In a groundbreaking endeavor to address emissions in the energy sector, the Donaustadt power plant in Vienna, Austria, has embarked on an operational test involving the blending of hydrogen (H2) with the conventional energy source, natural gas.
This pioneering test, supported by a consortium including Wien Energie, Rhein-Energie, Siemens, and Verbund, holds the promise of significant carbon savings and represents a substantial leap forward in the pursuit of cleaner energy generation.
The Donaustadt power plant has set a historic precedent by conducting the world’s first operational test of blending hydrogen with natural gas in a gas and steam turbine. This innovative initiative marks a significant stride towards decarbonization in the energy sector. The plant, which houses 115 combined heat and power units in Europe and over 360 globally, has undertaken a series of modifications to accommodate the hydrogen-natural gas mixture.
The experimental process involves adapting the gas and steam turbine to accommodate the hydrogen-natural gas blend. The turbine underwent a series of enhancements, including blade improvements and the installation of a new combustion system. This comprehensive overhaul was carried out with an investment of approximately 10 million euros, with the Climate and Energy Fund contributing around 2.6 million euros to support this groundbreaking research.
The experimental phase commenced with a modest 5% hydrogen admixture to natural gas. However, the ultimate goal is to achieve a 15% hydrogen blend in regular operation. The success of the current endeavor has sparked discussions about an ambitious follow-up project, where the hydrogen component could be further increased to around 30%, thereby significantly reducing the proportion of natural gas. Notably, the hydrogen used in the experiment is “green hydrogen,” produced through renewable energy sources.
The potential environmental impact of the hydrogen-natural gas blend is profound. According to project operators, a 15% hydrogen admixture at the Donaustadt power plant could result in annual CO2 savings of around 33,000 tons. This milestone is especially significant considering the plant’s operational history; it has been generating electricity since 2001 and provides power to 850,000 households and heat to over 150,000 households.
Wien Energie CEO Karl Gruber emphasized that the transition to cleaner energy generation cannot solely rely on new installations but must also include the decarbonization of existing facilities. This underscores the importance of initiatives like the hydrogen-natural gas blend experiment. Rhein-Energie’s CEO, Andreas Feicht, labeled the current achievement as an intermediate step towards the ultimate goal of achieving zero percent CO2 emissions.