January 2, 2022. Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas), the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility, and Bloom Energy announced a project to showcase the future of the hydrogen economy and the technologies needed to help California reach carbon neutrality. The companies will collaborate to generate and then blend hydrogen into a university customer’s existing natural gas network to demonstrate how the natural gas infrastructure can be decarbonized, while balancing future energy supply and demand. The project is set to launch next year on the campus of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.

“California has ambitious climate goals and a successful energy transition will require companies to collaborate and implement innovative projects,” said California State Assembly member Chris Holden. “This unique demonstration could help our state transition to a carbon neutral future.”

The collaboration will utilize Bloom Energy’s solid oxide, high temperature electrolyzer to generate hydrogen, which will then be injected into Caltech’s natural gas infrastructure. The resulting 10 percent hydrogen blend will be converted into electricity without combustion through existing Bloom Energy fuel cells downstream of the SoCalGas meter, producing electricity for a portion of the university. For the purpose of this project, the electrolyzer is designed to generate hydrogen from grid electricity.

At scale, the electrolyzer and fuel cell combination could enable long duration clean energy storage and low-carbon distributed power generation through the gas network for businesses, residential neighborhoods, and dense urban areas. When configured as a microgrid, it could also provide resilient power when and where energy is needed most, protecting businesses, campuses or neighborhoods from widespread power outages.

Bloom’s high-temperature electrolyzer produces hydrogen more efficiently than low-temperature PEM and alkaline electrolyzers. Because it operates at high temperatures, the Bloom Electrolyzer requires less energy to break up water molecules and produce hydrogen. Electricity accounts for nearly 80 percent of the cost of hydrogen from electrolysis. By using less electricity, hydrogen production becomes more economical and will accelerate adoption. The Bloom Electrolyzer is also designed to produce green hydrogen from 100 percent renewable power.