With the announcement at last week’s Global Clean Energy Action Forum in Pittsburgh that the U.S. Department of Energy that is opening the call for applicants for $7 billion in funding for up to 10 hydrogen hubs across the country, the competition is heating up. The money from the federal infrastructure bill passed last year is part of the Biden administration’s climate effort. At least one hub is expected to be located in Appalachia, and several groups – in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio – are developing plans to apply. Hydrogen has been getting a lot of attention as a clean fuel of the future that could be used to decarbonize heavy industry, long-haul trucking, and in other areas. It can be produced through electrolysis from renewable energy as “green” hydrogen, or with natural gas using carbon capture and underground storage as so-called “blue” hydrogen. Concept papers must be submitted to the DOE by Nov. 7, and full applications are due by April 7, 2023. It’s a short time frame, and a panel of speakers from Team PA Foundation acknowledged that much must be done very quickly if Pennsylvania is to be competitive. Adam Walters, senior energy advisor for the Governor’s Office of Energy, said the next 12 to 18 months are critical. Blue hydrogen has been the focus in this region because of the abundant natural gas supply, favorable geography for underground carbon storage, and nearby heavy industry looking to decarbonize. Team PA Foundation, which is helping to coordinate the statewide effort, released a road map for the state to pursue this path at the GCEAF, and it contains a number of actions that must be taken in order for Pennsylvania to be ready to handle carbon storage. “The commonwealth does not have the agreements or structures in place to be an applicant compliant” with the funding announcement, said Ryan Kammer, of the Great Plains Institute, which prepared the report. “There is a lot of work to be done in a short time.” Among those actions are deciding who will be in charge of permitting Class VI injection wells that will be needed for carbon storage, who will be responsible for managing the stored carbon into the future, and who owns the “pore space,” or mineral rights to the rock layers used for carbon storage. The federal government is now in charge of Class VI wells, but several states have passed primacy legislation giving them permitting responsibility to streamline the process. The road map also suggests that Pennsylvania consider interstate collaboration for clean hydrogen and carbon storage, and begin conducting studies on jobs and economic development, hydrogen production, and environmental and energy justice, as well as beginning outreach efforts. Hydrogen energy, carbon capture and storage, and the hydrogen hub effort will be the subject of in-depth discussion at the Center for Energy Policy and Management’s Oct. 4 symposium “Harnessing Hydrogen: Exploring Local and Regional Opportunities in Appalachia.” Visit wjenergy.org/hydrogen to register.
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