Energy: ENEA successfully tests methane-hydrogen mixture in microturbine to generate electricity


AGATUR is the experimental plant in which ENEA researchers have successfully tested a gas microturbine to generate electricity, powered with a methane and hydrogen mix to simulate the effect of injecting green hydrogen into the gas network in a content variable over time. The outcomes of the tests performed at the ENEA Casaccia Research Center (Rome) - where the Italian hydrogen valley is being built – were given on the occasion of the UN World Day of Creativity and Innovation.

"These results put ENEA at the forefront of the research and development of technologies for energy generation and storage based on green hydrogen, an energy vector that could be key to the decarbonisation of the Italian energy system", pointed out Giorgio Graditi, Director of the ENEA Department of Energy Technologies and Renewable Sources. "Green hydrogen, in fact, could serve as  a storage system for the electricity surplus produced from non-programmable renewable sources," said Graditi.

"The aim of the test was to demonstrate the operativity of the Turbec T100 gas microturbine with 100kW, in a fuel-flexibility regime, i.e. powered with a natural gas and hydrogen mix of variable composition over time", explained Giuseppe Messina of the ENEA Engineering of Processes and Systems for Energy Decarbonisation Laboratory, who coordinated the tests. “This regime simulates the variability of the hydrogen content in the network gas associated with the combined fluctuations of green hydrogen production via electrolysis and daily electricity demand,” said Messina.

In accordance with the objectives set in the Three-Year Research Plan 2019-2021 of the Research of the Electric System, the tests provided for the introduction of hydrogen up to 11% by volume, a milestone largely exceeded, up to the stable operation of the gas microturbine with a mixture of 45% hydrogen. The tests were conducted in collaboration with Air Liquide - a French multinational with over 50 years of experience in the hydrogen sector - which designed, built and installed the decompression and control system used to power the turbine.

The ENEA researchers have equipped the AGATUR (Advanced GAs TUrbine Rising) plant with a hydrogen storage system and a supply system that powers the gas microturbine with hydrogen flow rates that vary over time. Furthermore, the temporal variation of the hydrogen content is programmable so as to induce on the gas microturbine thermomechanical stress, combustion instability and emission load (first of all, nitrogen oxides) associated with operation in fuel –flexible mode, i.e. gas-hydrogen. “These conditions are frontier issues in the technological development of gas turbines fuelled with hydrogen levels ranging between zero and 100% in the context of the energy transition.

The sectors that could reduce their impact on the environment are various, including electricity generation and support services for the stabilization of the electricity grid, naval transport and gas pipeline compression stations ", pointed out Eugenio Giacomazzi, head of the ENEA Laboratory “ Engineering of Processes and Systems for Energy Decarbonisation”.

"Thanks to these results and an industrial supply chain ready to take up the challenge, Italy could strategically position itself in all the reference sectors of the hydrogen value chain, from production to logistics, from transport to end uses in the sectors of industry mobility and residential buildings. The commitment envisaged by the PNRR with a 3.6 billion euro investments is further evidence of the path taken to encourage the creation of a national hydrogen economy ", concluded Graditi.

ENEA plant "AGATUR" for green hydrogen technology research

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