Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) is working with the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboraotry (NREL) and the National Fuel Cell Research Centre (NFCRC) to launch the first ever power-to-gas system in the US.
Excess energy produced from renewable sources is converted into gaseous energy that could be stored on a large-scale and cost-effectively. The technology uses electrolyzer-based methods to make carbon-free hydrogen gas by breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen. This is then converted to methane (natural gas) that is stored.
Such systems are already available on a commercial scale in Germany and are currently being explored worldwide. This would allow natural gas utilities in North America to use existing pipeline infrastructure as a “battery” to store the energy.
While batteries have been the standard form of storage so far, they are expensive, have limited capacity and relatively short duration. Comparatively, power-to-gas systems offer higher and longer term storage capacity that could potentially create the world’s largest storage technology
Initial project results are expected by the end of the year.