Hydrogen offers a number of advantages. It’s the most prevalent element in the universe, and it’s found almost everywhere on Earth. It also has a lot of energy — considerably more than natural gas or oil — and produces water and heat as by-products when burned. Its disadvantage is that it prefers to associate with other elements. With them, it forms stable molecules, which we must break apart — by adding energy — before we can utilize it as a fuel. When that energy originates from renewable sources, the released gas is known as “green hydrogen,” a product that might help us get closer to a carbon-free future.

One of the first demonstration projects to demonstrate how green hydrogen may be utilized in the power production business is now ongoing at the New York Power Authority’s Brentwood power plant on Long Island. During the six-to-eight-week trial experiment, a combination of green hydrogen and natural gas will temporarily replace a part of the natural gas used to power the plant’s aeroderivative gas turbine. The plant’s GE LM6000 combustion turbine, which was initially built from an airplane engine, is serving as a test bed for the project.

Despite the fact that many turbines utilize hydrogen, this is the first retrofit of an existing power plant to test the use of green hydrogen to minimize carbon emissions during electricity generation. It will experiment with different green hydrogen concentrations in its fuel mix to see how the system reacts and how different blends effect greenhouse gas emissions. The findings will be shared with the industry in the hopes of persuading other states and countries to embrace green hydrogen.

GE Power CEO Scott Strazik said at the Brentwood plant’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 25 that his company is “honored to provide NYPA with its industry-leading equipment and help deliver one of the world’s first [green] hydrogen demonstration projects, demonstrating the valuable role that gas-fired power plants can play in the energy transition in New York and around the world.”

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The engineering company Sargent & Lundy, green hydrogen provider Airgas, Fresh Meadow Power, which is delivering pipe and other components and installation services, and the Electric Power Research Institute collaborated on the Brentwood demonstration (EPRI).

“In order to achieve an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, we will have to use every tool in our toolbox, as well as new tools and technologies, some of which we may not have even discovered yet,” said Gil C. Quiniones, former president and CEO of NYPA, who spearheaded the project’s inception. “This initiative exemplifies varied energy professionals collaborating to explore answers to one of today’s most important concerns, climate change.” We will share the results of this demonstration project with the whole industry so that we can all move together in an educated manner toward a carbon-free economy.”

NYPA’s interim president and CEO, Justin E. Driscoll, stated, “the Green Hydrogen Demonstration Project is critical to our road toward decarbonization.”

While the majority of hydrogen is produced by steam methane reforming, which involves natural gas (CH4) reacting with steam under pressure and heat to generate hydrogen, CO, and CO2, green hydrogen is produced using electrolysis. An electric current generated by a renewable energy source divides water (H2O) into its constituent parts, producing oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2). Using renewable energy that produces no CO2 emissions and water that contains no carbon implies that no CO2 is produced in this procedure.

New York is the first state in the United States to undertake such a project, and its climate and renewable energy policies are among the most aggressive in the country. The state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, signed into law in 2019, set goals of 70% renewable energy generation by 2030, with a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that year; 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2040; and statewide greenhouse gas emissions reduced to 85% of 1990 levels by 2050.

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GE and Cricket Valley Energy Center, east of Poughkeepsie, established a memorandum of understanding this summer to construct another green hydrogen demonstration project further upstate. Cricket Valley’s three natural gas-powered GE 7F.05 gas turbines can generate enough electricity to power one million households. Beginning in late 2022, the facility will test one of its three turbines on a natural gas blend containing 5% green hydrogen by volume.

This is not the first time GE has contributed to the advancement of hydrogen technology. With decades of experience, more than 100 GE gas turbines have already accumulated more than 8 million operational hours running on hydrogen or hydrogen-like fuels, much of it at manufacturers that produce hydrogen as a by-product and feed it back into the turbines that power their facilities.

“Decarbonization was not always the goal” when GE developed the competence to run power plants on hydrogen, according to Brian Gutknecht, chief marketing officer at GE Gas Power. The plan was to burn waste gas “such that it had a good economic value.” But today, with our experience, we can assist the globe minimize carbon emissions.”

Another GE-affiliated project is planned to start this winter in Hannibal, Ohio, where the 485-megawatt (MW) Long Ridge Energy Terminal power plant will begin producing electricity using a hydrogen-and-gas combination. The plant will be the first of its kind in the United States, and it will employ a giant new 7HA.02 gas turbine developed by GE to provide enough electricity to light up the equivalent of 400,000 US homes. Long Ridge wants to start generating lower-carbon electricity using this hydrogen-and-natural-gas combination, with the goal of transitioning the plant to be capable of burning 100 percent hydrogen within the next decade.

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Other countries have also stepped up their efforts to use green hydrogen. In Australia, the company EnergyAustralia is constructing the country’s first gas-and-hydrogen power station, which will use a GE 9F.05 gas-fired turbine to generate roughly 316 MW of electricity, which will go a long way toward replacing the energy produced by a nearby coal-fired facility. Territory Generation, a Northern Territory utility, announced in September that it will install a GE TM2500 aeroderivative gas turbine at the Channel Island Power Station, near Darwin.

The TM2500 is a trailer-mounted turbine powered by a grounded CF6 jet engine, which also powers the Boeing 747. The Northern Territory’s plentiful sun and wind make it an ideal testing site for the creation of green hydrogen, which the territory intends to use in the Channel Island turbine and sell to Asian countries keen to include greener energy into their portfolios.

“Achieving net zero involves collaboration throughout the energy industry and the use of all available technologies and resources,” stated Arshad Mansoor, president and CEO of EPRI, at the NYPA’s Brentwood ribbon cutting. “Showing hydrogen mixing in gas turbines is a good example of shifting the needle toward our decarbonization target.”

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