In what could be an industry first, Nebraska’s largest electric utility plans to replace an existing coal-fired boiler with one that uses hydrogen fuel.

The Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) said on April 17 that it plans to fuel its Sheldon Station plant in Hallam, Neb., with hydrogen produced by Monolith Materials as a co-product of its production of carbon black using natural gas as a feedstock.

NPPD anticipates that the boiler conversion will equip the Sheldon Station with 125 MW while slashing air emissions.

NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope noted that the Sheldon Station has always been led in innovation: It was built as an experimental nuclear plant in 1963 for the Atomic Energy Commission, but later decommissioned . Part of the plant was later converted to combust coal. Today, its two boilers have a capacity of about 225 MW.

The planned boiler conversion at Unit 2 could make it the “first utility-scale hydrogen powered generator,” said Pope.

The project will require that Monolith build a new manufacturing facility near the Sheldon Station. The companies expect to break-ground on their respective operations in 2016, with an expected completion date of 2019, NPPD said.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)