The Biden administration plans to reward some of the $7 billion to build hydrogen hubs to Amazon, ExxonMobil, and Air Products and Chemicals. It’s part of the plan to help the nation hit net zero by mid-century.
The goal is to produce more than 3 million metric tons of clean hydrogen annually. Altogether, the plan is to build seven hydrogen hubs to eliminate 25 million metric tons of carbon each year — equal to removing 5.5 million gasoline-powered cars. It’s a $50 billion investment in clean energy that spans across multiple states.
“Modern Hydrogen is thrilled to see a broad collection of hub approaches, regions, and companies, including ourselves, be selected by the Department of Energy to continue building out the hydrogen hubs,” said Mack Hopen, commercialization manager at Modern Hydrogen.
“The Hubs are a crucial first stage of development for the hydrogen economy, and this investment by the Energy Department will help make that happen,” he added. “As these plans become reality, we are excited to be able to put our mission into practice — making energy cleaner and cheaper. But, the Hub model is not the end-all-be-all solution. The majority of prospective hydrogen users are located outside these geographic areas, and our distributed pyrolysis approach will ensure that they can still get affordable, clean hydrogen without being located at or near one of these Hubs.”
The company uses methane pyrolysis to decarbonize natural gas, which is abundant and cheap in the United States. That process splits the hydrogen and the carbon. In other words, natural gas is 80% hydrogen, and the focus is on removing the one pesky carbon atom. The technology heats natural gas to 1,000 degrees Celsius without oxygen.
That allows Modern Hydrogen to crack the natural gas and decarbonize it, thus isolating the carbon atom — not burning it and sending it to the atmosphere. That avoids 10 gigatons of CO2 yearly. Public and private enterprises have invested millions of dollars in this technology, which former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz applauds. It’s called turquoise hydrogen because it mixes blue and green. Blue hydrogen occurs when the carbon is captured and buried, and green hydrogen refers to using wind or solar power to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.
The primary focus is on producing clean hydrogen for the hard-to-decarbonize industries or things that cannot quickly electrify. That applies to planes, trains, ships, and long-haul trucks. Electric generators can also run on a blend of hydrogen and natural gas.
Hydrogen’s Clean Energy Advantages
The advantages of hydrogen are that it is abundant, renewable, and non-polluting.
The Biden administration aims to reduce the cost of making by 80% or $1 per kilogram in 2030.
With that, Exxon and Chevron will get about $1.2 billion for a hydrogen hub in the Gulf Coast region. It will help kickstart the clean hydrogen economy with its plans for large-scale hydrogen production through both natural gas with carbon capture and renewables-powered electrolysis, the administration said.
Meantime, EQT Corp. will get about $925 million to produce so-called blue hydrogen — made from using natural gas and capturing and burying the CO2 emissions. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia supported the project, which will be built in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Blue Hydrogen Impacts?
But the IEEFA published a report showing that the Department of Energy understates the likely impact of producing hydrogen from fossil fuels (blue hydrogen) on global warming. IEEFA believes there is a significant risk that the funding of blue hydrogen projects will make global warming worse by encouraging the building of projects that will emit millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for decades.
“Today the U.S. Department of Energy announced its plan to move forward with seven regional hydrogen hubs, at least three of which would produce blue hydrogen,” said David Schlissel, IEEFA director of resource planning analysis. “Our research has shown that the government is significantly understating the impact of producing blue hydrogen on global warming. The reality is that blue hydrogen is not clean or low-carbon. Pursuing this technology is wasting precious time and diverting attention from investing in more effective measures to combat global warming like wind and solar resources, battery storage, and energy efficiency.”