Los Angeles city council members unanimously voted Feb. 8 to to convert the city’s largest gas-fired power plant to green hydrogen.

The 12-0 vote authorizes the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to begin a competitive bidding process for design, engineering, procurement, and construction, testing and commissioning of the Scattergood Generating Station (SGS) Units 1 and 2 Green Hydrogen-Ready Modernization Project.

LADWP has identified the Scattergood project as an important step for the city to meet its goal of being 100 percent carbon-free by 2035.

According to project filings, the utility is proposing to install fuel-flexible combined cycle equipment capable of burning significant amounts of renewable energy-sourced hydrogen to replace the generating capacity currently provided by SGS Units 1 and 2. The 346 MW project would cost an estimated $800 million, with an in-service date of Dec. 30, 2029.

The city’s goal is to eventually burn 100% green hydrogen at Scattergood, and do this at some of its other gas-burning plants as well.

But while hydrogen combustion offers a promising energy storage and conversion pathway, it is not a “drop-in” fuel for much of today’s natural gas fired energy conversion devices. In other words, alterations are needed in the fuel handling systems, valves and piping and combustor hardware.

Jason Rondou, LADWP director of resource planning, told The Los Angeles Times that Scattergood should be able to burn at least 30% green hydrogen on day one. That’s the same percentage the utility is targeting at the Intermountain Power Plant in Utah.

The Scattergood project has faced a fair amount of opposition and skepticism. A coalition of 21
climate, water, and social justice organizations urged the L.A. City Council to vote no on the project in a letter from Feb. 7.

The organizations cited concerns over the carbon impact of blending hydrogen with gas, potential cost overruns and the challenge of scaling storage and transportation infrastructure for the project.

Scattergood Generating Station is located adjacent to the Pacific Ocean in Playa Del Rey and primarily serves the Westside of Los Angeles. The existing three units at the plant are conventional steam turbine generators that burn natural gas in boiler units to produce steam and have a total gross capacity of 830 MW. Units 1 and 2 were built in the 1950s. Unit 3 began operation in 1974 and has the largest output of 460 MW.

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