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Insights from the “Low Carbon CHP: Hydrogen” Panel at the CHP Alliance 2020 Summit

By Emily Robertson, Business Development Team Manager, 2G Energy Inc. 

One of the most innovative pathways to a low carbon future is the use of hydrogen for energy supply. In the United States, hydrogen is in the early stages of adaptation and there is still a lot of work to be done to get to a hydrogen-based economy versus one based on fossil fuels and electrification alone. At the CHP Alliance’s 2020 National Summit,  2G Energy sponsored a panel on Innovative Low Carbon CHP Projects: Hydrogen, in which Aaron Tasin, VP Sales at 2G Energy, was the facilitator while John Douglas with Public Energy, Ritu Gopal with National Grid, and Thomas Koch Blank with Rocky Mountain Institute were panelists.

This panel sought to explore the role that hydrogen is playing and will continue to play in our low carbon future.  The discussion focused on where we are now with introducing hydrogen technologies into the marketplace and where that focus will be over the coming decades as hydrogen plays a bigger role in the future of energy. Thomas Koch Blank shared the regional drivers of hydrogen demand: high natural gas prices, energy security, cost of renewables, emissions regulations, and electricity prices. He also emphasized that right now, we look outward for how fast the global hydrogen market will grow – to countries like Japan, Russia, and those in Europe that are ahead of the United States in hydrogen development.

Ritu Gopal with National Grid shared that hydrogen is going to play a key role in the challenge to decarbonize large areas of gas use. One of the major players in decarbonization is going to be electrification, but it cannot stand alone with the grid infrastructure the way it is now and the demand we are placing on the grid. To supplement that we will need to increase the demand for renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen to support the strong climate goals that many are reaching for over the coming decade. One of the key takeaways from what Ritu shared is what a hydrogen future can look like. Navigant Research has shown the pathway to hydrogen being phased in while natural gas is phased out. In the early 2020s, we will be preparing for the transition to hydrogen through pilot programs, while the late 2020s will see activation of the hydrogen production market. In the 2030s, we will be looking to expand the supply of hydrogen and expanding pilot programs to universities, commercial entities, municipalities, and industrial clusters with hydrogen blend. By the 2050s, most of the gas being used will be a combination of methane and hydrogen.

John Douglas shared about current projects that have been implemented with manufacturers such as Siemens and 2G Energy that are using hydrogen. There is a focus now on the total cost of ownership of internal combustion engines vs. fuel cells including the improved footprint and cost advantage. In the long-term, the price of producing hydrogen will come down and it will be  better to own the engine that will run on it rather than the commodity of hydrogen itself as an investment.

During the Q&A portion of the panel it was asked what the infrastructure is currently like and can we leverage current natural gas infrastructure for use with hydrogen? Ritu Gopal shared that the early consensus is yes. There is already a significant market of hydrogen being moved around and despite changes to pipes that will be required, it can be done so that we can transition to hydrogen transport with much of what is currently in place with the current 300,000 miles of natural gas pipeline in the United States.

Based on the discussion, it is clear that natural gas is going to be the bridge to the hydrogen future. From using the current natural gas infrastructure for transport to being able to install natural gas engines today that can be converted when the hydrogen supply is more readily available, it will be our transition piece to renewables. We can store energy as gas and integrate current systems without requiring additional flexibility. The future of energy is bright in the United States and we have a lot of existing potential and excitement for what that future will hold as we set and reach for aggressive climate goals. A low carbon future is attainable using hydrogen if we take advantage of the existing technologies and infrastructure to help us get there.

For more information about this post, you can reach out to Emily Robertson, Business Development Team Manager at 2G Energy Inc, e.robertson@2-g.com. You can find 2G Energy online at  LinkedIn or our Website. For sales inquiries, contact us at sales.us@2-g.com.

Want to learn more about the CHP Alliance’s 2020 Summit? You can read our wrap-up blog posts of day 1, day 2, and day 3 of the Summit. Interested in watching the recordings of the panels and keynote presentations? You can register for the event and gain access to the Attendee Portal, including the recordings. Contact Nicolette Santos at nicolette@dgardiner.com for more information.

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