The New York Power Authority has become the first utility to burn hydrogen in a retrofitted natural gas turbine, opening the door to the clean fuel being used more broadly and sooner than previously considered likely.
While there are already turbines than can burn hydrogen for power, the ability to retrofit GE turbines that power the majority of the world’s natural gas electricity generation potentially allows access to a key course of decarbonisation for the industry.
The demonstration project by GE, the Electric Power Research Institute and Airgas, a subsidiary of French-based Air Liquide, experimented with fuel blends from 5% to 44% hydrogen.
New York has mandated that the state’s electricity is produced free of emissions by 2040, providing a strong incentive to explore alternatives to natural gas.
While renewables, such as wind and solar are likely to provide the majority of electricity to the region, low-carbon fuels “may be part of the solution,” said Steve Bellone, county executive for Suffolk County, where the project is located. “We are looking at all ways to decarbonise.”
Carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by about 14% when a fuel blend containing 35% hydrogen was used, according to the Electric Power Research Institute’s report. “Engine control was stable throughout the duration of the test and combustion equipment was in good condition before, during and after the test,” said New York Power Authority, the biggest public power utility in the U.S.
GE has been selling gas turbines for more than 60 years, giving it more than 50% share of the global gas installed base. That’s about 7,000 gas turbines representing more than 800 GW of installed capacity in more than 120 countries.
Hydrogen offers the ability to store renewable energy for long periods, whether days, months or even seasonally, that batteries do not. Currently, a great deal of wind and solar generation is curtailed during periods of excess generation, while gas and coal power is fired up when the sun isn’t shining or the wind not blowing.
In August of this year, what could be one of the world’s first 100% hydrogen-fuelled power stations in Keadby on the Humber was selected to be taken forward to the due diligence stage by the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy as part of its Cluster Sequencing Process.
The 910 MW power station could be operational by 2027, putting the UK at the forefront of the hydrogen power revolution.
The make it happen, Britain needs to ensure that the supply, transport and distribution of hydrogen is accessible to any project that needs it. Investment in hydrogen infrastructure is paramount.
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