The U.S. Department of Energy this week issued a draft plan for its competitive process to fund at least four clean hydrogen hubs across the country, using $8 billion provided as part of the recently approved federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The notice of intent provides guidance on the timeline and information that groups must submit in order to be considered for funding under the law. The actual funding opportunity announcement, initially requesting concept papers, is expected to be issued in September or October. “Hydrogen energy has the power to slash emissions from multiple carbon-intensive sectors and open a world of economic opportunity to clean energy businesses and workers across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in a press release. Hydrogen energy is a key component in the Biden administration’s plan to decarbonize the industrial sector, which accounts for a third of the country’s carbon emissions, in order to reach its climate goals. The U.S. produces about 10 million tons of hydrogen per year of the 90 million global tons produced. The majority of it is produced using natural gas and the process of steam methane reformation. While this method emits carbon, hydrogen could be produced cleanly if the technology was coupled with carbon capture and sequestration - where the CO2 is pumped underground into caverns and spent wells. This makes the Appalachian region, with an abundance of natural gas, the geology to support carbon sequestration, and a large industrial and steel-making base that could be decarbonized, a prime target for a hub. A number of states and public-private partnerships have indicated an interest in applying, including Pennsylvania and the In-2-Market regional alliance. “Electrolysis technology – which uses electricity to produce hydrogen from water – is an emerging pathway with dozens of installations across the country. This technology could produce hydrogen using clean electricity from renewable energy including solar, wind, and from nuclear power,” the press release states. However, this process is currently very expensive and cannot be done at scale. At least one hub would demonstrate the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels, one from renewable energy, and one from nuclear energy. “Each H2Hub will demonstrate balanced hydrogen supply and demand, connective infrastructure, and a plan to be financially viable after the DOE funding has ended. H2Hubs will also include substantial engagement with key local and regional stakeholders to ensure these projects generate local, regional, and national benefits while mitigating significant environmental or community impacts,” the notice of intent states. The emergence of hydrogen as a potential energy source will continue to be at the forefront of discussion as natural gas producers, industry representatives, academic researchers, and government officials work to develop a concept for a hub in Appalachia.
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