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In the move toward a decarbonized economy, hydrogen is increasingly becoming part of the diverse energy portfolios of the electric power industry. It has the potential to be a viable, clean-burning fuel source that utilities can use to provide power to their customers.
Bringing new hydrogen initiatives to life requires a partner with technical strength. Our industry-leading experience in power generation, in combination with our oil and gas resume, gives us insight into the opportunities and limitations of this developing market.
Hydrogen Storage: Challenges and Advantages
Hydrogen can be stored via multiple methods for use as a transportation fuel, power source, process feedstock or other applications. It may even offer greater flexibility for storage duration and capacity than lithium-ion batteries, benefiting producers and consumers. But the low density of hydrogen, combined with high energies of compression and liquefaction, present unique challenges in storage.
Storage, whether via compressed gas, liquefaction or cryogenic liquids, may be via conventional above-ground means or below-ground in caverns or geologic storage, depending on the volume and application. It can also be converted to ammonia for storage. We have experience working with hydrogen compression systems of varying sizes and technologies, including high-horsepower compression units. Regardless of method, hydrogen storage provides a path for reliable low-carbon hydrogen producers not reliant on immediate use.
Electric power utilities are in position to envision hydrogen as a link between variable renewable power generation sources and a stable, decarbonized grid. Large-scale hydrogen storage supports carbon-free dispatchable generation and allows the banking of large volumes of hydrogen in deep caverns or large tanks, to be used on demand.
As evaluations continue, we work with utilities to determine where hydrogen fits in their balance of fossil fuels, carbon storage solutions and renewable generation.
Hydrogen Use Across Industries
Refining, power, transportation and industrial processes can benefit from hydrogen as a clean fuel. When high-purity hydrogen is converted to electricity in a fuel cell or burned as fuel in a turbine, the primary byproducts are water (H2O) and oxygen (O2), making it a carbon-free fuel source. As the energy industry continues to evolve with more renewable sources coming online, low-carbon hydrogen could be an important element of this energy transition.
Renewable energy from sources such as wind and solar can be used to create carbon-free hydrogen via electrolysis, also known as green hydrogen. With the variability and intermittent nature of renewable generation resources, and as the penetration of renewable generation resources continues to increase, excess or low-cost electricity can be used to create green hydrogen.
With the changing energy landscape, renewable generation will be an ever-present component of industrial power. Even though traditional renewable generation — wind, solar and pumped hydro —have constituted most of the renewable generation to date, these are not always a good fit for industrial use because of the on-demand power and thermal needs of process facilities.
Identifying sustainable hydrogen generation options is the primary hurdle preventing widespread implementation. Hydrogen generation via electrolysis is a mature technology seeing significant investment in efforts to scale and advance it to economically support large-scale implementation. Pairing traditional renewable generation with electrolysis technology to produce and store hydrogen may prove to be a viable sustainable alternative.
Our experience includes green hydrogen generation through electrolysis and studying pipeline and gas turbine blending and more.
Utility-Scale Hydrogen Power Test
Eight Rules for Testing Hydrogen Blends at Gas-Fired Generation Facilities
Burns & McDonnell
The power industry is exploring strategies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and one that is gaining attention is blending natural gas with hydrogen.
Exploring the Future Role of Hydrogen in a Decarbonized Power Industry
Burns & McDonnell
As hydrogen reemerges as a key technology for electric power, utilities can consider its ability to reduce emissions and enable carbon-free dispatchable generation.