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A pilot study of blue hydrogen produced from NW Natural's grid gas using pyrolysis will begin early 2023.

By Callum Cyrus

Modern Electron has signed a partnership deal with Oregon-based gas utility NW Natural to try out blue hydrogen production that can be blended into existing distribution pipelines, NW Natural said July 27.

Clean hydrogen would be produced using a technology known as concurrent combustion methane pyrolysis, which uses natural gas and air as inputs. It does not require electricity, water or any consumable catalyst.

Pyrolysis is garnering more attention in the industry as a way of extracting clean hydrogen from natural gas without discharging CO2. The technique produces solid carbon rather than gaseous CO2, that can be sold as a valuable commodity rather than having to be captured and stored underground.

NW Natural claims to have one of the "most modern" pipeline installations in the US. The grid serves gas to customers around Oregon and in parts of southwest Washington, reaching around 2.5mn people in total.

"This technology could provide an incredibly elegant and flexible way of producing clean hydrogen - and potentially at a very low cost whenever and wherever we need it on our system to help decarbonise," said NW Natural's vice president of operations Kim Heiting.

Clean pyrolysis-derived hydrogen could be used at NW's gas utility installations from as soon as early 2023. For now Modern Electron says this is just a pilot study, but it could be the first of many partnerships with gas utilities for the Seattle-based sustainable energy tech company.

Mothusi Pahl, vice president of business development and government affairs at Modern Electron, said: "The fastest and most economical way to reduce COemissions at a national scale is to effectively leverage existing infrastructure.

"By decarbonizing natural gas at the point of use, our Modern Hydrogen products help businesses reduce their carbon footprints without the cost and complexity of changing their processes. We are all about decarbonization. And we are excited about our partnership with NW Natural.”