The technology group Wärtsilä, in collaboration with WEC Energy Group, (WEC), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Burns & McDonnell (B&McD), have been contracted to carry out hydrogen fuel testing at the A.J. Mihm power plant in Michigan, USA. The project supports WEC’s ambition to reduce the CO2 emissions from its electric generating fleet by 60% by the end of 2025, and by 80% by the end of 2030 from 2005 levels, and to be net carbon neutral by 2050.
This will be one of the first cases where hydrogen is tested for use to reduce the carbon footprint of an existing gas-fueled power plant delivered by Wärtsilä. The 55 MW plant currently operates with three Wärtsilä 50SG engines running on natural gas. The parties will aim for testing fuel blends of up to 25 vol.% hydrogen mixed with natural gas, thus demonstrating the capability of the plant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Wärtsilä engines can operate with this level of hydrogen blended with gas with little to no modification needed. Though Wärtsilä engines can be operated on even higher hydrogen-blend levels, these tests will be restricted to the limit of 25 vol% hydrogen for natural gas systems, according to the international equipment standard IEC/EN 60079-20-1.
“These hydrogen tests reinforce the viability of the internal combustion engine as a future-proof technology that plays a key role in decarbonising the power industry. We have long had a focus on creating solutions that enable zero-carbon power generation, and are excited to begin this hydrogen testing project in the USA as a natural next step in developing our products to meet customer needs for a decarbonised future. Our engines already have the flexibility for both balancing the input of renewables into the power system, and baseload generation with a continuously increasing range of fuels,” commented Jon Rodriguez, Director, Engine power plants, Wärtsilä North America.
One engine will be selected for the test programme, during which time it will continue to deliver power to the grid. For defined engine load levels, the hydrogen content within the fuel will be gradually increased to a maximum of 25 vol.%. Measurements of the engine’s performance will be made throughout the testing. Wärtsilä has already successfully carried out engine tests at its testing facilities in Vaasa, Finland and Bermeo, Spain, to assess the optimum engine parameters for operating with hydrogen fuel.
In addition to the A.J. Mihm power plant, Wärtsilä has also supplied WEC Energy Group with seven Wärtsilä 50SG gas engines for the F. D. Kuester power plant in Michigan.