Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) has joined the Hydrogen Council.

The announcement was made during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco where SoCalGas representatives participated in the Hydrogen Council’s annual CEO event.

The prime focus of the meeting was discussion and planning geared towards delivering on the Council’s vision of utilising hydrogen (H2) to avert six gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 emissions, create a $2.5 trillion market and provide employment for more than 30 million people worldwide by mid-century.

“SoCalGas has long been a leader in developing clean energy technology solutions,” said Bret Lane, President and Chief Operating Officer for SoCalGas. “We are pleased to join the Hydrogen Council and look forward to working with global leaders in H2 to facilitate its broader adoption as an important component of California’s low-carbon future.”

Over the last three years, SoCalGas has commissioned numerous H2-related research and development projects. One of the company’s first H2 projects was a partnership with the University of California, Irvine on power-to-gas (P2G) technology.

P2G converts renewable electricity from solar or wind which would otherwise go to waste into H2. This renewable H2 can then be blended with natural gas for use in everything from home appliances to power plants.

Additionally, this H2 could also be used in fuel cell vehicles or converted to methane for use in a natural gas pipeline and storage system. H2 from the P2G projects helps fuel the UC Irvine campus power plant.

“Our research at UCI is showing that H2 energy storage and use throughout society will be critical for enabling the zero emissions economy that we envision,” said Jack Brouwer, Associate Director of the Advanced Power and Energy Program of UCI.

“Without renewable H2 production there is no economic and technically viable means to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions and zero criteria pollutant emissions in all sectors of the economy.”

“SoCalGas has been a key sponsor and collaborator with us to advance renewable and zero emission fuels and conversion technologies. We are very pleased to learn that SoCalGas will become a member of the Hydrogen Council.”

Last year, SoCalGas began a P2G collaboration with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This project is examining the potential of P2G technology to store large quantities of renewable energy for an entire year and how it compares in performance and cost to battery storage.

The US company is involved in other H2 research and development projects outside of P2G technology. One such project looks to advance a new process that converts natural gas to H2, carbon fibre and carbon nanotubes. The ultimate goal of this project is to offset the expense of H2 production with the sales of the carbon fibre and carbon nanotubes. This will help reduce the H2 production cost and make H2 more competitive with conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Another exciting project is the solar thermochemical advanced reactor system (STARS), which produces H2 through a thermochemical process where the sun provides thermal energy to break down natural gas and water into H2 and CO2 in a process called steam methane reforming.

Results from extensive testing show STARS can be configured to produce H2 and other chemicals without any carbon emissions reaching the atmosphere. These chemicals “trap” and use the carbon that would otherwise be emitted. The carbon then can be used to make chemicals that become resins and plastic materials.

SoCalGas supports efforts to increase H2 production, particularly for use along California’s Hydrogen Fuel Station Network, a series of H2-fuelling stations throughout the state. Currently there are 35 H2 fuelling stations in the state, with another 29 stations in development. Increasing this fuelling infrastructure could help speed the deployment of zero emission H2 fuel cell vehicles which play a significant role in reducing California’s greenhouse gas and smog emissions, according to the California Air Resources Board.

In addition to joining the Hydrogen Council, SoCalGas is also collaborating with Canadian and French utilities. The goal of this international collaboration is to advance research and development of renewable natural gas and technologies such as power-to-gas.