Gray to green: carbon-neutral hydrogen applications you might not know about

From gray to green: Carbon-neutral hydrogen applications

By the end of this article you'll know so much about gray and green hydrogen that you'll have to pinch yourself. 

In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day and all the green that comes with it, we want to discuss what it means to go from gray to green hydrogen.

We’ve covered the basics of electrolyzers, and you might already be familiar with some common applications for hydrogen such as fuel cell electric trucks and trains. But what about those applications that go beyond on-and off-highway?

Hydrogen has numerous applications that you may not be as familiar with, and it’s these applications that hold the potential to completely transform the way the world uses power – and what our carbon footprint looks like while doing so.

Decarbonizing industries with hydrogen is no simple task, but major progress is being made in turning “gray” hydrogen (some associated emissions) into “green” hydrogen (zero emissions). Read on to learn more about the different ways hydrogen can power our world with zero emissions.

Power Grid Balancing

Similar to the concept of supply and demand in economics, an electrical grid also deals with differences between its power supply and the power demanded of it. Electrical grids can’t tailor their power output to how many people are blow drying their hair, turning on their dishwasher or turning on their Christmas lights at any given moment. That’s good news because it means you’ll almost always have power available to you when you need it, but it’s also bad news because it means a lot of power generation capacity can be underutilized at times.

That’s where electrolyzers come in. Electrolyzers can be used to balance the electrical grid and get compensated for doing so. Excess energy from the electrical grid can be used to power electrolyzers, which make hydrogen. Hydrogen can store this excess energy and be used in a number of applications without emissions. Because this is a paid service that the electrolyzer offers to stabilize the electrical network, this helps to reduce the total cost of hydrogen.

But it doesn’t stop at electrical grids. Hydrogen generation can also be used as a means of storing fluctuating power from renewable energy sources. One of the limiting factors of solar is that they are not always available when we need them and sometimes, this means valuable power is wasted.

Once again, electrolyzers come to the rescue. Excess (clean) energy from renewable sources like wind and solar can power electrolyzers to make green hydrogen without any associated emissions. As more fluctuating renewable energy sources get added to power grids, electrolyzers and hydrogen will prove even more vital in the production of green hydrogen. The hydrogen produced allows this clean renewable energy to be used to fuel heavy-duty bus, truck or commuter train fleets and decarbonize the natural gas grid. As more fluctuating renewable energy sources get added to power grids, electrolyzers and hydrogen will prove even more vital in the production of green hydrogen.

Power to Gas

Even applications that don’t run on hydrogen fuel cells can benefit from lower emissions because of hydrogen. One way to do this is injecting the natural gas pipeline with hydrogen. Think of it as a gas cocktail — the same way you might add club soda to make a drink a little lighter, hydrogen can be added to natural gas to lower its carbon content and reduce its carbon emissions.

Cummins and Enbridge announced at the end of 2020 that the hydrogen we produce to balance the grid will be injected in the natural gas pipeline network in order to “green” the gas supply. Emissions regulations worldwide are changing, and soon some countries and states may impose a minimum percentage of renewable natural gas required in the natural gas grid. This minimum percentage is bound to increase over time, demanding practical solutions like hydrogen blending.

Sustainable Fertilizer

As our world continues to reckon with a climate crisis, it’s become evident that we need to pursue greener hydrogen from every angle possible, including its use in agriculture.

The ammonia industry is one of the biggest consumers of hydrogen across the world. Around half of the current worldwide production of hydrogen is used to make ammonia, which, in turn, is principally used to make fertilizers. Since more than 95% of the world’s hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels, also known as grey hydrogen, the production of ammonia is responsible for nearly 2% of annual global carbon dioxide emissions!

The good news is that replacing the gray hydrogen used in the production of fertilizer with green hydrogen (made through zero-emission electrolysis) would produce a truly sustainable fertilizer.

The interest in reducing the carbon intensity of fertilizer is growing. With regulatory incentives and carbon taxes, this shift to using green will accelerate — making it a cost-effective alternative that’s better for the environment and the agriculture industry.

