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Project Will Inject Caltech’s Natural Gas Network With Hydrogen For Cleaner Energy

Published on Monday, December 20, 2021 | 5:00 am

An experimental project operated by two energy companies will inject hydrogen into Caltech’s existing natural gas network and powering fuel cells and showcase the future of the hydrogen economy and the technologies needed to help California reach carbon neutrality.

The project is a collaboration between Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) and San Jose-based Bloom Energy, with Caltech being the customer. SoCalGas said the project is set to launch in 2022.

In a statement, SoCalGas said Bloom Energy will be using high-temperature electrolyzers to generate hydrogen from water and inject the gas into Caltech’s natural gas infrastructure.

The resulting 10-percent hydrogen blend will then feed Bloom Energy fuel cells downstream of the SoCalGas meter, producing electricity without combustion, which means no additional carbon emissions for a portion of the university.

SoCalGas said the electrolyzer and fuel cell combination will result in cleaner energy which can be stored for a longer duration, and low-carbon distributed power generation through the gas network. When configured as a microgrid, the system could also provide dependable and 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,” Maryam Brown, SoCalGas president, said. “Projects like this expand and accelerate clean fuel initiatives, which will help decarbonize California faster.”

In October, SoCalGas released a new technical analysis showing that fuel cell technology, powered by clean fuels like hydrogen, can provide additional reliability and resiliency that will be more in demand as California moves towards decarbonization.

The company is now engaged in more than 10 pilot projects related to hydrogen, including its award-winning H2 Hydrogen Home, which shows how a typical home can be powered by solar panels, a home battery, an electrolyzer that converts solar energy into clean hydrogen, and a fuel cell to convert that hydrogen back to electricity. In the H2 Hydrogen Home, the hydrogen will also be blended with natural gas for use in the home’s appliances.

With the Caltech project, SoCalGas is also evaluating how existing infrastructure can be used 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.

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

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