New Report Analyzes Options for Blending Hydrogen into Natural Gas Pipelines

    March 14, 2013

    The U.S. Department of Energy's Fuel Cell Technologies Office has issued a new report detailing the issues related to blending hydrogen into natural gas pipeline networks. Authored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the report is titled Blending Hydrogen into Natural Gas Pipeline Networks: A Review of Key Issues and focuses on using hydrogen both as a fuel and as an energy storage tool.

    Hydrogen delivery continues to be a barrier to full market utilization. Leveraging existing pipelines and the current supply of low-cost, clean natural gas can potentially provide a bridge to hydrogen infrastructure and widespread use. As a hydrogen delivery method, blending hydrogen into existing natural gas pipelines can defray the cost of building dedicated hydrogen pipelines or other costly delivery infrastructure during the early market development phase. A blending strategy allows suppliers to deliver hydrogen fuel to markets for use in stationary fuel cell systems for buildings, backup power, or distributed generation and in transportation applications such as fuel cell electric vehicles and material handling and ground support equipment.

    Blending hydrogen into the existing natural gas pipeline network has also been proposed as a means of increasing the output of renewable energy systems such as large wind farms. Using an electrolyzer, wind farms are able to store excess wind energy by converting it to hydrogen, lessening the need for curtailment. If implemented with relatively low concentrations, less than 5%–15% hydrogen by volume, this strategy provides a hydrogen storage and delivery pathway across a broad range of geographic locations. Given the large geographic scope and scale of the existing natural gas infrastructure, even very low blend levels (less than 3%–5%) could absorb very large quantities of otherwise curtailed or uneconomical wind or solar power. Blending renewable hydrogen with natural gas can reduce the carbon intensity and sustainability of the final natural gas product delivered to consumers.