Injecting Hydrogen into Existing Gas Pipelines Could Solve Renewable Energy’s Biggest Problem

A team from the University of California (UCI) has been working on a project that involves the creation of a hydrogen-based technology that has the potential to stabilize renewable energy generation. This is one of the biggest problems when it comes to renewable energy. Being able to stabilize supply and demand is almost impossible when it fluctuates so much. People still need electricity when it’s raining, but not so much when the sun is beaming, so how do we fill that gap?


One answer lies in some form of energy storage system, but most are hard to implement or very costly. However, the team at UCI has just launched a project that involves storing hydrogen to try and combat this issue. It uses electrolysis to separate water into both oxygen and hydrogen. While the hydrogen is stored, the oxygen is released into the atmosphere or gathered to be used for another purpose. Once the hydrogen has been separated, it’s compressed and injected into natural gas pipelines and then burned to generate heat or electricity.

Jack Brouwer, UCI associate professor of mechanical & aerospace engineering and civil & environmental engineering, explains the workings of an electrolyzer, a key component of the power-to-gas system. The device uses renewable electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere, and the hydrogen is injected into the natural gas supply line for UCI’s power plant. Steve Zylius / UCI
Jack Brouwer, UCI associate professor of mechanical & aerospace engineering and civil & environmental engineering, explains the workings of an electrolyzer, a key component of the power-to-gas system. The device uses renewable electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere, and the hydrogen is injected into the natural gas supply line for UCI’s power plant. Steve Zylius / UCI

There are many advantages to using this type of system. One being that it uses the existing pipelines, so no new construction work is required. It can also be scaled to size to meet the changing demand. But, there is a big downside too, and that is that it takes years of evaluating and testing of the pipelines to ensure they are safe enough to use. But, if more people take note of the project and follow suit then more ideas can be developed, and we can get the results we want, quicker.



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