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A path towards decarbonization through hydrogen blending 

In this blog, we touch on the topic of transitioning between natural gas to hydrogen, from the Is the Energy Transition binary? podcast episode with Cory Marcon, Power & Energy Industry Manager at Endress+Hauser, and host Joe Batir from the Energy Transition Solutions podcast.  

The need to reduce our carbon footprint to ensure a better future has brought some new, innovative ideas to the table. Hydrogen blending in natural gas is one of those concepts focused on incrementally reducing CO2 and methane emissions within the same infrastructure. 

Demonstrating hydrogen blending 

Click here to listen!

The first large-scale hydrogen blending demonstrations have been in large power stations called combined cycle power plants that have a few gas turbines as well as a few steam turbines, capturing waste heat. Historically, the fuel is 100% natural gas, which is typically +90% methane, along with heavier hydrocarbons mixed in. 

Gas turbines power a large portion of our industry, but presently run-on natural gas that creates CO2 emissions when burned. Hydrogen can be blended into the gas stream to reduce emissions without significant changes to the power plant, besides a hydrogen supply line and some means of blending the gases. Due to hydrogen’s lower density, large volumetric blends contribute to modest CO2 abatement. For example, a 25% blend of hydrogen in natural gas equates to approximately a 5% reduction in CO2 emissions.

For a deeper dive into this topic and to learn more about what Endress+Hauser is doing for fuel blending in natural gas turbines, listen to the whole podcast.

Carbon capture technology reduces the effects of gray hydrogen 

Although hydrogen burns clean, much of the production of hydrogen today is not, such as steam-methane reformation (SMR) commonly known as gray hydrogen. Gray hydrogen is a natural gas that you crack with steam. It is commonly used for refineries or other petrochemical processes. Today, these facilities have no carbon capture technologies installed, leading to CO2 being vented into the atmosphere whenever they produce hydrogen (H2).  

Now, many of those facilities are looking to add carbon capture and others are looking to add greener, lower carbon intensity production processes such as Electrolysis, which uses electricity to separate water (H2O) into H2 and O2.  

Instead of making a hard shift away from natural gas, clean burning and clean produced hydrogen could be considered a fuel for lowering the overall emissions of these existing infrastructure investments. It’s been rationalized that there can be an “elegant compromise” through reusing the current gas turbine infrastructure by decarbonizing the ones we currently use. Modifications must be made to the turbines’ gas fuel system to safely blend the hydrogen. 

Raman technology to enable the energy transition 

 As a leader in flow measurement, Endress+Hauser provides technology to enable this transition, which is used to set the injection rate of the hydrogen, as well as an innovative optical technology based on Raman Spectroscopy. Raman is used for a fast analysis of the blended gas composition. The overall blending process can be controlled with very tight tolerance. Raman Spectroscopy uses an infrared laser that scatters predictably based on the varying constituents in a gas. The technology is very flexible, not limited to hydrogen (H2), and used in other fuel blending or Syngas applications measuring %mol of ammonia (NH3), methane (CH4), oxygen (O2), carbon monoxide (CO), CO2, and more.  

What makes Raman technology different from others like it is its speed of response, continuity of measurement, and the limited sampling conditions required. Most analyzers that can measure composition require the gas to be extracted, conditioned to low pressure and stable temperature, and then flared (not returned). The process can take 6 minutes plus the time it takes to extract the sample, whereas our technology can respond with a full composition and calculated heating value of the blended gas in a continuous measurement updating every 15-30 seconds. 

The faster the response, the more confident the turbine operator can be in the overall control of the hydrogen blending, which allows for tighter safety margins and more capability. For more information on our Raman Spectroscopy: Click here.  

Given injection rate and gas composition are two important components of blending systems, Endress+Hauser is a capable partner to package our technology into a broader solution. To discuss hydrogen blending in gas with one of our industry managers: Click here