LDC Focus: Spotlight on Enbridge Gas Inc.

Ontario utility embarks on North America’s first utility-scale Power to Gas plant project

By Gas Technology March 30, 2020

With its headquarters in Toronto, Ont., Canada, Enbridge Gas Inc. (EGI), is North America’s largest natural gas storage, transmission and distribution company with more than 170 years of experience in providing safe and reliable service. The utility serves more than 3.7 million customers, and heats more than 75% of the homes in Ontario. EGI’s Dawn Hub is the largest integrated underground storage facility in Canada and one of the largest in North America. Between 1995 and 2017, the utility’s demand side management (DSM) efforts have saved its customers approximately 25 billion cubic meters or about 880 billion cubic feet of natural gas. EGI offers a variety of energy efficiency incentive programs to help industrial customers reduce their energy costs and GHG emissions.

According to Jackie Caille, Manager of Industrial Energy Conservation Sales, “We have a team of highly qualified and experienced Industrial Energy Advisors that support our customers. Each of these employees are trained engineers that work very closely with industrial, institutional and greenhouse customers helping them identify and implement energy efficiency and productivity improvements at their facilities. Customer’s value the technical support and expertise that our engineers are able to provide to enhance their business.”

Power-to-Gas in Ontario

Power-to-Gas (PtG) is a technology that uses electrolysis to separate water into its primary parts – hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can be used as fuel or industrial feedstock for a variety of products such as methanol, ammonia and fertilizer. It can also be injected directly into the natural gas grid or turned back into electricity by using a hydrogen fuel cell.

EGI’s Training and Operations Centre in Markham, Ont., Canada is home to a PtG energy storage facility, which went into service in May 2018. The plant is a joint venture between EGI and Hydrogenics, a manufacturer of electrolysis-based hydrogen generators. Dubbed North America’s first utility-scale PtG plant, the facility can store 8 MWh of renewable hydrogen onsite.

There was a two-part approach to the PtG project, according to Sam McDermott, Technical Manager Renewable Hydrogen at EGI. Part A was to demonstrate the plant’s ability to convert electrical energy to hydrogen gas, and then back to electricity while providing frequency regulation to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), Ontario’s electricity system operator. Part B was to accomplish Part A and then demonstrate the ability to blend/store hydrogen in the natural gas distribution system, lowering its GHG profile and creating an intertie with the electrical grid.

PtG plant capabilities

PtG is the process of taking (low-carbon, clean) electrical energy, and through the electrolysis of water, converting that energy into hydrogen and oxygen gases. The hydrogen is used as an energy carrier, and the oxygen is currently released into the atmosphere.

The Markham PtG plant provides grid stability, frequency regulation service to the IESO, which operates the power system in real time, oversees Ontario’s electricity market, promotes energy efficiency and plans for Ontario’s future energy needs. The plant was constructed at 2.5 MW peak output and can expand to 5 MW in the same footprint.

Since the Ontario electricity grid is greater than 92% green, the PtG plant produces nearly 100% greenhouse gas (GHG) free electrolytic hydrogen. Maximum hydrogen production from the plant is 1,000 kg/day or 500 m3/hr. Hydrogen from the plant is 99.99% pure and can be produced at 99.9999% purity to meet the stringent automotive standard. The electrical energy now in the form of hydrogen can be blended/stored in the natural gas grid or used in its pure form for industrial purposes.

PtG benefits

PtG benefits include:

  • An efficient intertie of the electrical grid with the natural gas grid
  • Ancillary services: fast response frequency regulation
  • The gas distribution network has the potential to provide large-scale energy storage
  • Flexible technology, very low GHG profile, utilization of existing infrastructure.

PtG and hydrogen use

  • Ancillary services: controllable variable load; rapid response frequency regulation
  • Enabler of dispatchable power (e.g., wind, solar)
  • Greening the gas grid and lowering GHG emissions
  • Fuel for zero emission vehicles (FCEVs, buses, trains)
  • Conversion of hydrogen back to electricity
  • GHG-free heating
  • Feedstock for industrial applications such as methanol and ammonia.

– This article appeared in the Gas Technology supplement.