Breaking barriers: How we’re working to overcome obstacles to deliver zero-carbon hydrogen to our customers

American innovation moves at lightning speed. Access to alternative forms of energy is increasing, but incorporating new fuels into our energy system is not without challenges. Hydrogen has the potential to serve as an emissions-free source of energy, but how will we transport it from its source to customers’ doors?

Southern Company Gas and our parent company have helped to start a new research and development (R&D) initiative, known as HyBlend, to address the technical barriers to blending hydrogen in natural gas infrastructure and study life-cycle emissions of hydrogen blends. The HyBlend project will utilize expertise in our R&D organization, along with industry partners, research consortia, academia and national laboratories, and encompass more than $15 million in hydrogen research. It’s one of several ways Southern Company Gas is working to modernize its system to adapt to the changing energy landscape.

“We are uniquely positioned to develop the technology and infrastructure needed to produce and distribute hydrogen into our system.”

–Zachary Lowe, director at Southern Company Gas

“Blending hydrogen into existing natural gas infrastructure enables us to further understand the infrastructure’s capabilities, which is essential for achieving carbon reduction goals.”

Hydrogen can be produced by splitting water molecules with renewable, nuclear or other sources of energy. This could be injected into existing natural gas infrastructure, and the blend of hydrogen and natural gas can then be transported to end users of the fuel.

Introducing hydrogen into existing natural gas infrastructure has national and regional benefits for energy storage, resiliency and emissions reductions.

“We’re working with industry to answer their high-priority research questions,” said Michael Peters, HyBlend project engineer at National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “First, are pipelines compatible with hydrogen? Second, what are the costs and environmental impacts? And finally, how will hydrogen blends affect appliances and other equipment in buildings?”

This two-year project was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through the H2@Scale 2020 CRADA Call. It will research life-cycle emissions of hydrogen blends and perform a techno-economic analysis of the costs and opportunities of hydrogen production.

Southern Company Gas and our parent are committed to collaborating with industry partners to advance global, economy-wide emissions reduction. Our participation in HyBlend is one of several R&D initiatives underway to investigate hydrogen’s potential. Other efforts include serving as an anchor sponsor for the Low-Carbon Resources Initiative and investigating the compatibility of hydrogen with our subsidiary Atlanta Gas Light’s existing infrastructure, in collaboration with four national laboratories. In addition, we are assessing metering and regulating infrastructure’s hydrogen compatibility with the Electric Power Research Institute.

So, how will we deliver hydrogen to our customers? Our industry doesn’t yet have all of the answers. But, we will work to lead industry innovation through projects like HyBlend and others as part of our net zero strategy, in order to provide a clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy future for our customers and communities.