Greener Ethanol and Methanol

Ethanol is currently used to reduce emissions of the gas that powers cars and other vehicles that have traditional gas engines. Most gas that powers cars and trucks (excluding diesel) in the U.S. contains up to 10% ethanol — some fuel made for E-85 compatible engines contains up to 85% ethanol. Ethanol is usually made by fermenting feedstock like corn, especially in places like the Midwest where corn is abundant.

Our opportunity to create greener ethanol, though, lies in the production of ethanol or methanol from carbon and hydrogen. Similar to ammonia, the hydrogen in ethanol comes mostly from natural gas, which generates carbon emissions that are harmful to the environment.

With the right technology and infrastructure, the gray hydrogen that goes into ethanol can be replaced with green hydrogen. This can lower the carbon emissions of the gas we use to power cars, trucks and anything running on a gas engine.

You may be more familiar with ethanol than you think. It’s actually alcohol — yes, the kind you can drink! If distilled multiple times, the same ethanol that can make our gasoline more green can be consumed in a drink. We’re speaking chemically here, of course, so don’t go trying this at home and please leave it to the professional distillers. In fact, a company called the Air Co. makes a carbon-negative vodka from air and green hydrogen. On the other hand, methanol is a non-drinking type of alcohol with various traditional applications such as in the chemical sector (paint, fleece, plywood, etc.) blended to make cleaner fuels and used to produce energy when used as a fuel. One of the benefits of methanol is that it is much easier to transport than hydrogen in gaseous or liquid form, therefore, companies around the world are looking at exporting green methanol as a commodity.

Carbon-neutral Jet Fuel

Green hydrogen isn’t limited to ground-level applications and it has the potential to power a Boeing 737. With the right engineering, planes could fly on jet fuel made from a process of combining CO2 captured from the air and green hydrogen.

While it may not be 100% green from well to wheel — turbine combustion will create some emissions — the difference is that it is carbon-neutral fuel, meaning the CO2 captured in producing the fuel is released during combustion, so there is no net CO2 released. In short, we could soon see green jet fuel in the “well” part of the equation — aeronautical engineering is still working on greening the “wheel” half.

It’s evident that the “green equation” is quite complicated. There are a lot of factors that go into establishing hydrogen as one of many potential solutions to reducing worldwide fossil fuel emissions and ultimately mitigating the climate crisis.

But where there are questions, there are answers to be found — and Cummins is up for the challenge. Over the past century, we’ve ushered in new technologies that others didn’t believe in or found impractical or even impossible. With 100 years of experience in innovation and a commitment to developing sustainable power, Cummins is all in on hydrogen as a power solution for the future.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Green hydrogen: The power of wind

Green hydrogen: The power of wind

Now more than ever, people are looking for ways to store renewable energy for a flexible, low-carbon power supply. Hydrogen offers a solution. Using renewable sources such as wind, to produce hydrogen emits no greenhouse gasses (green hydrogen). Wind energy can be converted into hydrogen using an electrolyzer and utilized in several ways – from fuel-cell hydrogen trucks, buses and trains, to ships powered by liquid ammonia made from hydrogen, to a substitute for natural gas for heating homes

Here we look at three Cummins installations that use wind energy to generate green hydrogen.

1. Windgas Falkenhagen, Germany

Located in Falkenhagen in the state of Brandenburg, Germany, at the time of commissioning, the Windgas project was the world’s first mega-watt (MW) scale demonstration plant for storing wind energy in the natural gas grid (2MW). Uniper SE (site owners) chose Falkenhagen as the ideal location for the site because of wind energy surpluses in the region. 

Six Cummins HySTAT® 60-10 electrolyzers were installed and used to convert excess wind energy into hydrogen, then fed via a 2km pressurized hydrogen pipeline into the gas grid. In the first year of operation, this totalled more than two million kWh of hydrogen. 

Windgas Falkenhagen, Germany
Windgas Falkenhagen, Germany

Thanks to the success of the Falkenhagen project, a second 1.5 MW power-to-gas project (Cummins HyLYZER® 300-30) was set up in nearby Hamburg.

