The tests were carried out in October 2022 at one of the US company’s power plants in Michigan, USA with an unmodified Wärtsilä 50SG engine and a 25 vol% H2 blend. The engine continued to supply power to the grid throughout the three days of testing.
The successful tests are a world-first achievement since this is the largest commercially operated flexible balancing engine to run on a hydrogen-blended fuel, Wärtsilä said in a statement.
The performance was assessed by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), which confirmed the feasibility of blending hydrogen (H2) with natural gas for use in an existing Wärtsilä engine.
During the testing, the engine showed both improvements in efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while staying compliant with NOx emissions.
“The results of the testing with a hydrogen/natural gas blended fuel mix have been outstanding. We continue developing and futureproofing our engines to run on sustainable fuels and expect to have an engine and power plant concept for operating with pure hydrogen available by 2026,” Anja Frada, COO of the Wärtsilä Energy unit, said in a comment.
With the 25 vol% H2 blend the companies were able to achieve a 95% engine load, while with a 17 vol% H2 blend a 100% engine load was shown to be possible, according to the test results.
“The learnings from this project will be shared with the energy industry to further progress toward deep decarbonization targets,” Neva Espinoza, Vice President of Energy Supply and Low-Carbon Resources at EPRI, said.
When burned as a fuel, hydrogen does not produce any carbon species, including CO2, which makes it essential for attaining net zero emissions, along with other sustainable fuels. Hydrogen is expected to account for 20% of the total reduction of CO2 that needs to be achieved by 2050.
Since the world’s energy industry is not yet ready to use pure hydrogen as a secure power source, investments to adapt existing engines to sustainable fuels will play a crucial role in supporting the transition to net-zero, Wärtsilä said.