Can carbon-free hydrogen augment, or even replace, the fossil natural gas running through pipeline applications today, or will challenges related to pipeline safety, loss of energy density, long-term cost discrepancies or the pressure to direct green hydrogen to hard-to-decarbonize sectors bog down efforts?

Natural-gas utilities around the world are seeking real-world answers to these kinds of questions and efforts are already underway across Europe to build on the EU’s massive green hydrogen targets over the coming decade.

“Pipeline injection is a national hydrogen strategy for the Netherlands, for Germany, for France, for Australia, for South Korea, for Japan,” said Mona Dajani, head of Pillsbury’s Renewable Energy and Hydrogen practices. “There are a number of pilot projects exploring the impacts of hydrogen blending around the world.”

U.S. utilities with net-zero carbon goals are starting to catch up, bolstered by federal funding to solve challenges with increased hydrogen concentrations in existing pipelines. 

Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric, subsidiaries of Sempra Energy, asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to approve a pilot project that would test pipeline injection of green hydrogen blends from 1 percent to 20 percent, starting next year. 

The CPUC is one of several state utility regulators considering hydrogen blending strategies, and projects like Sempra’s are a “big deal, because they’re developing a hydrogen injection standard,” Dajani said. As efforts like these expand, federal agencies—namely, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission—will need to manage how this could become part of the interstate natural-gas pipeline network, she added.  

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