Portland, Oregon-based NW Natural has partnered with Modern Hydrogen, a sustainable heat and hydrogen company, on a pilot project producing hydrogen from natural gas, which could help the utility reach its cleaner energy goals.
The three-year pilot is evaluating a process called concurrent combustion methane pyrolysis, which uses heat to break up methane and produce hydrogen and solid carbon. The hydrogen made by the process can be blended into the existing natural gas distribution network, or the technology can be placed at an industrial customer location where the hydrogen is delivered in higher concentrations. In both approaches, the carbon removed from the natural gas can be used as a carbon dioxide-reducing enhancement for asphalt, concrete and even rubber products.
According to Chris Kroeker, business development segment manager at NW Natural, the technology promises a flexible way of producing clean hydrogen because it does not require electricity, water or a combustible catalyst. The only inputs are air and natural gas.
“It has the potential to produce hydrogen whenever and wherever we need it on our system to help us achieve carbon neutrality for the energy we deliver to customers,” Kroeker told American Gas.
Decarbonizing natural gas at the point of use represents a way for businesses to reduce their carbon footprints without making costly changes to existing infrastructure or procedures.
The technology is being piloted at NW Natural’s Central Portland facility and is expected to go live by the end of the year. Kroeker says hydrogen created by this process could be used for heating in industrial, commercial and residential applications.
NW Natural will evaluate the pilot according to how well the technology performs in key areas including reliability, run time and efficiency. It is one of many solutions the utility is pursuing in its efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
NW Natural believes a combination of decarbonization measures that involve energy efficiency, renewable energy, carbon offsets and carbon capture are needed in a low-carbon future. “Replacing conventional natural gas over time with net carbon-neutral hydrogen is central to achieving that vision,” Kroeker said. “This technology could provide the reliability, flexibility and cost effectiveness we need to lower emissions as quickly and efficiently as possible, thereby offering a vital climate solution.”