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Significant progress toward hydrogen-compatible microturbines

| By Mary Bailey

Capstone Turbine Corporation (Van Nuys, Calif.) announced that through a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, it has achieved significant progress in the development of a hydrogen-operable microturbine product.

Development testing performed at Argonne demonstrates that a blend of up to 70% hydrogen to natural gas can be successfully operated in an off-the-shelf Capstone microturbine, before the addition of specialized hardware or software. The next stage in the testing will be to replace injectors with Capstone’s patented hydrogen compatible design, which is intended to ensure combustion stability and flashback margin. The testing will proceed to higher hydrogen levels until the program’s goal of 100% is reached.

“The initial goal of the testing is to establish the capabilities of our current off-the-shelf production systems,” commented Don Ayers, Capstone Turbine’s Senior Director for Engineering and Quality. “There is a broad global initiative to decarbonize electricity generation through renewable natural gas or RNG by blending natural gas and hydrogen in existing pipelines. The Argonne Lab tests are showing that we have a significant margin in our standard product because of our robust designs and existing design margin. Our microturbines, unmodified, can handle any of the blends currently being discussed for pipeline injection around the world,” added Mr. Ayers.

“The recent experiments at Argonne demonstrated the resiliency of existing Capstone power generators to bridge the gap between grey-hydrogen and green-hydrogen use,” said Muni Biruduganti, Principal Research Engineer at Argonne National Lab.

Hydrogen technology is advancing to the forefront of not just carbon neutrality, but a completely carbon-free society. Microturbines are uniquely positioned as a distributed energy source to be located at the source of hydrogen generation. The technology can be deployed immediately, without the need to wait for extensive infrastructure modernization and hydrogen specific upgrades. This unique advantage means customers will be able to operate carbon-free sooner, while also providing a flexible, resilient energy source that provides both power and thermal energy all day, every day of the year. This can be particularly advantageous in highly efficient combined heat and power systems (CHP) as a part of a microgrid, with excess renewable generation used to produce green hydrogen through electrolysis.

“As a thought-leader in the energy sector, Capstone recognized years ago that hydrogen would play an important role as a key part of the future of renewable, green energy landscape,” said Darren Jamison, Capstone’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Microturbines are a proven technology on alternative fuels like biogas and butane. Renewable Natural Gas showcases how Capstone’s innovative and adaptable microturbine technology can continue to grow into new segments of the expanding green energy economy. Hydrogen microturbines are the perfect complement for the intermittent nature of wind and solar power, making them an ideal component of the modern, clean and green microgrid,” concluded Mr. Jamison.