Tracking the Energy Transition: Hydrogen Projects on the Move, Solar System Touts Efficiencies, and Global Emissions Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels
A hydrogen storage study, a new pilot in San Diego, and a UK boost lead the energy transition charge along with a new offshore wind project, marketplace for solar procurement, and fresh funds earmarked for emissions reduction.
CGG and the University of Edinburgh kicked off a joint project to undertake research into the subsurface storage of hydrogen in depleted gas fields. Hydrogen can be generated from electrolysis using renewable energy sources (green hydrogen) and can help to alleviate the intermittent nature of renewable energy such as solar and wind. Alternatively, blue hydrogen can be generated from gas (methane).
There is growing interest in replacing traditional fossil fuels, like natural gas, with hydrogen in many industries, including energy and manufacturing and for domestic heating. However, hydrogen has a very low energy density, meaning huge volumes are required to replace methane and making surface storage impractical. Subsurface hydrogen storage in depleted gas fields may offer a solution.
CGG and the GeoEnergy research group at the University of Edinburgh will model the heterogeneity of subsurface geological reservoirs to determine the most favorable potential sites for hydrogen storage and whether alternative cushion gases, such as CO2, can be used to reduce the operational storage and recovery costs of hydrogen.
If the project succeeds, it could make low-carbon hydrogen energy storage feasible on a terawatt-hour scale, allowing intermittent renewable electricity to become a round-the-clock resource through green hydrogen generation and use.
CGG’s CCS & Energy Storage group has cooperated closely with the GeoEnergy research group over the past 4 years, acting as advisors to the UK Hydrogen Storage in Porous Media (HyStorPor) research project it is currently leading, as supervisors of MSc dissertation students, and as collaborators in various hydrogen storage research projects.
Funding for the project was awarded as part of the Net Zero Technology Centre’s 2021 Call for Ideas, which saw investment in game-changing technologies to accelerate hydrogen production, transportation, storage, and utilization. The program is backed by Scottish Funding Partners (Scottish Government, The Scottish Funding Council, and Scottish Enterprise).
Meanwhile, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (SDG&E) submitted a proposal with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for a demonstration project on the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) campus to study how blending hydrogen with natural gas in the existing gas system could help achieve energy transition.
The project is part of SDG&E’s sustainability strategy to explore the feasibility of emerging technologies to rapidly decarbonize economic sectors—from buildings and transportation to industrial and manufacturing processes—to help California reach its carbon neutrality goal by 2045.
If approved by the CPUC, the project would study the feasibility of injecting up to 20% of hydrogen into plastic natural-gas pipe, a common material used in the natural gas infrastructure. An isolated section of a gas line serving a UC San Diego apartment complex would use hydrogen blended gas for common building equipment such as boilers and water heaters. Hydrogen used in this study would be produced onsite via a dedicated, grid-connected electrolyzer.
The project would fulfill a key recommendation in a recent “Hydrogen Blending Impacts” study (sponsored by the CPUC and performed by UC Riverside) calling on utilities to conduct “real-world demonstration of hydrogen blending” to fill knowledge gaps that cannot be addressed through modeling or lab experiments.
SDG&E’s proposal builds upon the latest research and international experiences, including the UK's HyDeploy pilot. That project demonstrated the injection of up to 20% of hydrogen into a university’s natural gas network, suggesting that blending hydrogen up to 20% by volume does not interact negatively with existing materials used within infrastructure like network pipes or in homes or businesses.
As part of the project, new pipe would be installed to isolate specific buildings from the surrounding area, along with a hydrogen storage tank, a hydrogen blender, and an electrolyzer that would produce hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. The electrolyzer is expected to use about a third of the water an average household consumes in a year. Construction would start in the second quarter of 2024 with blending occurring in late 2024 through early 2026. The site would be fully restored to its original condition upon conclusion of the project.
In the UK, advisory firm Westwood Global Energy Group has released an analysis revealing that there are blue hydrogen projects with a total capacity of 13 GW in the pipeline in the UK, with their developers planning to bring them online by the end of the decade. The UK’s 2030 hydrogen capacity target was increased from 5 to 10 GW through the Energy Security Strategy earlier this year. Government has stated that at least half of new capacity should be for green hydrogen, produced by running water through electrolyzers powered by renewable electricity. The remainder will be blue hydrogen, in which traditional natural-gas-fired processes are used but most process emissions are captured using manmade carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.
