SoCalGas & Bloom to Power Hydrogen Economy with Gas Blending Project

Source: 12/14/2021, Location: North America

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), the nation's largest natural gas distribution utility, and Bloom Energy announced a project to showcase the future of the hydrogen economy and the technologies needed to help California reach carbon neutrality. The companies will collaborate to generate and then blend hydrogen into a university customer's existing natural gas network to demonstrate how the natural gas infrastructure can be decarbonized, while balancing future energy supply and demand. The project is set to launch next year on the campus of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.

"California has ambitious climate goals and a successful energy transition will require companies to collaborate and implement innovative projects," said California State Assembly member Chris Holden. "This unique demonstration could help our state transition to a carbon neutral future."

The collaboration will utilize Bloom Energy's solid oxide, high temperature electrolyzer to generate hydrogen, which will then be injected into Caltech's natural gas infrastructure. The resulting 10 percent hydrogen blend will be converted into electricity without combustion through existing Bloom Energy fuel cells downstream of the SoCalGas meter, producing electricity for a portion of the university. For the purpose of this project, the electrolyzer is designed to generate hydrogen from grid electricity.

At scale, the electrolyzer and fuel cell combination could enable long duration clean energy storage and low-carbon distributed power generation through the gas network for businesses, residential neighborhoods, and dense urban areas. When configured as a microgrid, it could also provide resilient power when and where energy is needed most, protecting businesses, campuses or neighborhoods from widespread power outages.

"We need to pursue a diverse set of decarbonization levers," said Maryam Brown, president, SoCalGas. "Projects like this expand and accelerate clean fuel initiatives, which will help decarbonize California faster."

Bloom's high-temperature electrolyzer produces hydrogen more efficiently than low-temperature PEM and alkaline electrolyzers. Because it operates at high temperatures, the Bloom Electrolyzer requires less energy to break up water molecules and produce hydrogen. Electricity accounts for nearly 80 percent of the cost of hydrogen from electrolysis. By using less electricity, hydrogen production becomes more economical and will accelerate adoption. The Bloom Electrolyzer is also designed to produce green hydrogen from 100 percent renewable power.

"With our technology and collaborations like this one, Bloom Energy continues to lead advancements in decarbonizing today's energy system and accelerating a hydrogen-fueled economy," said Sharelynn Moore, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Bloom Energy. "Enabling both the production and utilization of hydrogen, Bloom Energy's solutions are well-suited to support use of the natural gas network to reduce carbon emissions while bolstering energy resilience."

A new economy-wide technical analysis released by SoCalGas revealed that fuel cell technology, powered by clean fuels like hydrogen, can provide additional reliability and resiliency that will be in increasing demand as California moves towards its decarbonization goals.

Today, SoCalGas is actively engaged in more than 10 pilot projects related to hydrogen, including its award-winning H2 Hydrogen Home. SoCalGas is also evaluating the potential to use existing infrastructure for transporting hydrogen through testing and demonstration at its engineering analysis center and is collaborating with California's other gas utilities and research institutions to develop a hydrogen blending standard for regulatory review.

Bloom Energy is engaged with industry leaders to accelerate the global hydrogen economy, including projects related to producing low-cost, green hydrogen and utilizing nuclear energy to create clean hydrogen.

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