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Cutting Carbon: Uniper, GE Look At Hydrogen To Lower Carbon Emissions

Tomas Kellner
March 31, 2022

Uniper, one of the world’s largest energy producers, announced in 2020 it planned to become carbon neutral by 2035. The company has already cooperated with GE Gas Power to improve the efficiency of its Enfield power plant, north of London. Now the two companies will be working together to help lower carbon emissions at Uniper’s newest combined-cycle power plant in the U.K.

“Investigating lower-carbon options for gas turbines could help the power generation industry reduce its carbon emissions over the next decade, and blending hydrogen with natural gas to lower carbon emissions is one of the options we’re exploring,” said Ian Rogers, who runs Uniper’s Asset Improvement and Making Net Zero Possible project. He added that “this project marks a tangible step toward the decarbonization of our gas assets.”

Combined-cycle power plants have already baked in higher energy-efficiency rates — because they use the waste heat generated by a gas turbine to make steam and produce more power in combination with a steam turbine. Uniper and GE now want to reduce such plants’ carbon emissions by blending natural gas with hydrogen fuel that does not contain any carbon.

The work will take place at the 1,365-megawatt Grain power plant in Kent, England. “The assessment will provide us with the scope of the upgrade needed to support operation of up to 40% hydrogen by volume, while maintaining both plant economics and reliability,” Rogers says.

The two companies will seek to identify equipment modifications necessary for the existing GE gas turbines to accommodate fuel blends with higher volumes of hydrogen. The work will include multiple engineering and consulting teams located at GE sites around the world.

“GE is continuing to help advance our gas power technologies towards near zero-carbon power generation, and part of this evolution involves the modernization of existing combined-cycle power plants through the increasing use of more emissions-friendly hydrogen in GE gas turbines,” said Martin O’Neill, vice president for strategy at GE Gas Power. “Our collaboration with Uniper in support of their efforts in achieving carbon neutrality across their European generation will also bring us closer to the U.K.’s net-zero target and help us support the energy transition.”

GE has been looking at hydrogen as a gas turbine fuel for decades. More than 100 GE gas turbines have already accumulated greater than 8 million operating hours burning hydrogen and have produced some 530 terawatt-hours of electricity. (GE Reports covered some recent examples here.)

Top image: the Grain power plant. Image credit: Uniper.