The power generation industry has a major role to play in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon dioxide (CO2) in particular. There are two ways to reduce CO2 emissions from power generation: improved conversion efficiency of fuel into electrical energy, and switching to lower carbon content fuels.
Gas turbine generator sets, whether in open cycle, combined cycle or cogeneration configuration, offer some of the highest efficiencies possible across a wide range of power outputs. With natural gas, the fossil fuel with the lowest carbon content, as the primary fuel, they produce among the lowest CO2 emissions per kWh generated. It is possible though to decarbonize power generation further by using the fuel flexibility of the gas turbine to fully or partially displace natural gas used with hydrogen. As hydrogen is a zero carbon fuel, it offers the opportunity for gas turbines to produce zero carbon electricity. As an energy carrier, hydrogen is an ideal candidate for long-term or seasonal storage of renewable energy, while the gas turbine is an enabler for a zero carbon power generation economy.
Hydrogen, while the most abundant element in the Universe, does not exist in its elemental state in nature, and producing hydrogen is an energy-intensive process. This paper looks at the different methods by which hydrogen can be produced, the impact on CO2 emissions from power generation by using pure hydrogen or hydrogen/natural gas blends, and how the economics of power generation using hydrogen compare with today’s state of the art technologies and carbon capture. This paper also addresses the issues surrounding the combustion of hydrogen in gas turbines, historical experience of gas turbines operating on high hydrogen fuels, and examines future developments to optimize combustion emissions.