States are signing agreements with their neighbors or going it alone across the nation to pursue billions in federal funding to establish “hydrogen hubs,” clustered centers for the production, storage, and use of the gas that many see as an essential component of the puzzle for decarbonizing the U.S. economy.
However, there is disagreement over how extensive of a role it ought to take.
According to the definition of a clean hydrogen hub, which is “a network of clean hydrogen producers, potential clean hydrogen consumers, and connective infrastructure located in close proximity,” the U.S. Department of Energy is aiming to distribute $7 billion from last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law that could fund up to 10 regional clean hydrogen hubs.
The department said in a news release last month that “The H2Hubs will be a central driver in helping communities across the country benefit from clean energy investments, good-paying jobs, and improved energy security — all while supporting President Biden’s goal of a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.”
This funding source combines with provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that might increase hydrogen use by enacting a clean hydrogen production tax credit and making significant modifications to carbon capture tax credits.
“Climate change objectives will drive some states. According to Bryan Willson, a mechanical engineering professor and executive director of the Energy Institute at Colorado State University, hydrogen is a crucial instrument for reaching those climate goals. Others are primarily driven by economic growth, and hydrogen offers a fantastic array of brand-new commercial opportunities.
Willson also serves as the director of the Rocky Mountain Alliance for Next Generation Energy, a group of universities and national labs from four western states that are working together to develop the Western Interstate Hydrogen Hub, a partnership between the red and blue states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.
Even conservative states have changed their minds about the necessity of capturing carbon and the obvious effects of a changing climate, according to Matt Fry, a senior policy manager at the nonprofit Great Plains Institute who focuses on carbon management and a former adviser to Republican Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.
We are aware that this is what we must do, he continued. “As we transition from a more fossil fuel-based to an electric economy, we’ll need hydrogen.”
Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas have similar hub agreements, as have Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. A separate memorandum of understanding between Minnesota and Wisconsin and Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio aims to “accelerate and improve” the production of clean hydrogen. Additionally, Washington and Oregon are working together to establish a center in the Pacific Northwest.
Other states have started their own initiatives to establish centers, including Pennsylvania and Georgia.
According to Jeffery Preece, director of research and development at the Electric Power Research Institute, “the hubs are trying to focus on places where you have resources to make it, resources to utilize it, and resources to balance that supply and demand.”
“We’re still figuring out where and how to use hydrogen in a world without carbon emissions. It’s crucial to involve all relevant parties in this in order to resolve the issue. Finding those areas where we now have challenges due to infrastructure restrictions is made easier by getting it concentrated in hubs.