Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) have created a Hydrogen Blending Demonstration Program that will be the first of its kind in California and among the first in the nation.
Blending hydrogen with natural gas is part of a multi-pronged strategy both utilities – subsidiaries of Sempra Energy – are undertaking to decarbonize their natural gas grid. The vision is to leverage surplus renewable electricity generated in the middle of the day to produce green hydrogen, which then can be injected into the natural gas grid for storage and use. SoCalGas, in partnership with the National Fuel Cell Research Center and the University of California Irvine, is developing the technology. Hydrogen blending is another important milestone for providing the clean fuel needed to achieve California’s climate goals while maintaining an affordable, resilient and reliable energy system.
When adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the demonstration program will provide an understanding of how to safely incorporate hydrogen, a zero-emission fuel, into the gas grid. This is the first step toward the establishment of a statewide hydrogen injection standard.
“Our California-based utility businesses are helping build California’s 21st-century energy system through deliberate investments in hydrogen, renewable natural gas, fuel cells and carbon capture and storage,” says Kevin Sagara, group president for Sempra Energy and chairman of SoCalGas and SDG&E. “This hydrogen blending program is a key milestone in our efforts to decarbonize our energy system while delivering affordable and reliable energy to 22 million California customers.”
SoCalGas and SDG&E are planning multiple hydrogen blending projects throughout their respective service territories. The first proposed project will blend hydrogen into an isolated section of primarily polyethylene (PE) plastic distribution system in SoCalGas’ service territory. The initial hydrogen blend level is planned at 1% and may increase to as much as 20%.
Subsequent projects are scheduled in SDG&E’s service territory and will build upon the knowledge learned in the first demonstration. This includes blending hydrogen into an isolated section of mixed plastic and steel natural gas distribution system, and an isolated steel pipeline demonstration.
SoCalGas expects to choose the location of the initial project in early 2021.