What is the Hydrogen Hubbub? 

August, 2023 - David L. Yaussy

Hydrogen is seen by many as the fuel of the future, a substance that can provide heat through combustion, or electrical power from fuel cells, emitting only water in the process. Its potential usefulness, specifically its ability to replace fossil fuels without generating greenhouse gases, makes it the poster child for clean energy. 

There are various ways of producing hydrogen, but currently most of it is done in the most cost-efficient way, by steam reforming. That, however, generates carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, that has to be sequestered underground to be considered sustainable. That type of carbon capture and sequestration is planned at a new project in West Virginia, although question shave been raised by environmentalists about its feasibility. Green hydrogen, the kind most desired, is produced by electrolysis, running electric current produced by renewable energy sources like wind and solar through water to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. That requires a great deal of energy, and is not particularly cost-effective. 

The Inflation Reduction Act includes incentives to encourage the development of green hydrogen production through hydrogen hubs...“Clean hydrogen hubs will create networks of hydrogen producers, consumers, and local connective infrastructure to accelerate the use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier that can deliver or store tremendous amounts of energy.” As explained in “Pa. is competing for billions to build hydrogen hubs. Will they really be green?”, the U.S. Department of Energy has $7 billion to award to 10 hydrogen hubs. Groups of companies and states have banded together to develop proposals for creation of these hubs. Announcement of the 10 winning proposals will be sometime in the fall of 2023.

Pennsylvania is not the only state chasing federal dollars, or providing additional tax credits to hydrogen producers. Other states also are competing to host one of the hydrogen hubs and are looking to encourage production in state. In Ohio, there are budget discussions surrounding what types of hydrogen development to encourage, as described in “Hydrogen, nuclear among winners in last-minute changes to Ohio budget bill”.  

Significant dollars are available, and companies are eager for an opportunity to participate in the funding for the hubs. As explained in “US energy companies call for widening of Hydrogen tax incentives”, some are arguing for some production of hydrogen using fossil fuels, or other methods of production, when renewables are not available.   

Obtaining enough hydrogen to meet a critical mass of development will likely require some non-green hydrogen production, at least temporarily.



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