The University of Pittsburgh and Peoples Gas, an Essential Utilities company, are teaming up to explore the use of hydrogen as a future energy source. Together, the organizations announced today they will enter a research partnership to study the potential of safely and securely transporting hydrogen through its natural gas systems.
Initially engineers at Peoples and Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering will conduct bench-marking and research of existing information and data related to the distribution of hydrogen, focusing on technical issues involved with using natural gas pipelines to transport hydrogen or a blend of hydrogen and natural gas. Following this initial research phase, the organizations expect to work together on a pilot project to test the impacts of hydrogen on Peoples’ natural gas distribution infrastructure.
“Peoples has a long history of innovation and we’re excited to partner with experts from the University of Pittsburgh to stay on the leading edge of energy industry development,” said Mike Huwar, president of Peoples. “Hydrogen has the potential to transform the way we heat our homes and power our businesses, using the existing natural gas distribution system. Pitt and the Swanson School have the expertise we need to test and study its feasibility as a transformative energy resource.”
Western Pennsylvania is in the heart of the Appalachian Basin, which has abundant natural gas reserves that the energy industry could leverage to become a leader in the development and commercialization of hydrogen. Hydrogen’s unique physical and chemical characteristics require answers to technical questions, such as its effects on pipeline materials, to determine whether natural gas utilities can safely and effectively transport it through existing infrastructure.
Hydrogen can serve as a non-carbon source of energy when used in combustion appliances or fuel cells that produce clean electricity. Its potential use as a supplement to natural gas could have an important role in future energy transition strategies in our region to significantly reduce emissions.
Brian Gleeson, the Harry S. Tack Professor and Chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS), and Dr. Doug Konitzer, adjunct professor in the department, will lead the project. Both are metallurgists with expertise in materials science and engineering.
“This is an outstanding partnership of capabilities. Although much progress has been made over the past decades, further research and testing are needed for the safe and affordable implementation of carbon-neutral hydrogen technologies,” Gleeson said. “We are very excited to work the technical personnel at Peoples Gas on this highly relevant project.”
“This is another example of how our Swanson School faculty are building relationships with utilities, government, and industry to develop groundbreaking research in energy production, transmission, and distribution,” noted Sanjeev Shroff, Interim U.S. Steel Dean, Distinguished Professor of and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair in Bioengineering, and Professor of Medicine. “The potential for hydrogen transport in established infrastructure is transformative with national implications. I am very much looking forward to seeing the results of this partnership between our faculty and Peoples.”
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