ATCO begins blending green hydrogen into gas network

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Canadian gas giant ATCO achieved a major milestone last week as it started blending renewable hydrogen into the on-site natural gas network at its Clean Energy Innovation Hub. The blend will be used throughout the Jandakot depot as the first step in exploring the potential of hydrogen for home use in gas appliances.

Officially opened in July, the industry-leading Clean Energy Innovation Hub is a testbed for hybrid energy solutions. The facility features a microgrid, comprising a 300kW solar array of approximately 1100 solar panels and 400kWh of batteries. With the PV system capable of producing two a half times the daily power requirements of the facility, excess solar energy is partially stored in batteries, while the rest is used to power an electrolyzer and produce hydrogen. Hydrogen is then stored as fuel for a back-up generator or blended with natural gas.

The successful blending, and use of the blend to run natural gas appliances – including cooktops and gas-powered air conditioning –  is the first step in continued testing around the potential of hydrogen to reduce the natural gas network’s carbon footprint.

“We established the Hub to investigate the role hydrogen could play in the future energy mix, and to generate insights into how our gas distribution network can continue to benefit customers into the future,” said President of ATCO’s Gas Division in Australia, Stevan Green. “While we know that in WA natural gas provides a more affordable and less carbon-intensive energy option than grid-supplied electricity, we also know a cleaner energy future is important. We’ll continue to work to make that future a reality.”

The project received $1.6 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of the Advancing Renewables Program, which has allowed for testing different combinations of energy blends and integrating natural gas, solar, battery storage and hydrogen. Ultimately, the Jandakot hub aims to provide insights into optimizing hydrogen storage and distribution solutions, blending hydrogen with natural gas and using hydrogen as a balancing fuel to support the grid.

In another initiative for greening the gas network, energy infrastructure company Jemena is looking to generate hydrogen from renewables and inject it into the existing gas network so that homes and businesses in Sydney could begin using the fuel within five years. The $15 million Western Sydney Green Gas Project aims to demonstrate the co-mingling, storage and distribution of hydrogen and natural gas in the existing network which, as Jemena puts it, has the capacity to store the equivalent of 8 million Powerwall batteries.