Hydrogen Areas of Concern
- A fuel cell uses the chemical energy of hydrogen or another fuel to cleanly and efficiently produce electricity. If hydrogen is the fuel, electricity, water, and heat are the only products (source). However, when hydrogen gas (H2) is combusted, as in a power plant, this is not the case. While H2 does not generate carbon dioxide when combusted, it is not an emissions-free.
- Burning hydrogen can lead to nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions up to six times that of methane (source 1, source 2)
- NOx does significant damage to the respiratory system over time. In areas affected by smog, symptoms including coughing, increased rates of asthma, and comorbidities with other respiratory illness develop. (source). This impact is readily apparent in many frontline communities dealing with heavy NOx emissions emitted by nearby high-polluting peaker power plants. These communities have developed historical health disparities and vulnerabilities because of constant NOx exposure.
- Air pollution controls to limit NOx emissions in gas turbines do exist. To comply with Clean Air Act regulations, most power plants limit their NOx emissions either through a catalytic reaction, dilution of the fuel mix with water or steam, or using newer low-NOx technology such as a dry low NOx (DLN) combustion system. None of these systems have been proven to work with a hydrogen blend or 100% hydrogen fuel. Due to the fundamental differences between hydrogen and methane, existing NOx reduction methods are only effective at controlling NOx at very low levels of hydrogen blending.
- The world’s first dry low NOx, 100% H2 power generation system was developed in July 2020. However, even with dry low NOx technology, this pilot project still produces NOx levels like that of a newer natural gas plant (source).
- The bottom line: the slew of H2 proposals for new and existing natural gas plants will create new sources of NOx for decades to come, with frontline communities bearing the brunt.
- Investigations on performance and emission characteristics of an industrial low swirl burner while burning natural gas, methane, hydrogen-enriched natural gas and hydrogen as fuels (Cellek, Pınarbaşı, 2018)
- Nitrogen Oxides Impacts On Public Health And The Environment (US EPA, 1997)
- Hydrogen for Power Generation: Experience, Requirements, and Implications for Use in Gas Turbines (GE Power, 2021)
- Hydrogen Power Generation Handbook (Mitsubishi Power, 2020)
- Hydrogen substitution for natural gas in turbines – Opportunities, issues, and challenges (EPRI, 2021)
- Hydrogen Gas Turbines (ETN Global, 2020)
- Decarbonized Hydrogen in the US Power and Industrial Sectors: Identifying and Incentivizing Opportunities to Lower Emissions (Resources for the Future, 2020)