Long Island hydrogen demonstration project shows promise

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced in the summer of 2021 that it would conduct a pilot project at its Brentwood Power Station on Long Island to temporarily replace natural gas with a green hydrogen/natural gas blend to investigate how varying percentages of hydrogen fuel would perform in the power station’s equipment and what the emissions impact would be. According to preliminary findings released in late September, the results thus far are very encouraging.

Over several weeks this spring, the project demonstrated a clear correlation between more hydrogen and lower CO2 emissions, which decreased between 14% and 35% using GE’s LM6000 aeroderivative gas turbine fueled by blends of 5% to 40% (by volume). The levels of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and ammonia were also kept below regulatory limits.

NYPA, GE, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), engineers Sargent and Lundy, hydrogen supplier Airgas, and Fresh Meadow Power collaborated on the test.

“EPRI and [its] Low-Carbon Resources Initiative are accelerating deployment of a full portfolio of energy technologies to support a net-zero future,” said Neva Espinoza, EPRI’s vice president of energy supply and low-carbon resources. “As industry and government seek innovative energy solutions, NYPA’s hydrogen blending demonstration is uncovering new insights with implications well beyond New York.”

GE’s aeroderivative gas turbines, which are derived from jet engines, can run on up to 85% hydrogen blends, while some configurations of the company’s HA class of gas turbines can run on up to 50% hydrogen. Just this week, the Department of Energy awarded GE $6.6 million to test retrofitting GE’s F-class turbines to run on hydrogen blends. Over 100 customers in 20 countries have logged more than 8 million operating hours on GE turbines using hydrogen blends.

“As the most experienced gas turbine equipment manufacturer with hydrogen and similar low-BTU fuels, GE is proud to collaborate with NYPA, EPRI, and many others to deliver this important demonstration project,” said Eric Gray, president and CEO of GE Gas Power. “Efforts like the Green Hydrogen Demonstration Project are vital to validate the important role that hydrogen can play in lowering carbon emissions from power generation while also providing reliable and affordable power.”

While the majority of hydrogen is produced through steam methane reforming, in which natural gas (CH4) reacts with steam under pressure and heat to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon monoxide (CO2), green hydrogen is produced via electrolysis. An electric current generated by a renewable energy source splits water (H2O) into its constituent elements, producing oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2). The green hydrogen process emits no CO2 because it uses renewable energy that emits no CO2 emissions and water that contains no carbon.

Hydrogen is beginning to play an important role in the decarbonization plans of utilities across the United States and other countries. The 485-megawatt Long Ridge Energy Terminal in Hannibal, Ohio, began a demonstration project this spring to generate electricity using a hydrogen-and-gas blend. Long Ridge Energy operates the facility, which uses a massive 7HA.02 gas turbine manufactured by GE to produce enough power to light up the equivalent of 400,000 US homes. Long Ridge provided lower-carbon power using a 5% hydrogen/natural gas blend, with the goal of eventually transitioning the plant to be capable of burning 100% hydrogen.

“Demonstration projects like Long Ridge and NYPA Brentwood illustrate the fact that gas turbines are already capable of operating on blends of hydrogen and natural gas, enabling a reduction in carbon emissions,” says Jeffrey Goldmeer, emergent technology director at GE Gas Power. “The NYPA project also highlights that gas turbines like the Brentwood LM6000 that operate as ‘peakers’ can simultaneously help to maintain a reliable electrical grid and provide electricity with lower carbon emissions.” Goldmeer says the emissions results from this demonstration are equally important: “The lower CO emissions while operating on a blend of hydrogen and natural gas might have longer-term benefits by improving gas turbine operational flexibility.”

The New York Power Authority’s Vision 2030 road map calls for low- to zero-carbon technologies to assist the state in reaching zero carbon emissions by 2035. The long-term decarbonization strategy of New York State aims to achieve net zero emissions from electricity by 2040.

“Decarbonizing the power sector will require a collaborative, multi-pronged approach, including the use of new technologies and additional renewable power resources,” said Justin E. Driscoll, interim president and CEO of New York Power Authority. “Today, NYPA is pleased to share the results of our hydrogen study with the industry and the public so that our key learnings can help illuminate future decarbonization efforts.”