The project is part of San Diego Gas & Electric Company’s (SDG&E) multi-pronged sustainability strategy to explore the feasibility of emerging technologies to rapidly decarbonize multiple economic sectors – from buildings and transportation to industrial and manufacturing processes – to help California reach its carbon neutrality goal by 2045. If approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the project would study the feasibility of injecting up to 20% of hydrogen into plastic natural gas pipe, a common material used in the natural gas infrastructure. An isolated section of a gas line serving a University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) apartment complex would use hydrogen blended gas for common building equipment such as boilers and water heaters. Hydrogen used in this study would be produced onsite via a dedicated, grid-connected electrolyzer. The results of the study would help inform the development of a renewable hydrogen blending standard for California.
“Achieving the state’s climate goals, including reaching carbon neutrality by 2045, will require a broad range of clean energy technologies. That’s why we are investing in the research, development and demonstration of emerging hydrogen innovations that have the potential to be a game changer,” said SDG&E CEO Caroline Winn. “Developing clean fuels like hydrogen is key to creating a clean, reliable and climate-resilient energy sector, while also stimulating economic and job growth.”
The project would fulfill a key recommendation in a recent ‘Hydrogen Blending Impacts’ study (sponsored by the CPUC and performed by UC Riverside) calling on utilities to conduct “real world demonstration of hydrogen blending” to fill knowledge gaps that cannot be addressed through modeling or lab experiments.
SDG&E and UC San Diego will work closely together during all the phases of the project to implement safety protocols, conduct public outreach, and identify research opportunities with students and faculty.
Submitted as part of a joint filing with SoCalGas and Southwest Gas on 8 September, SDG&E’s proposal builds upon the latest research and international experiences, including the HyDeploy pilot in the UK. That project demonstrated the injection of up to 20% of hydrogen into a university’s natural gas network, suggesting that blending hydrogen up to 20% by volume does not interact negatively with existing materials used within infrastructure like network pipes or in homes or businesses.
As part of the project, new pipe would be installed to isolate specific buildings from the surrounding area, along with a hydrogen storage tank, a hydrogen blender, and an electrolyzer that would produce hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. The electrolyzer is expected to use about a third of the water an average household consumes in a year. Construction would start in Q2 2024, with blending occurring in late 2024 through early 2026. The site would be fully restored to its original condition upon conclusion of the project.