A “never ending pasta bowl’’ is shown in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Yvette Fernandez/Bloomberg) 

Your Next Plate of Pasta Could Be Hydrogen-Powered

(Bloomberg) -- It’s not like Mama used to make. Your next plate of fusilli might have an extra twist: it could be produced using hydrogen, as part of an experiment by Italy’s gas network operator Snam SpA to promote a shift toward greener energy sources.

This week, the Milan-based company started pumping a 5 percent hydrogen blend into the pipeline that fuels a pasta maker and a mineral water bottler near Salerno in southern Italy, the first step in a plan to promote the use of clean gas to cut industrial emissions.

It will be Europe’s first commercial test of a hydrogen-methane blend in a high-pressure network. The facilities previously ran entirely on traditional natural gas.

“Hydrogen and bio-methane will have a key role in the decarbonization of Europe to 2050,” Chief Executive Officer Marco Alvera said in an interview. Pipeline operators like Snam “have capabilities to support the development of this market. We’re still in the early stages of hydrogen development, but it will become a core element of our strategy.”

Snam’s move into clean energy for food production is part of a wider, 850 million-euro ($958 million) investment in green energy projects. If the one-month test program is successful, it could be expanded to energy-hungry industries such as heating.

Removing Carbon

Using green hydrogen and bio-methane to remove carbon from Europe’s energy system could reduce costs by 217 billion euros a year by 2050, compared with a scenario where gas use is cut to a minimum to lower emissions, according to a study by Gas for Climate, a group of nine companies including Snam, Spain’s Enagas SA and Holland’s NV Nederlandse Gasunie.

Snam has gained over 20 percent in Milan in the last six months, third-best on the benchmark FTSE MIB index, which has lost about 1 percent in the same period.

While the pilot project is still in its early stages, with investments in bio-methane worth about 100 million euros -- a tiny fraction of the company’s 5.7 billion-euro investment plan -- Alvera thinks hydrogen and bio-methane have a big future, and that Snam is positioned to benefit.

“Gas infrastructure will be essential to carry and store renewable gas,” the CEO said, calling the use of hydrogen a “key enabler for a decarbonized economy.”

In the meantime, your pasta just may have been made using clean energy, so feel free to order a second dish.

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