The technology group Wärtsilä, in collaboration with WEC Energy Group, (WEC), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Burns & McDonnell (B&McD), have been contracted to carry out hydrogen fuel testing at the A.J. Mihm power plant in Michigan, USA.
The project supports WEC’s ambition to reduce the CO2 emissions from its electric generating fleet by 60% by the end of 2025, and by 80% by the end of 2030 from 2005 levels, and to be net carbon neutral by 2050.
This will be one of the first cases where hydrogen is tested for use to reduce the carbon footprint of an existing gas-fueled power plant delivered by Wärtsilä. The 55 MW plant currently operates with three Wärtsilä 50SG engines running on natural gas. The parties will aim to test fuel blends of up to 25 vol.% hydrogen mixed with natural gas, thus demonstrating the capability of the plant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Wärtsilä engines can operate with this level of hydrogen blended with gas with little to no modification needed. Though Wärtsilä engines can be operated on even higher hydrogen-blend levels, these tests will be restricted to the limit of 25 vol% hydrogen for natural gas systems, according to the international equipment standard IEC/EN 60079-20-1.
One engine will be selected for the test programme, during which time it will continue to deliver power to the grid. For defined engine load levels, the hydrogen content within the fuel will be gradually increased to a maximum of 25 vol.%. Measurements of the engine’s performance will be made throughout the testing. Wärtsilä has already successfully carried out engine tests at its testing facilities in Vaasa, Finland and Bermeo, Spain, to assess the optimum engine parameters for operating with hydrogen fuel.
In addition to the A.J. Mihm power plant, Wärtsilä has also supplied WEC Energy Group with seven Wärtsilä 50SG gas engines for the F. D. Kuester power plant in Michigan.
Wärtsilä already has engine generating sets operating successfully on a natural gas and hydrogen blend in a newbuild power plant at an offshore floating testbed in Singapore.
Rodriguez, Director, Engine power plants, Wärtsilä North America, said, “These hydrogen tests reinforce the viability of the internal combustion engine as a future-proof technology that plays a key role in decarbonising the power industry.”