US utility begins blending hydrogen into natural-gas supply for 1,800 customers in Utah, despite health concerns
US utility Dominion Energy has begun blending hydrogen into the natural-gas supply in the city of Delta, Utah, as part of plans to do so throughout the state by 2030.
Dominion — the ninth-largest electricity utility in the US by revenue — says it will blend up to 5% hydrogen into the local gas grid over a multi-year period in order to “reinforce the findings” from its recent year-long testing at its training academy in Utah.
That research found that a 5% hydrogen blend was “safe, compatible with current residential appliances and helpful in reducing emissions from appliances using already clean-burning natural gas”.
About 1,800 customers in Delta, as well as the surrounding towns of Oasis, Hinkley and Desert, will now receive the blend, which will start off using grey hydrogen, but will be upgraded to green H2 later this year.
“During the course of the project, the majority of hydrogen blended will be green hydrogen made from renewable energy,” Dominion says.
“[Customer] bills will not increase as a result of hydrogen blending. No appliance or equipment changes will be required and appliance performance won’t be impacted,” it adds.
A 5% blend of green hydrogen would only reduce emissions by about 1.66% because it contains around a third less energy by volume than natural gas.
A 2021 study by German think-tank Agore Energiewende found that a 20% hydrogen blend in the gas grid — the feasible limit without massive infrastructure changes — would increase heating costs for consumers by 33% in 2030 while only reducing emissions by 7%.
Hydrogen blending has consequently been slammed as a method for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A report by the International Renewable Energy Agency last year found that it would amount to an abatement cost that “may be above $500 per tonne of CO2”, making it arguably the most expensive possible method of reducing emissions.
And in February, the European Parliament voted that blending H2 into the gas grid should be a last resort “as it is less efficient compared to the use of using hydrogen in its pure form and diminishes the value of hydrogen”.
US doctor groups also warned last summer that a hydrogen/methane blend “puts lives at risk”, arguing that hydrogen’s low ignition point increases the likelihood of explosions, while an increase in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions will raise the risk of associated diseases such as asthma.
Dominion addresses the doctors’ concerns on its website, saying: “Extensive internal testing for a year at our Salt Lake City Training Academy, which replicates the various appliance equipment/configurations/vintages utilized across our gas footprint, confirms external research that demonstrates that premixed burners, which are the industry standard for residential and commercial US gas appliances, do not produce additional NOx when burning hydrogen blends of up to 5%.”
However, it does not refer to the claims about the increased risk of explosions.