US First –Hydrogen-Powered Generator

Nebraska will be the first large-scale utility operation in the US to produce clean energy using hydrogen.
Published: Fri 01 May 2015

Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), Nebraska’s largest electric utility, is planning to replace a coal-fired boiler at its Sheldon Station plant in Hallam in the state’s southeast with one that uses clean-burning hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen unit will reduce the public power district's use of coal, which currently provides about half of its generation.

The hydrogen will be produced by Monolith Materials as a co-product from its production of carbon black using natural gas as a feedstock. When burned, the hydrogen fuel produces zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Hydrogen fuel to reduce emissions

Monolith Materials will use a safe, patented and environmentally friendly process to manufacture carbon black, a common material found in thousands of products Americans use every day including tyres, rubber and plastics, printing inks, and batteries. Monolith uses natural gas as feedstock in its process instead of oil or coal-tar as in the conventional process. A co-product of its manufacturing process is plentiful hydrogen, which NPPD intends to use to generate electric power.

Through this agreement, NPPD is expected to reduce carbon emissions, as well as other harmful emissions, at Sheldon Station by 1.1 million tonnes per year. The Sheldon Station boiler using hydrogen as a fuel will continue to be capable of generating 125MW of electricity for NPPD’s customers.

Low cost energy through innovation

Not only will the boiler conversion result in a drop in air emissions, it will also help NPPD to produce and deliver affordable, reliable and sustainable energy to Nebraskans. The addition of hydrogen as a fuel source will expand NPPD’s power generation portfolio and will bring its carbon-free energy sources closer to 50%, while reducing air emissions from Unit 2 at Sheldon to close to zero.

Monolith will build its new manufacturing facility adjacent to Sheldon Station so NPPD can easily access the hydrogen. Monolith will power its new manufacturing facility with electricity from Norris Public Power District, headquartered in Beatrice, Nebraska.

Not dependent on federal government grants or loan guarantees, the initiative is relying on innovative technology, affordable electricity and the country’s current vast supply of low cost natural gas for the production of products at market competitive prices. The operation has the potential to support 600 new jobs, 100 directly in the state, and will add around US$400 million to Nebraska’s economy.

The companies expect to break ground on their respective operations in 2016, with an expected completion date of 2019.