The U.S. Department of Energy has selected seven hydrogen hub sites to receive more than $7 billion in funding from the two-year-old Infrastructure Act.
The financial aim is part of the Biden Administration’s multi-pronged approach to incentivizing decarbonization in the energy sector. Hydrogen is an energy-dense resource that does not generate carbon emissions when combusted, but it is considered truly green H2 only when created from electrolyzers powered by carbon-free energy such as solar, wind, hydro, or nuclear.
The announcement by President Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm highlights the regional hub equation to solving hydrogen’s infrastructural challenges. Currently there is no nationwide network of pipelines to move H2, which is a lighter gas than the methane natural gas currently dominating the power generation industry.
Minneapolis-based energy planning and research non-profit Great Plains Institute’s CEO, Rolf Nordstrom, expressed optimism that the DOE and Infrastructure Act award will drive future scaling up of hydrogen in the baseload and transportation energy mix. Great Plains Institute also is engaged in several hydrogen infrastructure project efforts.
“Today’s announcement of federally support hydrogen hubs launches a new opportunity to equitably build a clean hydrogen economy,” Nordstrom said in a statement. “GPI looks forward to working with the new hubs to accelerate decarbonization across the economy [sectors such as] agriculture, heavy industry and parts of the transportation sector.”
The seven hydrogen hubs, each receiving close to $1 billion in funding commitments, include the Mid-Atlantic, Appalachian, California, Gulf Coast, Heartland, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest initiatives. Altogether, the DOE says these hubs will create more than 320,000 direct jobs, including initial construction and more permanent operational positions.
Proponents believe that expanding the role of carbon-free hydrogen into the energy economy will help the U.S. reach decarbonization objectives in the near term and net zero by 2050. Hydrogen currently is under study as a mixed fuel with methane gas in several gas turbine projects.
The regional hydrogen hub concept was first detailed more than two years ago by the DOE and a cross-section of energy industry companies. Public and private partnership group Connected DMV and other industrial firms submitted an application to the DOE this May to create the Mid-Atlantic Hydrogen Hub to serve markets across Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland.
The application predicts this project alone could create more than 8,000 permanent jobs by 2030 and displace more than 420,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. The hub would include electrolyzer capacity, liquid H2 modules, depots, refueling stations, combustion turbines, fuel-cell vehicles, and market interaction.
All of the hubs, if and when completed, will comprise many of the same assets and functions. Much of the hydrogen will be split from water via electrolyzers, while some will be generated by steam reforming of methane gas and also include some carbon capture technologies and storage, according to reports.
Energy sector companies already engaged in the hubs initiative or other hydrogen production work include Mitsubishi Power, Black & Veatch, TRC, AES, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Orsted, BNSF Railway, Cummins, Bakken Energy, Southern California Gas Co., Wärtsilä, Air Liquide, Honeywell, Marathon Petroleum, and EQT, among many others.
The federal Infrastructure Act created close to $65 billion in funding for low and zero-carbon energy technologies, including renewables.