Powering Strong Communities

Eugene Water and Electric Board signs MOU to explore hydrogen production

The Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) in Oregon has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore the development of a renewable hydrogen production facility.

Under the MOU, EWEB, along with NW Natural and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, aims to demonstrate that potential to use renewable and low-carbon dioxide emitting generating sources to produce “green” hydrogen that could be used in the region’s heating and transportation sectors.

The plan calls for building an electrolyzer in Eugene that could range from 2 megawatts (MW) up to 10 MW and would be used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. The electrolyzer would be powered by electricity from hydro, wind, solar or other low-carbon sources.

Hydrogen has a variety of industrial uses. Most of the gas is produced through a steam reformation process that uses fossil fuels.

EWEB and its partners also see opportunities for cleanly produced hydrogen to be used in other sectors, such as buses equipped with fuel cells that use hydrogen directly. Most fuels cells currently strip hydrogen from natural gas to power their operation.

Hydrogen also can be blended with natural gas in small amounts -- less than 10% -- for delivery or for use in appliances and equipment.

Hydrogen can also be combined with carbon dioxide to make a form of renewable natural gas through a process called methanation. The gas produced can be stored or delivered along with or in place of conventional natural gas supplies.

With the growth of wind and solar generation, along with existing hydroelectric generation, EWEB says it periodically has an abundance of renewable electricity available that can be used to produce hydrogen that can be stored for months or even years.

“We're very excited to be part of this unique and innovative partnership that looks at energy issues holistically and includes organizations across the energy spectrum with complementary interests,” Frank Lawson, EWB’s general manager, said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Douglas County Public Utility District, with its partners, received a $1.9 million grant from the Centralia Coal Transition Board to fund a demonstration project for the first hydrogen fueling station for fuel cell electric vehicles in Washington state. Douglas County PUD is in the process of obtaining a site for an electrolyzer that it expects to have in operation in about a year.