In a test, 1,800 customers received 5% “green” hydrogen mixed into their natural gas.
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Dominion Energy, Utah’s largest natural gas supplier, is trying to find its way into the future.
In November, Dominion will commission a Swedish-built electrolyzer in Delta that produces hydrogen from water. The hydrogen is then blended with natural gas that is delivered to 1,800 customers in Delta and surrounding communities.
“This is industry-leading,” Dominion Energy Utah CEO Judd Cook said Thursday at the ribbon cutting for the company’s new electrolyzer plant, located just off U.S. 6 on the northeast side of the Delta.
Cook said the plan was conceived about five years ago, and while other gas utilities are now trying to do the same, Dominion has to reimagine it from the ground up. Once the decision was made to try a hydrogen blend, “I didn’t even know who to call,” Judd said.
The company actually began blending 5% hydrogen for these customers back in April, but used “gray” hydrogen, which is made from natural gas and produces greenhouse gases. The electrolyzer will use electricity from renewable sources.
Andrew Hegewald, gas business development manager at Dominion, said when the electrolyzer comes online next month, it will split about 42 kilograms (about 11 gallons) of water molecules per day to produce enough hydrogen for those 1,800 customers. The electrolyser can be ramped up and down so it always adds 5% no matter how much gas is used. (The oxygen created when the water splits is released into the atmosphere.)
Hegewald said the hydrogen will cost about seven to eight times more than the gas it replaces, but because it is a test, that cost will be covered by the company. Gasoline prices don’t change for anyone.
Delta Mayor John Niles said he received “some nasty emails” when the plan was first announced because people thought it might harm their devices. But after a few community meetings, most of the concerns have disappeared. “I haven’t heard anything negative about it so far.”
“Hydrogen is an issue in Utah,” said Harry Hansen, deputy director of the Utah Office of Energy Development.
Hansen noted that Utah has applied for a federal “hydrogen hub,” along with Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Congress has appropriated $8 billion to create a handful of hubs to promote the development of hydrogen as a clean energy pathway.
And the Dominion project in Delta is part of the hub offer. Hansen said if the bid is successful, federal funds would go toward the next phase of the project.
Hegewald said the next phase will involve feeding the mixture into larger pipes at a pressure 10 times higher than that experienced in individual homes. At higher pressures, hydrogen can endanger steel pipes.
Dominion, which has committed to being carbon-free by 2050, could eventually move to higher hydrogen concentrations throughout its system, but is not committing to doing so at this time. Higher concentrations would require new pipes and modifications to equipment and furnaces.
The company serves nearly 90% of Utah. No state has a larger share of natural gas use.
Delta was chosen for several reasons, Hegewald said. First, it is a relatively new part of Dominion’s Utah system, having been installed in the 1980s, so the pipes are more modern. The other reason was that Delta is at the end of a service line, so it was easier to isolate it for testing.
The American Medical Association and Physicians for Social Responsibility have warned against mixing hydrogen and natural gas for health and safety reasons. Dominion claims its testing found no health or safety risk with a 5 percent blend.
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