Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) will pilot hydrogen drones to monitor its gas distribution network.
The “largest gas utility in the United States” and a retailer of approximately 22 million customers will implement the pilot in partnership with energy technology company GTI and Doosan Mobility Innovation.
SoCalGas will test Doosan Mobility Innovation’s DS30 hydrogen drone system, which the company says provides up to 120 minutes of flight time. This is the flight time required to monitor up to 1 mile of pipeline
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The power pack cap powers the drone for up to 2 hours and its density is about 4 to 5 times that of lithium-ion batteries, according to a statement.
Fuel cells have a lifespan of over 1000 hours.
In addition to reducing the utility’s carbon footprint, drones will enable real-time network monitoring that can help optimize management and maintenance.
The drone supply will provide SoCalGas with close-up digital photographs of distribution lines, images for aerial mapping and three-dimensional topographic models for a better understanding of the terrain surrounding utility operations.
In addition, the drone system can provide video recording of pipeline routes, construction sites, open trenches and working conditions.
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Neil Navin, Vice President of Clean Energy Innovations at SoCalGas, said: “This hydrogen drone provides the ability to more effectively monitor our pipelines in hard-to-reach areas, allowing us to collect more data for quickly resolve potential pipeline integrity issues.
“This project is an excellent demonstration of the versatility of hydrogen and its wide range of applications as the clean fuel of the future. Adopting advanced hydrogen drone surveillance technology to maintain the integrity of our pipeline system is part of our mission to build America’s cleanest, safest, and most innovative energy company.
SoCalGas has set itself the goal of achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
The pilot is part of a US Department of Energy program that aims to showcase various applications of hydrogen for cost-effective decarbonization.