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Constellation trials blending high concentrations of hydrogen with natural gas

Published by , Editorial Assistant
Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Constellation, a producer of carbon-free energy, has set an industry record for blending high concentrations of hydrogen with natural gas – further proof that hydrogen can be an effective tool to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Working with Siemens Energy and EPRI, the hydrogen blending test was conducted at Constellation’s Hillabee Generating Station, a 753 MW combined-cycle natural gas plant in central Alabama, US, that began operating in 2010. The test showed that with only minor modifications, an existing natural gas plant of that age can safely operate on a blend of 38% hydrogen, nearly doubling the previous blending record for similar generators. The blending test occurred on 18 May 2023 at Hillabee on a Siemens Energy SGT6-6000G gas turbine.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released new guidelines aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the electric sector, citing hydrogen blending as a primary technology to help achieve the nation’s climate goals. The testing results at Hillabee demonstrate that hydrogen produced with clean energy can be an effective tool in meeting the agency’s goal.

“This test proved what we’ve suspected for years – that blending clean hydrogen with natural gas can safely reduce emissions without major modifications to an existing plant that’s well over a decade old,” said Joe Dominguez, President and CEO of Constellation. “As the EPA and numerous climate experts have acknowledged, the availability of affordable clean hydrogen at scale will be essential if we are going to prevent the ravaging effects of climate change.”

A 38% blend rate would reduce Hillabee’s carbon emissions by approximately 270 000 tpy – the equivalent of taking more than 60 000 passenger cars off the road, based on EPA data. Experts from Siemens Energy and EPRI collaborated with Constellation on the fuel blending tests.

Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions did not increase during this blending test, confirming there was no negative impact on local air quality.

“Siemens Energy is committed to reducing emissions from electric generation as we grow and diversify our energy mix to meet rising demand reliably, affordably and safely. We set an ambitious target to have all our new gas turbines capable of burning 100% hydrogen by 2030 and this demonstration shows that we are well on our way. Hydrogen is a growing part of the portfolio of technology solutions that we offer our customers,” said Rich Voorberg, President of Siemens Energy for North America.

“This project represents an important step in assessing the technical viability of hydrogen power generation,” said Neva Espinoza, EPRI’s Vice President of Energy Supply and Low-Carbon Resources. “The ability to one day deploy hydrogen generation more broadly will rest on continued, collaborative R&D spanning hydrogen production, infrastructure development, and power generation applications.”

Constellation produces nearly 90% of its energy from carbon-free sources and has a goal of achieving 100% carbon-free electricity generation and a 100% reduction in operational emissions by 2040. The company will use the results from this test to inform its plans for transitioning its natural gas facilities to carbon-free technology in the coming years.

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