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Brentwood power plant to test green hydrogen fuel

Under the $8.5 million pilot, the New York

Under the $8.5 million pilot, the New York Power Authority will study the effects of blending green-hydrogen with natural gas at its small Brentwood plant that is used chiefly for energy production during peak times. Credit: New York Power Authority

New York State's newly announced plan to explore the use of green hydrogen to decarbonize power production will include what is billed as the first test of blending the clean fuel into the mix at an existing power plant in Brentwood, officials said.

Under the $8.5 million pilot program, the New York Power Authority will study the effects of blending green hydrogen with natural gas at its small Brentwood plant that is used chiefly for electricity production during peak times.

But a group that has worked with NYPA on transition plans for the peak power plants is raising concerns about the green hydrogen pilot, saying its anticipated conclusion is "hardly an effective decarbonization strategy."

Green hydrogen is billed as a considerably cleaner fuel for power plants. It also is being examined in other applications as a way to reduce carbon and other emissions in the state.

Under the NYPA demonstration project, technicians will gradually ramp up the amount of green hydrogen blended into the plant’s fuel mix and study the impacts on emissions, plant operation and other factors.

Findings from the project, the first of its kind on an existing power plant, according to NYPA, will then be made available to other utilities, plant operators and researchers studying green hydrogen's impacts and benefits.

In a statement, NYPA Chief Executive Gil C. Quiniones said hydrogen "may have the potential to be one of the tools we use to help New York State achieve its aggressive climate leadership goals for a carbon-free electric system. This project will help us evaluate green hydrogen's viability in decarbonizing electricity production."

The $8.5 million price tag includes retrofits needed at the plant, which are said to be minimal, as well as the cost of the gas, which must be trucked from Canada to Long Island, NYPA said.

The gas is being supplied by Airgas. Other partners include plant-maker General Electric, the Electric Power Research Institute and grid modernization expert Sargent & Lundy.

The demonstration project is scheduled to begin in the fall and continue for six to eight weeks.

The test will start with a blend of about 5% green hydrogen and increase to a maximum of around 30%.

GE is working on new plants that can be powered by 100% green hydrogen, but the NYPA test will be the first to see if the fuel is effective in carbon reduction at existing plants, NYPA said.

Green hydrogen is made by sending electric current through water to split hydrogen atoms from oxygen, according to Bloomberg News. Green hydrogen’s current cost of $2.50 to $4.50 a kilogram is up to four times the cost it needs to reach to be competitive with hydrogen that is made from a less-green process, Bloomberg reported. Current projections say that milestone could be reached by 2030, Bloomberg said.

The Brentwood NYPA facility is a 47-megawatt plant that's used only around 10% of the time, mostly during the summer.

Newsday reported in 2020 that NYPA had undertaken a study to determine how best to transition its gas-fired peaker plants to cleaner technologies such as batteries and greener fuels.

The authority is working with a group called the PEAK Coalition, a group of five environmental justice nonprofit agencies. In a statement, the group expressed concern about the green hydrogen project, saying the six- to eight week time frame isn't enough to determine long-term issues, "including potential health and safety risks." It's also concerned about the up to 30% mix of hydrogen "which yields less than 15% reduction in carbon emissions."

In addition to the NYPA demonstration project, another state agency, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will launch a study of hydrogen to inform the state’s potential plans to use green hydrogen to decarbonize. The study is being conducted with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NYSERDA said.

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