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.”

Pillsbury's hydrogen map plots “green” and “blue” hydrogen project, with more than 200 projects already included.

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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