El Paso Electric looks to hydrogen for future electric power generation


Mitsubishi Power Americas and El Paso Electric agreed to develop projects that offer a combination of renewables, energy storage, and power generation using hydrogen.

Under the agreement, the two will work to help the utility reach an 80% carbon-free resource mix by 2035 and develop a roadmap to achieve a 100% carbon-free energy mix by 2045.

A focus will be to develop a strategy for the utility to use hydrogen to generate energy across its power generation fleet. Part of the plan includes converting El Paso Electric’s Newman Power Station’s newest unit from all natural gas generation to a blend of up to 30% hydrogen, and eventually to all hydrogen.

The two also will work to evaluate regional transportation, commercial, and other industrial sectors to promote future decarbonization and economic growth.

No new gas

In August, El Paso Electric and community and environmental groups reached an agreement on construction of the gas-fired 228 MW, $168 million Newman Unit 6. The groups agreed to withdraw their opposition to the plant. In exchange, the utility agreed to a four-year moratorium — excluding Newman 6 — on building any new natural gas units. The agreement also stated the site will not be used for future fossil fuel construction after Newman 6 is built.

The project faced delays after the Sierra Club and others challenged Texas’ pending approval of El Paso Electric’s air quality permit, citing health and environmental concerns.

Green hydrogen

In September, fossil fuel company Chevron tentatively agreed to acquire an interest in ACES Delta, a joint venture between Mitsubishi Power Americas and Magnum Development that owns the hydrogen-based Advanced Clean Energy Storage project. The Utah project would produce, store, and transport green hydrogen in salt dome caverns at utility scale for power generation, transportation, and industrial applications in the western United States.

ACES Delta concept drawing.

Image: Mitsubishi Power

Under the plan, the 840 MW Intermountain Power Plant would be converted from coal to natural gas and then to green hydrogen to produce electricity. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is leading the power plant conversion.

The natural gas generating units would be supplied by Mitsubishi Power and designed to use 30% hydrogen fuel at start-up, transitioning to 100% hydrogen fuel by 2045 as technology improves.

Salt dome hydrogen storage also is being evaluated at other U.S. locations by a partnership between Mitsubishi Power and Texas Brine.

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