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Pacific Northwest natural gas utilities are walking-the-talk with new clean hydrogen pilot projects. Northwest Gas Association member companies have made public commitments to decarbonize the energy they deliver. A method in that effort is to add clean hydrogen to their fuel mix.

One example is a public-private partnership to explore the development of what would be one of the largest renewable hydrogen production facilities in North America. The partners in the hydrogen production and carbon-reduction initiative include the Eugene Water & Electric Board, NW Natural, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. The group will look to recreate existing models of successful power-to-gas installations, which can be found in Europe, South Korea, and elsewhere. It will also explore the utilization of some of the hydrogen directly in fuel cells for backup electricity generation.

Their proposed hydrogen production facility will demonstrate how renewable and low-carbon electricity can be transformed into “green” hydrogen, through a process called “power-to-gas” and used to decarbonize the region’s space heating and transportation sectors. Plans include the potential for a facility in Eugene that could range in size from 2 megawatts up to 10 megawatts. Most hydrogen for industrial uses is made using fossil fuels through a process called steam reformation. This project will instead look to renewable, zero-emissions production sources.

“By combining new technologies with renewables developed for the pipeline network and lower use through energy efficiency, we see no technical barrier to a carbon-neutral natural gas system. It’s a strategy already emerging in Europe, and it’s our vision forward,” said David Anderson, NW Natural president, and CEO.

Puget Sound Energy has also signed a joint development agreement with Mitsubishi Power Americas, Inc. partnering on project development and technology solutions to:

  • Develop green hydrogen production, storage, and transportation facilities;

  • Develop utility-scale battery storage systems and develop hydrogen gas turbine combined cycle facilities; and,

  • Pursue cross-sector decarbonization opportunities that create synergies between the power sector and other industrial sectors in the region, including refineries, transportation, and distribution.

“Our aspirational ‘Beyond Net Zero Carbon’ goal is built on the idea that we cannot get there alone,” PSE President and CEO Mary Kipp said. “We need leading organizations like Mitsubishi Power who share our commitment to combating climate change and creating a clean energy future that benefits all of the customers and communities we serve.”

Mitsubishi is one of the first to offer hydrogen-enabled gas turbines and offers both long- and short-duration storage solutions. Today, it also has the world’s only standard integrated green hydrogen package, known as Hydaptive, which aims to incorporate hydrogen into other energy options.

Additionally, FortisBC Energy has just entered into a memorandum of understanding with Hazer Group and Suncor Energy to develop a 2,500 tonne per year low-carbon hydrogen project in Canada. In order to develop this project, a feasibility study will be completed, followed by securing funding arrangements and necessary binding agreements to establish the project consortium.

The hydrogen project will utilize Hazer technology with FortisBC supplying the natural gas feedstock needed to generate the hydrogen. Once the plant is operational, Suncor will operate the facility on a day-to-day basis, which is expected in 2025. Suncor and FortisBC will additionally have exclusive access to the Hazer technology for further development and deployment across Canada and Colorado in the US through a technology access agreement.

Green hydrogen will be critical to the long-term decarbonization of the world’s energy systems, including transportation, heating, manufacturing, and other processes. It’s the cleanest, most versatile energy source available. The utilities also recognize these opportunities in other sectors, like buses using fuel cells, and are looking for additional partners to work with on the potential development.

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