2. Hychico, Argentina

The Argentinean Patagonia has one of the best wind resources in the world, meaning that the electricity generated from their wind energy is some of the most affordable in the world. However, there is a problem - with a population of less than three inhabitants/km2, much of the wind energy is not utilized. Thanks to Cummins electrolyzers, the wind energy is now stored and exported in the form of hydrogen to other locations and industrial applications. 

Hychico, Argentina
Hychico, Argentina

Wind energy from the Diadema Wind Park, 20km northwest of the Comodoro Rivadavia City in Chubut Province, Argentina, provides energy for two Cummins HySTAT® 60-10 electrolyzers. The electrolyzers create hydrogen that is injected into natural gas fields and recovered for use in repowering units. The oxygen generated through the process of electrolysis (usually vented) is also stored and transported for use in industrial and high purity applications. 

3. Western Sydney Green Gas Project  

New South Wales’ first electrolyzer installation will use solar and wind energy to generate green hydrogen that will be injected and stored in the gas distribution network. The project developed by energy infrastructure company Jemena, with support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), is Australia’s most comprehensive renewable hydrogen project to date and will use the Cummins HyLYZER® 200-30 to produce hydrogen that is blended with natural gas and injected into the Jemena Gas Network in New South Wales – Australia’s biggest gas distribution network – to replace natural gas with a zero emissions alternative. 

Western Sydney Green Gas Project
Western Sydney Green Gas Project

The construction of the project has begun and is on track to make renewable gas available to customers in 2021. The project plan includes the option for future inclusion of a hydrogen refueling station adjacent to the power-to-gas facility. The station would provide hydrogen to cylinder vehicles and heavy-duty vehicles, such as buses and trucks. 

Hydrogen’s potential for storing and transporting energy from wind and other renewable sources, makes it a key enabler of a global transition to clean energy and Cummins is excited to be at the forefront.  

Look out for updates on more of Cummins green hydrogen projects in the near future! 

Stay Updated with New Power News

From long-range possibilities to innovations happening now, our New Power Nine newsletter brings you the top nine things you need to know about low-carbon energy each month. Subscribe today to get your first issue in your inbox.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Cummins-Enbridge project brings large-scale hydrogen blending to North America

Cummins-Enbridge project brings large-scale hydrogen blending to North America
Cummins and Enbridge are bringing Hydrogen to homes

Greener natural gas may be coming soon to a grid near you. With the approval of a project by Cummins and Enbridge Gas to blend low-carbon hydrogen into Ontario’s natural gas network, a future with lower-emission natural gas is within reach.

Thanks to this blend, the pilot project will bring cleaner natural gas to the residential market on a major scale for the first time in North America.

The hydrogen for the project will be fed from the existing Cummins-Enbridge Power-to-Gas Electrolyzer Facility in Markham, Ontario. The plant was developed with support from the Canadian government, and it already has a demonstrated capability to convert the province’s surplus electricity into hydrogen— effectively balancing Ontario’s supply and demand of electricity.

The 2.5 megawatt electrolyzer facility — designed and built on a 5 megawatt scalable platform — features next-generation PEM electrolyzer from Cummins. The Cummins PEM electrolyzer has the highest power density, efficiency and smallest footprint of any such system in the world, making it an ideal power technology for this leading-edge pilot project.

“The Enbridge and Cummins partnership on innovating power-to-gas technology is further underscored by news of approval to proceed with injection into the gas grid. Cummins is invested and positioned to succeed as a leader in the world’s energy transformation to the hydrogen economy, and today’s announcement continues to build toward that success.”

– Amy Adams, Vice President of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies at Cummins


Building customer trust

Through the pilot project, Enbridge will provide blended gas distribution service to over 3,600 customers in Markham, Ontario in 2021, preventing up to 117 tons of carbon emissions per year from entering the atmosphere.

With blending permitted up to two percent, this project would account for over 2% of hydrogen per year. This increase in demand will go a long way in further developing the hydrogen economy, setting a precedent for similar large-scale projects to follow.

Hydrogen blending is new, and many utility customers have questions about what using hydrogen-blended natural gas means for their everyday lives. After all, many of us depend on natural gas to keep our homes warm, heat our water or power common appliances on a daily basis.

