NiSource Announces Blending Project with Hydrogen, Natural Gas

An Indiana-based utility said it has launched a multi-phase hydrogen blending project, a move that supports one of the first such installations in the U.S. to mix hydrogen and natural gas at precise levels to achieve optimal performance.

NiSource said its project uses a blending skid in a controlled setting to mix hydrogen and natural gas. The set-up determines the best blend percentages and their benefits for both consumers and the environment. The blending skid was built by Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, a NiSource subsidiary, as part of a collaboration with EN Engineering, an Illinois-based group.

Lloyd Yates, NiSource president and CEO, and other company officials participated in an Oct. 5 launch ceremony at the Columbia Gas Training Center’s Safety Town in Monaca, Pennsylvania, where the blending skid was built. The skid enables regulated blending of hydrogen into Safety Town’s natural gas systems at percentages ranging from 2% to 20%.

Yates previously told S&P Global Commodity Insights that Northern Indiana Public Service Co., a NiSource subsidiary, would repower a turbine at one of its gas-fired power plants to burn gas and hydrogen. The company has not announced the site of that project, though executives last year raised the possibility of hydrogen blending projects at some of the utility’s gas-fired power plants in Indiana.

NiSource in its 2022 Integrated Annual Report noted that the company is pursuing “several” hydrogen hub proposals across the utility’s operating territory.

Model Home Involved in Program

NiSource as part of the Pennsylvania project designed a model home at the site that features natural gas-powered appliances. The home enables simulation of daily gas use in a residential environment to test the blended fuel. Officials said ongoing testing already has confirmed a reduction in carbon emissions using the hydrogen-natural gas mix.

“At NiSource we believe that a balanced energy future is one where no one is left behind, and to achieve that goal, we must include a diverse portfolio of energy sources to meet our current and future energy needs,” said Yates. “Our existing natural gas infrastructure positions us well to bring our customers along into the energy of the future, and hydrogen blending is one promising solution we are exploring to enhance sustainability and to deliver a safe and reliable energy source to our customers.”

Columbia Gas as part of the Safety Town installation will work to ensure equipment functions as intended. The group will monitor customer meters, as well as valves and fittings. A NiSource official said the company will look at whether field workers need to change any protocols, including techniques for repairing leaks in the system.

Other utilities, including Dominion Energy, New Jersey Resources (NJR), and Sempra Energy, also have initiated hydrogen projects. Dominion Energy’s Utah arm since April of this year has served a community in that state with a 5% hydrogen-natural gas blend that has been shown to reduce emissions from natural gas-powered appliances.

NiSource has said it plans to assess the potential of hydrogen-natural gas blends for industries outside of the residential space, including power plants and factories. The company said its multi-phase blending project could utilize the company’s current gas distribution infrastructure that already serves customers.

NJR Testing Features Green Hydrogen

NJR already has completed the first year of operation of New Jersey Natural Gas’ (NJNG) green hydrogen blending facility, using hydrogen produced with renewable energy. NJNG, which has about 7,700 miles of pipeline infrastructure, has said it wants to blend renewable green hydrogen and renewable natural gas to decarbonize its operations.

Sempra officials have said the company is pursuing more than 20 hydrogen research and development projects designed to enhance grid resilience and support decarbonization. Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), a Sempra subsidiary, and the University of California, Irvine, are collaborating on a project to demonstrate how electrolytic hydrogen can be safely blended into existing natural gas infrastructure on the university’s campus. Testing of hydrogen blending at the campus could begin next year.

NiSource said its blending strategy is part of the utility’s “Future of Energy” program, which includes renewable energy and electrification strategies along with renewable natural gas.

“Integrating hydrogen into our energy future is complementary to renewable energy and could further enhance the global energy transition underway,” said Yates. “Our overall goal remains to lower emissions and ensure the availability of an array of environmentally sustainable energy sources while balancing affordability, reliability and other economic considerations for our customers.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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