Wärtsilä officially exits Russian market

World’s first: Largest commercially operated Wärtsilä engine runs on 25 vol% hydrogen blend

Finnish technology group Wärtsilä and US WEC Energy Group have tested the capabilities of a Wärtsilä engine running on 25 vol% hydrogen-blended fuel, and throughout the testing period, the Wärtsilä engine continued to supply power to the grid.

Archive / Illustration only / Courtesy of Wärtsilä

According to Wärtsilä, it is the largest commercially operated flexible balancing engine ever to run on a hydrogen fuel blend, representing therefore a world-first achievement.

The tests, which were completed in October 2022, were conducted at WEC Energy Group’s 55 MW A.J. Mihm power plant in Michigan, USA, using an unmodified Wärtsilä 50SG engine.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) also participated in the tests and led the assessment of the engine’s performance during the testing.

Wärtsilä pointed out that, in a recently released report, EPRI’s analysis confirmed the feasibility of blending hydrogen with natural gas for use in an existing Wärtsilä engine and the demonstration results also showed that hydrogen can be safely and reliably handled and utilised in engine technology.

During three days of continuous testing, the capability of the engine to co-fire hydrogen blends was demonstrated, showing clear improvements in engine efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, while staying compliant with NOx emissions, the Finnish company said.

It added that a 95% engine load was achieved with the 25 vol% hydrogen blend while a 100% engine load was attainable with a 17 vol% hydrogen blend.

In regard to the results achieved, the EPRI report said that this class of engines can maintain its higher efficiency compared to simple-cycle gas turbines and because engines in general have higher efficiency, its relative CO2 output compared to turbines will also be lower, as was the case in this study, Wärtsilä stated.

Anja Frada, COO of Wärtsilä Energy, said: “These tests provide clear evidence that Wärtsilä’s engine technology can deliver future-proof power solutions that make a huge contribution towards decarbonised operations. The results of the testing with a hydrogen/natural gas blended fuel mix have been outstanding. We continue developing and futureproofing our engines to run on sustainable fuels and expect to have an engine and power plant concept for operating with pure hydrogen available by 2026.”

Neva Espinoza, EPRI Vice President of Energy Supply and Low-Carbon Resources, commented: “EPRI is accelerating the deployment of a full portfolio of clean energy technologies to support a net-zero future. This demonstration project with Wärtsilä and WEC Energy Group is significant in showing the potential of hydrogen blending in natural gas-fired engines. The learnings from this project will be shared with the energy industry to further progress toward deep decarbonisation targets.”

Gale Klappa, Executive Chairman of WEC Energy Group, stated: “We’re very pleased to take a leading role exploring the potential of this technology as we focus on providing customers with affordable, reliable, and clean energy. As we bring more renewable energy online, we must ensure that we can keep the lights on when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. The results of this project are a strong indicator that these dispatchable units can run on very low- and no-carbon fuels.”

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