Mitsubishi Power Snags Hydrogen Integration Contracts for 2 GW of New Gas Power

Three major gas-fired power projects—a total of 2.1 GW—in Eastern competitive markets that are slated to come online between 2023 and 2025 have chosen hydrogen pathways to ensure their long-term viability as states increasingly emphasize energy system decarbonization. 

The plants, which represent a total investment of $3 billion, will adopt integrated green hydrogen solution packages developed by Mitsubishi Power, a Japanese power equipment giant known until Sept. 1 as Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS). The gas-fired projects include: Balico’s 1,600-MW Chickahominy Power Project in Virginia; EmberClear’s 1,084-MW Harrison Power Project in Cadiz, Ohio; and Danskammer Energy’s 600-MW plant in Newburgh, New York. 

Mitsubishi Power Launches Hystore, Hydaptive Packages

The contracts mark a substantial boost for Mitsubishi Power’s foundational “Change in Power” campaign, which takes into account a recently rejiggered business strategy to respond to rapid changes across the power landscape, help its customers combat climate change, and generally “advance human prosperity.” But they are just one part of Mitsubishi Power’s larger global strategy to leverage hydrogen’s potential and cement the company’s place in a hydrogen economy, with impacts that could extend far beyond power generation, to the transportation and manufacturing industries, for example. 

The company signed its first lucrative hydrogen contract only this March to supply hydrogen-capable gas turbines to the much-watched 840-MW Intermountain Power Project (IPP) in Millard County, Utah. That project is a coal-fired facility that will switch to natural gas and eventually burn 100% hydrogen using two advanced M501JAC power trains to feed power to Southern California via an existing high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) line. Paul Browning, president and CEO of Lake Mary, Florida–based Mitsubishi Power Americas, told POWER in March that when the M501JAC units come online at IPP in 2025, they will be “commercially guaranteed” to be able to combust a mix of 30% hydrogen and 70% natural gas starting in 2025. “This project at [commercial operation date (COD)] will actually have the same combustion technology that any other of our gas turbines have, which is capable of burning 30% hydrogen,” he said.

Work is also ongoing at a pilot project to convert one of three units at Vattenfall’s 1.3-GW Magnum combined cycle plant in the Netherlands to renewable hydrogen. That project in Groningen seeks to modify a 440-MW M701F gas turbine and refine the combustion technology “to stay within the same NOx envelope as a natural gas power plant but do it burning 100% hydrogen,” without steam or water injection, as Browning told POWER last year.

At the same time, Mitsubishi Power continues work as part of an initiative it established in May 2019 with Magnum Development, the owner of a large and geographically rare underground salt dome in Utah, to develop the massive Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) project, which is strategically located near the new IPP facility. The companies last year signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop the $1 billion power-to-gas project in Millard County, Utah, that could store up to 1,000 MW of renewable energy as hydrogen gas year-round and provide it to variability-challenged Western power markets. 

The IPP and ACES project in Utah “are the inspiration” for Mitsubishi Power’s newly developed, standard “Hystore” package, which, as Mike Ducker, head of Renewable Fuels explained to POWER on Sept. 1, offers the opportunity to leverage hydrogen’s storage attributes to address seasonal energy shifting of renewables. 

But the three new Eastern gas plants will use another newly introduced standard package, “Hydaptive,” which is focused on site integration, spanning the electrolyzers to the gas turbines. “We still have the storage attribute onsite for the Hydaptive system to be able to offer users this flexibility, but it’s really the integration between a gas turbine as well as the electrolysis systems, with a standardized approach in a package that is here really to try to achieve further cost [reductions] and streamline efficiencies to better enable hydrogen within the power industry,” Ducker said. 

The overall “standard package” approach will include a technology, services, and financial wrap, Ducker added. It is designed to ensure “technical and commercial predictability, and provides customers confidence that the integrated solutions will operate safely, reliably, and cost effectively for decades,” he said.

Flexibility for Gas Power Producers

With the two packages, Mitsubishi Power says it “seamlessly optimizes integration across renewables, energy storage, and gas turbines, which all work together to create and incorporate green hydrogen.”

“Really simply, I think we have to recognize that green hydrogen really presents an opportunity as an energy storage system, and Mitsubishi Power [has become] a green hydrogen energy storage integrator,” Ducker explained. 

“There’s really three key components with the system. First is the electrolysis, and that’s really taking the renewable energy—that otherwise would have been curtailed—and water, and using that to form hydrogen, which is now a form of storable energy. That hydrogen then needs to be stored in some fashion in salt caverns or above-ground pressure vessels. And ultimately when we need that energy, we’re converting that chemical energy, which is hydrogen in this case, back to usable electrical energy using a gas turbine to really offer that capability,” he said. “So that whole ecosystem—electrolyzer, storage medium, and gas turbines—creates an opportunity for long-duration energy storage systems. And that’s really at the core of what we’re offering.” 

Ducker noted that the Hydaptive package will include a “patent-pending” TOMONI software and controls system to enable rapid load response. Meanwhile, as part of its offered services, Mitsubishi Power will seek to help keep companies abreast of technological evolutions in supply chains, for example, as they apply to key system components like electrolyzers and compressors.

