A House subcommittee on Thursday considered potential research and development directives for the U.S. Department of Energy in the areas of grid security and reliability, hydrogen and pipelines.
The need for the direction is “urgent,” according to Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the Space, Science, and Technology Committee.
“Congress has never fully authorized DOE’s cross-cutting pipeline R&D activities and has not provided a comprehensive reauthorization of DOE’s grid security or hydrogen R&D activities in over 15 years,” Lucas said in a statement for an Energy Subcommittee hearing on three draft bills covering the issues.
A draft bill on grid security would update and reauthorize DOE’s grid security research, development, demonstration and commercial application activities, including an energy sector security program and a grid resilience and emergency response program, according to a subcommittee memo.
The draft hydrogen bill includes R&D activities in clean hydrogen production, transportation, storage and usage; an Office of Science hydrogen innovation center; and clean hydrogen demonstration projects.
The draft pipeline legislation requires the creation of a national pipeline modernization center.
During the hearing, Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., said the “sex appeal” of hydrogen is its potential use in the electric sector, but that it likely has little potential for energy storage compared with other options.
Creating hydrogen from water, compressing or liquefying it to store it and then using it to make electricity has a roughly 35% round-trip efficiency level compared with around 80% for a battery, according to Casten.
“I don't see how that math works, unless there's a compelling reason why it is cheaper to store and transmit hydrogen than it is to store and transmit electricity,” he said. “If we don't have a good answer to the storage question, we're just throwing a lot of dollars at something that doesn't pencil.”
In some cases, such as when large amounts of energy are being stored, hydrogen storage may make economic sense, according to Richard Boardman, directorate fellow at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.
Also, hydrogen could be stored with other substances, such as ammonia, methanol and synthetic natural gas, which would likely make hydrogen storage much easier, Boardman told the subcommittee.
Electrolyzers, used to create hydrogen, can help regulate the grid’s frequency, which would improve the power system’s resilience, he said.
Two lawmakers asked the subcommittee’s panelists about hydrogen’s climate warming effects and how it produces high nitrogen oxide levels when blended with natural gas and burned in power plants.
The hydrogen’s short-term global warming potential should be accounted when making lifecycle emissions calculations, according to Arvind Ravikumar, co-director of the Energy Emissions Modeling and Data Lab at the University of Texas at Austin.
“The more important question in this area is figuring out how hydrogen will leak from natural gas infrastructure if you're blending hydrogen in natural gas pipelines,” Ravikumar said. “How much does it leak and what can we do in terms of materials, research and sensor development to reduce leakage?”
Hydrogen burns at a higher temperature than gas, which results in pollutants such as NOx, according to Ravikumar.
“We have to make sure that technologies that we develop that use hydrogen do not increase pollution emissions compared to current technologies,” he said.