To answer these questions and ensure customers of the safety and dependability of hydrogen blending, Enbridge completed a compatibility study on appliances in the blended gas distribution area. The study showed that the blended gas will have no adverse effects on appliances.

This is great news, as the home heating market has traditionally been a challenging frontier for low-emission solutions. This pilot helps further demonstrate how hydrogen can bridge the gap between greener power solutions and slow-evolving markets.

Successful implementation of the project will support Enbridge Gas in pursuing additional and larger-scale hydrogen blending activities in other parts of its distribution system, enabling the province to further reduce its carbon footprint in a major way.

“This project serves as an example of hydrogen’s capabilities, whether it’s to store energy or help reduce emissions in residential markets. This is just another example of how Cummins continues to innovate to provide our customers the power solutions they need.”

– Amy Adams, Vice President of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies at Cummins

Thinking bigger picture

The value of hydrogen as a greener source of power reaches far beyond natural gas blending. Hydrogen is also a practical solution for storing renewable energy from intermittent power sources like wind or solar, which don’t have a dependable output thanks to unpredictable weather.

In this process, power-to-gas takes extra electricity from renewable energy sources and converts it into renewable hydrogen through electrolysis (the use of electricity to prompt a chemical reaction) for future use. Like electricity, hydrogen is an energy carrier with many uses.

The progress of the Cummins-Enbridge hydrogen blending pilot project demonstrates just one of the multitude of purposes electrolyzers can serve beyond the transportation and industrial sectors. Thanks to hydrogen, the world’s most common element, we have the opportunity to keep homes warm, heat water and even cook meals while showing our planet some much-needed kindness.

Stay Updated with New Power News

From long-range possibilities to innovations happening now, our New Power Nine newsletter brings you the top nine things you need to know about low-carbon energy each month. Subscribe today to get your first issue in your inbox.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Cummins Milton Keynes chemists celebrate Earth Week

Cummins Milton Keynes chemists celebrate Earth Week

Happy Earth Day! On this planet-friendly day, we are celebrating Cummins electrochemists because this week is also Chemists Celebrate Earth Week. CCEW was created to co-exist with Earth Day and champion the positive role that chemistry plays in our world. Chemists have long promoted a better world through recycling, cleaner-burning fuels and green chemistry initiatives. 

Electrochemistry links chemical reactions and electricity. Understanding how it works and how to improve upon existing technologies is key to improving many aspects of our everyday lives. Without electrochemistry, we wouldn’t have portable devices like mobile phones. Our electrochemistry capabilities are part of Cummins’ secret sauce to advancing our innovations. For New Power, it helps us strategically innovate renewable energy technologies like balancing electricity generation and demand.

The Milton Keynes Electrochemistry Team is part of Corporate R&T’s global team of chemists that are innovating through chemistry. At their lab based at New Power’s site in Milton Keynes, UK, the team works closely with cell suppliers on new innovations in lithium-ion cell technology to develop Cummins’ next generation of batteries. Their goal is to better understand the cell capabilities in terms of energy, power, lifespan and re-charge behavior in order to identify the right cell for the right application.

In honor of Chemists Celebrate Earth Week, members of our Milton Keynes Electrochemistry Team shared more about how they are driving Cummins’ alternative power portfolio forward through chemistry. 

The one thing our chemists wish people knew about electrochemistry.

"The future of travel and energy storage relies on electrochemistry. This will be a combination of lithium ion battery and fuel cell technology, both of which operate on electrochemical principles. Electrochemistry has been around since life began and is critical for life to function. With every physical action and mental thought, there is an electrochemical process taking place." 

- Arun Patel, Milton Keynes Senior Mechanical Engineer

“Electrochemistry is vital in a wide range of industries and is becoming increasingly important in efforts to combat climate change. Because it is the basic science underlying batteries and fuel cells, electrochemistry is a vital foundation for prioritizing carbon-neutral life over the use of fossil fuels. The work we do in the lab allows us to gain a better understanding of the principles of electrochemistry and apply it towards how we create and store renewable energy.”

