Large-Scale Green Hydrogen Infrastructure System Unveiled for California

SoCalGas, North America’s largest gas distribution utility, has unveiled the Angeles Link, a proposed green hydrogen energy infrastructure system for Southern California that it says could be the largest of its kind in the nation.

The Angeles Link proposes to utilize between 25 GW and 35 GW of curtailed or new solar, wind, or battery output to power 10 GW to 20 GW of “advanced” electrolyzers and produce carbon-free hydrogen. The hydrogen would then be delivered—via a new hydrogen pipeline system spanning 200 miles to 750 miles—from outside the Los Angeles Basin to industrial consumers in California.

The green hydrogen pipeline system, as envisioned, would deliver clean energy in an amount equal to almost 25% of the natural gas SoCalGas delivers today,” the Los Angeles–based utility said on Feb. 17.

Facilitating Aliso Canyon’s Ultimate Retirement

The Angeles Link would primarily serve hard-to-electrify industries, such as dispatchable power generation, high-heat industries, and heavy-duty trucks. Notably, SoCalGas said the infrastructure project could allow four natural gas power plants to “reliably” transition to hydrogen, though it did not immediately specify which gas power plants the Angeles Link could supply. 

The company also said that over time, the infrastructure project could reduce demand served by Aliso Canyon, SoCalGas’s natural gas storage facility in the Santa Susana Mountains. Aliso Canyon currently serves more than 11 million customers, including 17 natural gas–fired power plants. The Angeles Link, the utility said, could facilitate Aliso Canyon’s “ultimate retirement in a manner that still provides reliable and affordable energy to our customers,” it said.

The infrastructure project could also help transition long-haul truck fleets “that begin their cross-country journeys right here in Los Angeles County to run on hydrogen fuel cells,” the company said.

Still Early in the Developmental Process

SoCalGas, however, is still exploring more inputs for its green hydrogen supply, including through engagements with members of HyDeal, a commercialization platform. HyDeal’s regional arm in Los Angeles, HyDeal Los Angeles, has proposed to create the first high-volume supply chain to deliver green hydrogen at $1.50/kilogram by 2030.

SoCalGas said that how it will source any additional hydrogen will be the subject of a more comprehensive evaluation during the first 12 months of the project. However, “it’s important to know that based on our initial evaluation, we believe that there are numerous third parties interested in the use of and in producing green hydrogen, including for example both in-state via renewable energy producers and in the Western Region,” it said.

SoCalGas said the project was timely given “a growing consensus among academics, industry leaders, community stakeholders and regulators that solar, wind, and batteries alone cannot achieve California’s target of carbon neutrality by 2045—a goal SoCalGas shares for its own operations,” it said. “Green hydrogen can play an indispensable role in providing dispatchable energy for hard-to-electrify sectors of the economy, including heavy duty transportation and dispatchable power plants—the big stuff that cannot be plugged in,” it said.

“The challenges we face on climate require solutions of scale and urgency,” said SoCalGas CEO Scott Drury. “The Angeles Link is designed to meet those challenges head-on. Today in Southern California we’re announcing plans for one of the world’s largest clean energy infrastructure systems, to help tackle emissions for which there are no easy answers. Those emissions—from power plants, industry, and heavy-duty trucks—very much ‘count’ and must be significantly reduced to reach our and the State’s climate goals.”

However, the infrastructure project still faces a lengthy developmental process and regulatory reviews. The project, which comprises three phases, will under the first 12–18 month phase explore a preliminary front-end engineering and design (FEED) scope and feasibility analysis.

Details about Phase 2 and 3 are expected to be released later this morning when the company files an application with the California Public Utilities Commission seeking authorization to establish a project memorandum account, under which SoCalGas plans to track costs related to development of the Angeles Link. The measure will promote the public’s interest in transparency and accountability, the company said.

Hope for Hydrogen

Still, the project appears to have the backing of several potential stakeholders already. “We are encouraged that SoCalGas is embarking on a major project that will help make green hydrogen a reality here in Los Angeles,” said Marty Adams, chief engineer and general manager of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). “Developing a source of safe, affordable green hydrogen is key to achieving our clean energy future by 2035, while ensuring the reliability we all need and depend on. Projects like the proposed Angeles Link are an important step forward.”

SoCalGas, notably, launched one of the first power-to-gas hydrogen demonstration projects in the U.S. It says it has 10 hydrogen pilot projects in motion today, and it “is testing moving hydrogen through existing natural gas infrastructure.”

Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), noted that SoCalGas has worked with the university and others for nearly a decade to make the hydrogen economy a reality. Efforts included “helping us build the very first power-to-gas-to-power system in the country right here on the UCI campus,” Brouwer said. “The Angeles Link is a great example of what can be done when government, industry, and academia work together toward a common purpose,” he said.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).

SHARE this article