Several of the biggest players in the UK’s gas market have outlined plans for blue hydrogen projects. BP is planning the UK’s largest in Teesside, while Shell and Uniper are collaborating on a project in Lincolnshire.
Westwood said while there are more than 20 green hydrogen projects in the UK’s pipeline through to 2030 compared with fewer than 15 blue, the green projects will have smaller capacities individually and collectively (less than 3 GW).
Japan Invests in Floating Wind
Pattern Energy Group LP and its affiliate in Japan, Green Power Investment Corp., have completed financing and begun full construction of its 112-MW Ishikari Offshore Wind project, located 3 km from the shore of the Ishikari Bay in Hokkaido, Japan. Ishikari Wind will feature a battery storage component with 100 MW x 180 MWh of capacity.
The project and accompanying battery storage component is expected to reach commercial operation in December 2023. A 20-year power purchase agreement has been made with Hokkaido Electric Power Network for 100% of the power output.
Ishikari Offshore Wind will utilize 14 Siemens Gamesa 8-MW wind turbines, which are built specifically for offshore use. The SG 8.0-167 DD offshore turbine is designed to meet local codes and standards regarding typhoons, seismic activities, 50 Hz operation, as well as operation in high and low ambient temperatures.
New Marketplace for Solar Procurement
Borrego, a provider for large-scale solar and energy storage projects, has launched Anza, a new solar and battery storage procurement marketplace and optimization solution. The proprietary technology engine behind the Anza digital marketplace is a cost- and performance-modeling software that identifies the most-optimized solar module and storage components based on customer-provided project details. Through Anza, customers purchase the modules and battery equipment, leveraging Borrego’s supplier relationships and favorable pricing, warranty and delivery terms.
Pulling from current equipment availability and pricing from qualified suppliers, Anza provides up-to-date net present value ranking reports based on these factors, project inputs, and equipment performance as options for developers, independent power producers, and engineering, procurement, and construction companies.
Emissions on the Rise
Global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion have returned close to pre-pandemic levels and are set to exceed them next year, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights.
After declining 6% in 2020 due to lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion rebounded in 2021 and are on course to be less than 1% below 2019 levels in 2022 before surpassing them next year.
Driving the growth are emissions from coal, which are up considerably due in part to natural gas shortages and underperforming nuclear and hydro generation.
Continued lockdowns in China have also restrained emissions in 2022.
While Platts Analytics projects that emissions from coal have already eclipsed their 2019 baseline, natural gas emissions are not expected to surpass 2019 until 2023, and emissions from oil use will remain below pre-pandemic levels into 2024.
A separate report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) found the Southeast Asian nations need to more than double their annual investment in renewables to accelerate energy transition and to meet climate goals.
IRENA said average annual investment of $210 billion was needed on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and to support technologies and infrastructure in the period to 2050 to limit a global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
The investment is more than 2½ times the amount currently planned by Southeast Asian governments to reach their goals.
Southeast Asia is home to 25% of the world's geothermal generation capacity, but the region also has major coal reserves. The region's biggest economy, Indonesia, is the world's top exporter of thermal coal.
IRENA said countries could reduce their energy costs and avoid as much as $1.5 trillion of costs related to health and environmental damage from fossil fuels up to 2050 by investing more in renewables.
Stateside, the US government will provide a $5-million grant to the African Development Bank in support of efforts to abate methane gas emissions across the continent. The grant, subject to the completion of US domestic procedures and approvals, will go to the multi-donor Africa Climate Change Fund, which is managed by the African Development Bank, over the next 3 years.
An additional $1.2 million in funding was pledged by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the Global Methane Hub to tackle methane emissions in African countries. The coalition comprises voluntary partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, and research institutions.
The Global Methane pledge, launched during COP26, targets reducing emissions of methane by at least 30% from 2020 levels over the next 7 years.
The African Development Bank will be releasing a methane baseline report covering waste and energy sector methane emissions across Africa at the upcoming COP27 in Egypt in November.