In a world first researchers have run a gas turbine on hydrogen fuel

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

There are lots of legacy gas systems around, from jet engines to gas plants, and this could give companies a way to “green” them and get them to run on zero emissions hydrogen fuel.

 

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Gas turbines are found in aircraft, trains, ships, generators, pumps, compressors and all sorts of other places. They can run on a variety of fuels, but some 90 percent of them currently run on natural gas, a fossil fuel that produces carbon dioxide when you burn it, while also escaping into the atmosphere everywhere you pull it out of the ground, to create greenhouse conditions some 80 times worse than CO2 over a 20-year time frame.

 

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In the race to zero emissions by 2050, gas turbines will need to adapt or die, and several organizations, including General Electric, have been looking into transitioning them to burn green hydrogen as a clean fuel source. GE has more than 100 turbines running on at least 5 percent hydrogen fuel by volume, and it says it’s on the path to 100 percent.

 

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Now, researchers at the University of Stavinger in Norway say they’ve beaten everyone to the punch, claiming that they’ve had a 100 percent hydrogen-burning gas turbine running since mid-May this year. The university runs its own micro gas power plant, and its gas turbine produces heat, electricity and hot water for hydronic heating.

 

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“We have set a world record in hydrogen combustion in micro gas turbines. No one has been able to produce at this level before,” says Professor Mohsen Assadi, leader of the research team. “The efficiency of running the gas turbine with hydrogen will be somewhat less. The big gain though, is to be able to utilize the infrastructure that already exists.” The team’s research not only focused on tuning the combustion chamber for hydrogen, but on adapting the fuel system and the existing natural gas infrastructure to handle this very different gas.

 

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Eventually, these kinds of projects will lead to conversion kits that can keep old turbine equipment alive while moving it to zero-emissions fuel sources. But before these kinds of things become economically viable, the price of green hydrogen needs to come down substantially as carbon taxes are applied to cheaper fossil fuel solutions.

Source: University of Stavanger

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