Blending hydrogen with natural gas could help fuel energy transition, as could new ‘wonder material’

Fuelling the energy transition in the Edmonton region begins at the U of A.

EDMONTON — Burning a blend of hydrogen and natural gas to heat our homes could save as much as five per cent on carbon emissions without changing existing infrastructure, says a U of A expert in hydrogen energy.

The blended fuel, called hythane, could also be a major step forward in the transition to clean energy, says Amit Kumar, a University of Alberta engineering professor who advised the provincial government on developing its Hydrogen Roadmap.

“You can transport it in current pipelines, you can use it in your appliances and you can use it for heating purposes with current equipment,” he says.

He adds, this transition could be accomplished without any modifications, provided the amount of hydrogen in the blended fuel doesn’t exceed between 15 and 20 per cent. Currently, Kumar says there is a huge capacity to transport more hythane.

“You don't need a major investment,” he says. “You can use the existing infrastructure and slowly replace it to take on a higher percentage of hydrogen. It gives you time in a slow transition.”

Kumar, one of the architects of Alberta's Hydrogen Roadmap, a key part of the province’s economic recovery plan, identifies key markets such as residential and commercial heating, transportation, power generation and storage and chemical processing. In addition to clean fuel, hydrogen is also used to produce fertilizer, ammonia and other chemicals.

New ‘wonder material’ contains ability to cleave hydrogen from water 

Not since the late 1950s when silicon began revolutionizing the electronics world around us has a material promised to upend not only the electronics industry but the energy sector.

“Silicon was considered the wonder material in the 1950s because of all the things that it could do,” said Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Karthik Shankar.  “I genuinely believe that carbon nitride is the new wonder material.”

This cheap-to-produce organic material and all of the 15 versions created in Shankar’s lab has the ability to split water into oxygen and the clean burning fuel of the future, hydrogen.

“As far as hydrogen generation is concerned, I can see in five to seven years, carbon nitride-based materials become competitive with other ways of generating hydrogen.

To speak with Amit Kumar or Karthik Shankar about their research, please contact:

Michael Brown
U of A media strategist | 780-977-1411