SoCalGas aims to advance transformative hydrogen technologies

Source: press release, 26 July 2021

Maryam Brown, SoCalGas President
Maryam Brown, SoCalGas President (photo: Southern California Gas Co.)

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has announced several of its research and development initiatives designed to enable low-cost, clean hydrogen have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) “Earthshot” Hydrogen Program’s Request for Information (RFI). The submissions are intended to help DOE’s Hydrogen Program prioritise projects that would accelerate clean hydrogen innovations that could reduce emissions, create jobs, and facilitate a net-zero carbon emissions economy by 2050. SoCalGas is working with multiple collaborators on these initiatives, including the University of California Irvine, University of California Los Angeles, and the Green Hydrogen Coalition, among others.

“Green hydrogen is a renewable energy source that can be ready-to-go whenever it’s needed for power generation, manufacturing, or transportation,” says Maryam Brown, SoCalGas President. “We believe this flexible, storable fuel will be essential to achieving net-zero emissions in California, and that is why we are working collaboratively with these partners to advance these important hydrogen projects.”

SoCalGas recently announced its commitment to the goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its operations and delivery of energy by 2045. In doing so, SoCalGas became the largest gas distribution utility in the nation to include scopes 1, 2, and 3 emissions in its target, aligning with the Paris Agreement’s recommendations to limit global warming to 1.5° C by achieving net zero by mid-century.

The programs submitted to the DOE request include:

  • HyDeal LA: An initiative to architect the green hydrogen ecosystem to achieve at-scale procurement of green hydrogen at $1.50/kg in the Los Angeles basin by 2030. HyDeal LA is a collaboration of green hydrogen offtakers, developers, integrators, equipment manufacturers, investors, environmental groups, and other advisors coalescing to overcome the biggest barrier to the green hydrogen economy–its high cost–by aiming to launch North America’s first green hydrogen hub at scale. HyDeal LA is targeting the inclusion of power plants, industrial applications, hydrogen transportation, and ultimately, global export of green hydrogen from the ports.
  • Renewable Hydrogen Ecosystem: A project at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) that will be designed to use hydrogen made from solar and wind energy to create a zero-emissions energy system on the UCI campus. If successful, this project would demonstrate a scalable solution that could be replicated by urban communities around the world to achieve zero emissions.
  • Direct Solar Methane Conversion: A new technology developed by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) that uses solar energy to separate the carbon and hydrogen atoms in natural gas with zero or negative emissions, creating hydrogen and capturing carbon in solid form, which can be used in high value energy technology applications when commercialised.

“The Western United States has abundant renewable resources necessary to make globally-competitive low-cost green hydrogen,” says Janice Lin, President and Founder of the Green Hydrogen Coalition. “By working to simultaneously aggregate multi-sectoral demand, scale production, and design the needed infrastructure for transport and storage, HyDeal LA aims to make use of these renewable resources to produce and deliver green hydrogen at scale to accelerate multi-sectoral decarbonisation in power plants, transportation, and as a feedstock for industrial customers. HyDeal LA represents an opportunity for the U.S. Department of Energy to promote the development of domestic green hydrogen hubs and establish the US as a leader for this vast new emerging energy export opportunity.”

“By using solar energy converted to hydrogen, we aim to create a 100% zero-carbon energy system on the UC Irvine campus,” says Jack Brouwer, director of UCI’s National Fuel Cell Research Center as well as its Advanced Power and Energy Program. “When deployed, the system we’re proposing could be replicable at other universities, industrial campuses, large apartment complexes, military bases, and other multi–megawatt microgrids across the nation.”

“The new clean hydrogen production technology developed by UCLA researchers represents a disruptive breakthrough,” says Tim Fisher, Professor and Chair of UCLA’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department. “When commercialised, this technology could drive the US as a leader in zero carbon technology development, domestic jobs growth, and the production of clean hydrogen at very low-cost.”

In its RFI, the DOE notes that hydrogen “enables innovations in energy production and end uses that can help decarbonise some of the most emissions-intensive sectors of our economy: transportation, electricity generation, and industrial applications, including chemicals production. Additional decarbonisation opportunities exist for low-carbon hydrogen such as for combined heat and power (CHP) in building applications and through blending with natural gas”.