Natural gas utility southern California Gas is partnering with a startup to explore how to make green hydrogen commercially viable. The project will replace the rare-earth elements platinum and iridium used to create green hydrogen, known as electrolysis, with more accessible elements.
H2U, the startup involved in the project, believes that its approach could cut production costs for green hydrogen to $3 per kilogram (KG). The Department of Energy estimates that green hydrogen costs between $5 and $6 per KG to produce. To be commercially viable for utilities, industry experts project its production cost would need to drop to $1 per KG or less. H2U hopes to have a pilot electrolyzer in the field within 18 months.
Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced using renewable energy sources. It contrasts with grey hydrogen, which is manufactured using natural gas. Green hydrogen is one of the options promoted by clean technology advocates. They believe it could serve as a way of storing variable renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, for long periods of time. It is also an option for powering heavy-duty vehicles and providing carbon-free energy in situations where connecting to the grid isn’t possible. Examples of the latter case include shipping and air travel.
SoCal Gas has included green hydrogen as part of its planning to reach its 2045 target for carbon neutrality. According to Neil Navin, vice president of clean energy innovations, “For the economy to decarbonize, we need as much renewable wind and solar as possible. We also need batteries. Ultimately we do need clean molecules to support electrons to allow for the storage of excess renewable energy, when there is excess, and being able to deploy that in times of lack of wind or lack of solar power.”