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Top Gas Utility Companies Collaborate on Hydrogen Blending Demonstration Program

As part of their commitment to support California's climate goals and their mission to become the cleanest, safest and most innovative energy companies in America, Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) announced the creation of a Hydrogen Blending Demonstration Program. This program would be the first in California and among the first in the nation.   

Blending hydrogen with natural gas is part of a multi-pronged strategy both utilities – subsidiaries of Sempra Energy – are undertaking to decarbonize their natural gas grid.

The vision is to leverage surplus renewable electricity generated in the middle of the day to produce green hydrogen, which then can be injected into the natural gas grid for storage and use. Power-to-gas technology is being developed to do just that.

SoCalGas, in partnership with the National Fuel Cell Research Center, and University of California Irvine, is leading the way in developing this technology, launching the first power-to-gas demonstration project in the United States in 2015. Hydrogen blending is another important milestone for providing the clean fuel needed to achieve California's climate goals while maintaining an affordable, resilient and reliable energy system.

When adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the demonstration program will provide an understanding of how to safely incorporate hydrogen, a zero-emission fuel, into the gas grid. This is the first step toward the establishment of a statewide hydrogen injection standard.

"Our California-based utility businesses are helping build California's 21st century energy system through deliberate investments in hydrogen, renewable natural gas, fuel cells, and carbon capture and storage," said Kevin Sagara, group president for Sempra Energy and chairman of SoCalGas and San Diego Gas & Electric. "This hydrogen blending program is a key milestone in our efforts to decarbonize our energy system, while delivering affordable and reliable energy to 22 million California customers."

SoCalGas and SDG&E are planning multiple hydrogen blending projects throughout their respective service territories. The first proposed project will blend hydrogen into an isolated section of primarily polyethylene (PE) plastic distribution system in SoCalGas' service territory. The initial hydrogen blend level is planned at 1% and may increase to as much as an industry-leading 20%.  

SoCalGas expects to choose the location of the initial project in early 2021.

Subsequent projects are scheduled in SDG&E's service territory and will build upon the knowledge learned in the first demonstration. This includes blending hydrogen into an isolated section of mixed plastic and steel natural gas distribution system, and an isolated steel pipeline demonstration.

In addition to these hydrogen blending projects, SDG&E announced in October that it intends to pilot two hydrogen projects by 2022 as part its comprehensive sustainability strategy to advance carbon neutrality. These two projects would use a combination of technologies such as renewable resources, electrolysis and fuel cells to demonstrate increased system resiliency, long-duration storage, power-to-gas hydrogen fuel blending, and vehicle hydrogen fueling, among other applications.

The Hydrogen Blending Demonstration Program is part of a joint application filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) by SoCalGas, SDG&E, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and Southwest Gas in accordance with the Biomethane Order Instituting Rulemaking (Biomethane OIR). The filing can be found on the SoCalGas website

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