SoCalGas to partner with SunLine Transit Agency to test combination of technologies to produce hydrogen from RNG
Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) will demonstrate a combination of technologies that will produce hydrogen from renewable natural gas (RNG) at SunLine Transit Agency’s hydrogen fueling station in Thousand Palms, California. The research project, called “H2 SilverSTARS,” will produce renewable hydrogen to fuel SunLine’s fleet of 17 hydrogen fuel cell electric buses and support further expansion.
The combination of new technologies will make it possible to provide renewable hydrogen made from RNG at natural gas fueling stations—or any location near a natural gas pipeline. The goal is to produce emissions-free renewable hydrogen for fuel cell electric cars and other vehicles at a price competitive with gasoline.
The demonstration project will integrate two core technologies. The first, Linde’s HydroPrime HC300 MIN system, will make hydrogen from renewable natural gas the same way large centralized hydrogen production plants do—but with compact equipment small enough to fit in a tractor trailer container. While Linde’s system is already commercially available and being used abroad, its use at SunLine's fueling station will be the first time it is deployed in North America. The SunLine location will be able to produce up to 650 kilograms of hydrogen a day.
The second technology, STARS-165 SMR, built by the start-up STARS Technology Corporation, takes the Linde system a step further. It achieves significantly greater efficiencies in producing hydrogen by using a compact microchannel design and is driven by an electricity-powered induction heating process—meaning there is no combustion—which significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional hydrogen production.
The microchannels in this technology make the chemical reactions far faster and vastly more efficient than traditional steam methane reformation, and it's also far less expensive to produce. And because this technology uses induction heating—which can be powered by renewable electricity—the entire process can be zero emissions when renewable natural gas is used. We look forward to analyzing the results of this important research alongside SoCalGas and SunLine Transit.—Robert Wegeng, President of STARS Technology Corporation
The STARS-165 SMR technology features disk-shaped chemical reactors.
In addition, the system is produced using 3-D printing, making it well suited for mass-production and thus drastically less expensive to make and operate compared to alternatives. Two STARS systems, with a combined production capacity of up to 330 kilograms of hydrogen a day, will be installed for this research project.
The 36-month project will initially demonstrate both core technologies individually and collect performance data to assess the STARS system’s potential to improve its efficiency and cost. The STARS SMR technology will then be integrated with the Linde HydroPrime system with the goal of fast-tracking its commercialization.
These technologies could drastically change the face of hydrogen production in California, creating the opportunity for anyone to fill up their fuel cell electric car, truck or bus with low- or zero-carbon hydrogen anywhere there's a natural gas pipeline. For SoCalGas, this is another step toward meeting our pledge to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in our operations and delivery of energy by 2045.—Neil Navin, SoCalGas vice president of clean energy innovations