Snam (Milan, Italy) and Baker Hughes (Houston) successfully completed a series of tests aimed at experimenting with the use of hydrogen as a fuel to power gas turbines, at one of its natural gas compression stations in Istrana, Italy. The experiment, which was the first of its kind globally and carried out in collaboration with Baker Hughes, an energy technology company, demonstrated the compatibility of the various assets with the use of a blend of hydrogen (at 10%) and natural gas.
The Istrana plant is one of 13 compression stations along Italy’s gas transportation network, with the function of boosting gas to help it travel through pipelines towards the various consumption points across the country. This is the first Italian compression station in which a “hydrogen-ready” turbine, the NovaLT12, designed and built by Baker Hughes in its Italian plants, has been installed. The tests also involved another Baker Hughes turbine which was already in operation in the plant, the PGT25, designed for operation with natural gas, which was tested for the first time using a blend of natural gas and hydrogen (at 10%). Between boosting and storage stations, Snam has 39 PGT25 turbines installed, out of a total of 73 machines, which account for about 70% of its total power capacity (1,325 MW).
The introduction of hydrogen in increasing quantities in the current fleet (from the 10% blend tested up to volumes between 15% and 20%) will allow for a greater reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the use of natural gas alone. Based on the operating data for 2021, a permanent use of 10% of hydrogen in all the Snam group’s PGT25 turbines would make it possible to avoid almost 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, further reducing the already limited impact of natural gas supply.
Snam plans to continue its collaboration with turbine suppliers with the aim of extending hydrogen compatibility tests to its entire turbocompressor fleet. The investigations in progress are aimed at verifying, “in-the-field,” both the reaction of the various components from a metallurgical point of view, and the required maintenance and efficiency of the turbines in the presence of hydrogen, as well as compliance with stringent safety and environmental impact requirements. In the future, these tests could lead to the development of a consistent standard for the design of all future compression units used by Snam.
The tests were carried out by Snam together with Baker Hughes, the company’s partner in both the supply of the new NovaLT12 turbine and the field test activities. The latter also involved Saipem and Max Streicher, as technology partners, and Siad, which supplied the hydrogen.
The goal of the initiative is to continue testing existing gas infrastructure for compatibility with the use of hydrogen, making it ready to transport this molecule, that will play a key role in the energy transition process.
In 2019, Snam was the first in Europe to experiment the injection of hydrogen into a section of its high-pressure gas transport network, first at 5% and subsequently at 10%. In 2020, tests of the NovaLT12 turbine with hydrogen up to 10% blended with natural gas were carried out at the Baker Hughes plant in Florence, Italy. This is the first family of Baker Hughes high-performance “Hydrogen ready” turbines, capable of burning natural gas and hydrogen blends, from 5% up to 100% hydrogen. Snam is also conducting studies on the compatibility of its storage sites with hydrogen, with the goal to complete the assessment of its entire infrastructure.