Engineers demonstrating the university's electrolyzer

Research Engineers Rick Hurt (left) and Aaron Sahm (right) discuss and demonstrate the College's electrolyzer which creates green hydrogen. 

Eric DeBonis, Sr Vice President Operations Southwest Gas

Eric DeBonis, Sr Vice President Operations Southwest Gas

Apr. 20, 2022

Southwest Gas and UNLV’s College of Engineering recently teamed up to study how hydrogen-blended natural gas can further reduce carbon emissions while still providing clean and reliable energy. The partnership is a proof of concept that enables Southwest Gas to use the university’s electrolyzer, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules with an electric current, to test the production, blending, distribution, and end-use of the hydrogen blend.

Electrolysis creates green hydrogen, which can be blended with natural gas at various levels for the study – 5%, 10% and 20% – and then injected into the existing natural gas infrastructure at a Southwest Gas Emergency Response Training Facility (EMRF). The hydrogen-blended gas will be tested on natural gas appliances as well as monitored for leak detection to determine any differences needed in procedures to ensure the continued safety of the local communities.

Earlier this month College research engineers Rick Hurt and Aaron Sahm conducted a demonstration of the electrolyzer on the campus of UNLV at its solar site. 

When complete, the study will help determine:

  • The optimal, safest and most environmentally effective hydrogen/natural gas blend percentage
  • Safety aspects of hydrogen-blending
  • The physical impacts of hydrogen on the natural gas distribution system and common natural gas appliances
  • The effects of hydrogen/natural gas blending on heating times and temperatures in comparison to existing heating times of natural gas  
  • The economics of hydrogen

This was the first phase of the study. The results of this phase will help determine the scope and duration of subsequent phases.