will provide guidance as an unbiased third party and work in partnership with Southwest Gas to develop the studies. The research will be conducted at Southwest Gas’ Emergency Response Training Facility (EMRF) in both cities to help gain insights into the feasibility of using hydrogen to shape a low-carbon, sustainable energy future. The EMRF facilities are ideal locations to conduct the studies as they offer systems that replicate the natural gas distribution system and real-world natural gas appliances in a controlled environment.

When complete, the studies will help determine:

  • The optimal, safest and most environmentally effective hydrogen/natural gas blend percentage
  • Safety aspects of hydrogen-blending
  • The physical impacts of hydrogen on the natural gas distribution system and common natural gas appliances
  • The effects of hydrogen/natural gas blending on heating times and temperatures in comparison to existing heating times of natural gas
  • The economics of hydrogen

The partnership with UNLV is a proof of concept study that will allow Southwest Gas to use the university’s electrolyzer, which splits hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water with an electric current, to test the production, blending, distribution, and end-use of the hydrogen blend. Electrolysis creates green hydrogen, which will then be blended with natural gas at various levels for the study – 5%, 10% and 50% – and then injected into the existing natural gas infrastructure at EMRF.

At ASU, the studies will use pre-purchased hydrogen bottles and create a mixture of up to 20% hydrogen with 80% natural gas.

An additional pilot program is being spearheaded by the Southwest Gas Hydrogen Pilot Action Team and consists of creating demonstrations based around the properties of blended hydrogen, with major milestones that include using a natural gas barbecue to grill with 5% hydrogen blended gas. Southwest Gas will also monitor leak detection in the system to determine any differences in procedures necessary to ensure the continued safety of the local communities while also testing the effect of the blend on natural gas appliances.

“While clean, affordable and reliable natural gas has already helped drive emissions reductions, we believe Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) and hydrogen are powerful solutions to further decarbonize our system,” says Southwest Gas President and CEO, John Hester. “Like we have done with RNG, we are taking a proactive pioneering approach to hydrogen. These partnerships will help shape the low-carbon future for our Company, and more importantly, the communities we serve. We look forward to demonstrating how hydrogen blended with natural gas can fuel everyday energy needs while further reducing emissions.”

Hydrogen is an abundant, low-emissions resource of which the only by-product of hydrogen combustion is water. It can be used for transportation, electricity generation and industry, which are all considered difficult to decarbonize, while also being blended with renewable natural gas and traditional natural gas for distribution by the existing natural gas distribution system to serve homes and businesses. Hydrogen is available in times of low sun, nights and when the wind is not blowing, adding a reliable fuel source to the green-energy mix. In addition, excess renewable electricity can be used to create renewable hydrogen, which is stored for later use, helping to solve the renewable energy storage challenge.

About Southwest Gas:

Celebrating 90 years of providing clean, affordable natural gas service, Southwest Gas Corporation proudly serves over 2 million customers in Arizona, California and Nevada safely and reliably. For more information about Southwest Gas, please visit www.swgas.com.

About Lightworks:

ASU LightWorks® revolutionizes how energy is conceptualized, produced and used. We support the discovery and design of energy systems that convert sunlight into useful and sustainable products. We encourage research, development, and education that critically engage the social, historical and cultural dimensions of evolving energy systems as well as the ecological contexts in which they operate. Learn more at lightworks.asu.edu.

About Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory:

The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory™ at Arizona State University represents the urgent belief that we can and must make a meaningful contribution to ensuring a habitable planet and a future in which well-being is attainable. The Global Futures Laboratory is the world’s first comprehensive laboratory dedicated to the empowerment of our planet and its inhabitants so that all may thrive. It is built upon the deep expertise of ASU and leveraging an extensive global network of partners for an ongoing and wide-ranging exchange across all knowledge domains to address the complex social, economic and scientific challenges spawned by the current and future threats from environmental degradation. This platform positions a new world headquarters for an array of scientists, scholars and innovators and lays the foundation to anticipate and respond to existing and emerging challenges and use innovation to purposefully shape and inform our future. For more information visit globalfutures.asu.edu.

About UNLV:

UNLV is a doctoral-degree-granting institution of more than 30,000 students and nearly 4,000 faculty and staff that has earned the nation’s highest recognition for both research and community engagement from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. UNLV offers a broad range of respected academic programs and is committed to recruiting and retaining top students and faculty, educating the region’s diverse population and workforce, driving economic activity, and creating an academic health center for Southern Nevada. Learn more at unlv.edu.

SOURCE Southwest Gas Corporation

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