“Certainly we’re keeping our pulse in the market, and there’s a lot of changes happening here now,” Ducker said. “As a solutions provider, we’re really not beholden to any one technology or one manufacturer, so we have that flexibility to pivot to meet those three critical aspects of safety, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.”

Leading the Hydrogen Gas Power Charge

Asked why the gas developers, whose projects are all sited in cutthroat organized markets, chose hydrogen capability when costs for producing hydrogen power still remain uncompetitive with other forms of power, Ducker suggested their decisions may be rooted in longer-term visions. “Our customers in these regions really recognize that they want to be an enabler for states and really to empower industry to help meet ultimate climate goals,” he said.

In statements, the three gas plant developers agreed. Danskammer’s 600-MW repowering project is slated to come online in March 2023 as New York doubles down on its climate initiatives, and pushes aggressively to meet a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% by 2050. In July 2019, New York also enacted a law that requires 100% of produced power to come from renewables and nuclear by 2040. For Danskammer, hydrogen offers the opportunity to avoid “locking itself into a fossil-fuel future.” Danskammer’s CEO William Reid said the company selected Mitsubishi Power’s package “because it would ready our facility to be a hydrogen-based zero-carbon power generator.” Reid also noted that by adopting the technology early, it would position Danskammer as a leader in “developing short- and long-duration energy storage infrastructure in New York State.”

Balico, the parent company of Chickahominy Power, developer of the fully permitted 1.6-GW gas plant in Charles City, Virginia, noted its plant is poised to deliver power in the “critical Dominion Zone PJM market,” in Virginia, a state that has set a 100% clean energy target by 2045. The Chickahominy project features three JAC power trains in single-shaft configuration and includes air-cooled condensers to limit water use. The site of the plant is located strategically between the rapidly growing economies of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads—where electricity demand is expected to increase with the many data centers planned and under construction in the region. “We are excited at the prospect of even further environmental improvement by incorporating Mitsubishi Power’s innovative renewable hydrogen based technologies,” said Balico’s Managing Member Irfan K. Ali. 

Houston-based EmberClear’s 1-GW combined cycle plant sited 50 miles west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Harrison County, Ohio, is located in the “prolific, low-cost Utica shale region.” Sourcing gas from the region and using “highly efficient technology, the project will have a very competitive heat rate and be one of the first plants dispatched in the PJM wholesale market” when it comes online as expected in the first quarter of 2023. According to EmberClear’s President and CEO Raj Suri, green hydrogen integration will boost the plant’s flexibility. “We expect this plant to be the first hydrogen-capable project to reach commercial operation east of the Mississippi River,” he said. EmberClear, notably, also plans to use Mitsubishi Power as a green hydrogen integrator in an Eastern Pennsylvania project, “which is in the early stages of development,” he said. 

Gearing Up for the Hydrogen Economy

Ducker, who heads Mitsubishi Power’s January-created Renewable Fuels division, noted that the company’s efforts to market hydrogen integration extends beyond just ensuring operational continuity for gas power plants.

“Right now, we’re able to offer 30% hydrogen to these customers and [the Intermountain project in Utah] when they begin operation. But keep in mind we have more than 3 million operating hours on hydrogen—it’s not something new,” Ducker said. “This is decades-worth of research and development that our companies committed throughout the years. What’s changed here today is really applying it to our really ‘latest and greatest’ advanced-class combined cycles—really across our product line, but certainly our JAC flagship product.”

The company says it combined that experience with learnings gleaned from development of its ACES project. “We’ve taken a lot of the time and dedication, and spent a lot of resources—both human capital and financial capital—to really get toward, you know, how do we improve design, how do we cut costs, how do we streamline in this market,” he said. “And so our engineers really can ask the question of how do we better integrate these cycles from a heat standpoint, or how do we digitally integrate these assets to ensure cost-effective, safe, reliable hydrogen production and storage, and ultimate use,” said Ducker.

Mitsubishi Power’s end-goal is to leverage all its capabilities to drive more standard approaches to help bring down costs. That will further “help support more penetrations and more wide-scale use of hydrogen, which in itself will continue to support further cost-down, so it’s a nice positive feedback loop, I’d say,” Ducker said.

Interest is meanwhile surging in hydrogen’s potential decarbonization benefits within the wider energy system, Ducker noted. While Mitsubishi Power envisioned the ACES project in Utah—where work to integrate the above-ground and below-ground activities, and obtain permitting, are “on track”—as a “good opportunity” for the Intermountain project, customers outside the power sector have expressed interest in the ACES project. “We’re hearing a lot of interest from other industries that are looking to decarbonize and really seeing this opportunity for a ‘hydrogen hub’ there in Delta, Utah,” he said.

However, wider uptake of hydrogen as an energy storage medium that could allow for more renewables integration will likely need more policy support, Ducker acknowledged. “We’re seeing states like California that are now starting to actually do studies around how do we better incentivize and better value energy storage, particularly long-duration energy storage,” he said.

“It’s an important question that [ISOs, RTOs, and state regulators] will need to grapple with. As we’re moving toward these new targets of net-zero carbon emissions and achieving that predominantly through energy, how do we incentivize and ensure energy storage resources are brought in in parallel as we continue to add more and more renewables?” he said.

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

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