The race to attract federal start-up funds for a hydrogen hub in the Appalachian region is attracting more competitors, as West Virginia recently announced the formation of a coalition to bring a project to that state.
Among the leading companies in the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) are Pittsburgh-based EQT Corp., the nation’s largest natural gas producer, as well as Battelle and GTI Energy, and Allegheny Science & Technology, a West Virginia energy consulting firm.
“The Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) is expected to be centered in West Virginia while expanding its impact, through cooperative efforts in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky,” a press release announcing ARCH2 states. “The region is the ideal location for a clean hydrogen hub, due to its unique access to ample low-cost natural gas feedstock, end-user demand, workforce and technology capability, and carbon sequestration potential.”
Hydrogen is a clean fuel that when burned produces only water vapor, and it is seen as an energy source for decarbonizing heavy industry, such as steelmaking, and for long-distance truck and ship transportation. In the Appalachian region, the focus has been on “blue hydrogen,” which is produced from natural gas using steam reformation with the carbon emissions captured and pumped at high pressures into underground rock formations, a process known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). This technology, too, must be rapidly developed in order to meet the 10-year funding window for $7 billion in federal start-up funds for the development of up to 10 hydrogen hubs around the country, with at least one expected to be in this region.
“America’s oil and gas industry has awakened to the opportunity in front of them. Abundant, low-emissions Appalachian natural gas can and will serve as the strategic foundation for all phases of our journey to decarbonize the world. Blue hydrogen is a reliable, zero-carbon solution that represents a significant next step in our journey,” said EQT President and CEO Toby Z. Rice. EQT is also part of a Pennsylvania coalition, Appalachian Energy Future, that was formed last year to bring a hydrogen hub to the region. Team PA Foundation has also been deeply involved in preparing the state for a hub, including the recent release of a roadmap of priorities the state must undertake in order to be competitive.
Three companies that are part of the AEF coalition – Shell, Equinor, and U.S. Steel – have already announced that they will collaborate on an application for hydrogen hub funding.
The Department of Energy describes a hydrogen hub not by its individual components, but as a network of “hydrogen producers, consumers, and local connective infrastructure to accelerate the use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier.”
Infrastructure will have to be built to produce hydrogen and transport it through pipelines to end users, industrial facilities looking to decarbonize operations. CCS infrastructure will also be needed, and underground sequestration locations will have to be determined.
Investment of millions more in addition to the federal funding from private companies will be needed.
Concept papers for the federal funding are due by Nov. 7 and final applications must be received by April 7, the Department of Energy announced. The development of hydrogen energy and CCS was recently discussed at a Center for Energy Policy and Management symposium.