- Stephanie Morton, Milton Keynes Mechanical Engineer

Why our chemists are excited to come to work every day.

"The quality of our products relies on the electrochemistry data we provide to our stakeholders. Being directly involved in electrochemistry programs that helps Cummins achieve sustainability goals is something I am really proud of." 

- Finn Kumbula, Milton Keynes Laboratory Operations Manager

"Thanks to the power of electrochemistry, we can store lots of electrical energy and use this energy whenever we want without releasing toxic materials or gases into the environment in the process!" 

- Dami Taiwo, Milton Keynes Senior Electrochemistry Engineer

Our chemists are bettering the environment of tomorrow through advancements in zero emissions products today.

"Lithium ion battery chemistry is ever evolving. Cells and batteries are becoming less expensive, have more energy density, are increasing in safety, and can last longer. These advancements help to facilitate the adoption of electrification in the different applications and markets we serve in New Power." 

- John Forgie, Milton Keynes Electrochemistry Manager

"Several key forms of sustainable energy generation and storage are rooted in electrochemistry, including fuel cells and batteries. As the understanding and skill with these systems increase, the number of viable applications increases. New Power is driving the continued adoption and improvement of these technologies for a cleaner and greener tomorrow." 

- Michael Snowden, Milton Keynes Senior Electrochemistry Engineer

Interested in learning more about electrochemistry and how it works? Read Electrochemistry is for Everyone.

Stay Updated with New Power News

From long-range possibilities to innovations happening now, our New Power Nine newsletter brings you the top nine things you need to know about low-carbon energy each month. Subscribe today to get your first issue in your inbox.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Cummins Hydrogen power takes flight

The world’s first hydrogen-powered aircraft, powered by Cummins fuel cells
The world’s first hydrogen-powered aircraft, powered by Cummins fuel cells

For hydrogen power, the sky is no longer the limit — it’s the starting point. With new hydrogen air applications, hydrogen-powered aviation has proven is within reach and Cummins is a part of it.

The world’s first hydrogen-powered aircraft, powered by Cummins fuel cells, was unveiled at the Stuttgart Airport in Germany this past December. Called the DLR-HY4, the four-seat airplane has successfully completed 30 2-hour test flights, offering a promising look at the future of lower-emission aviation.

The HY4 is a major step towards the adoption of environmentally friendly aviation because hydrogen can be sustainably made and stored using fuel cells. It’s the latest development in Cummins’ all-in commitment to creating a greener future powered by the world’s most abundant element. Adding the HY4’s success to the Cummins portfolio further demonstrates the feasibility of using hydrogen in a variety of applications.

Watch: Hy4 - Hydrogen electric fuel cell propulsion - zero emission passenger plane

The HY4 is powered by a Cummins fuel cell engine. The current model has a four-passenger capacity, but experts see the possibility of upscaling the aircraft to 1.5 megawatts, allowing for the transportation of up to 40 passengers for a distance of 2,000 kilometers.

Through the collaboration of world-leading science, industry and regulatory professionals, the project aims to identify the feasibility and interaction of redundant propulsion architecture with hydrogen fuel cells. The system features redundancy on hydrogen storage, the fuel cell system, energy distribution and electric motors.

Of course, great innovations like this don’t happen without teamwork. Cummins is proud to partner with numerous organizations on the H2FLY project, including Ulm University, DLR, H2FLY, Diehl Aerospace, Pipistrel, Politecnica di Milano, TU Delft and University of Maribor.

Emission-free aviation may seem too far beyond the horizon for many, but the DLR-HY4 proves that greener air travel is well within our reach. While it will take time and further innovation for hydrogen power to become widely available for aviation, the HY4’s successful test flights show promise and opportunity for hydrogen power to scale in a major way. And when that happens, Cummins will be there to power it as it takes flight.

Stay Updated with New Power News

From long-range possibilities to innovations happening now, our New Power Nine newsletter brings you the top nine things you need to know about low-carbon energy each month. Subscribe today to get your first issue in your inbox.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Redirecting to
cummins.com

The information you are looking for is on
cummins.com

We are launching that site for you now.

Thank you.