US announces US$160m funding for hydrogen technologies

Article by Amanda Jasi

THE US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced plans for US$160m of federal funding aimed at decarbonising energy and commodity production by helping to develop fossil-based hydrogen technologies. Funding aims to help progress towards net-zero carbon emissions.

Fossil fuels currently offer the lowest-cost source of large-scale hydrogen and likely will do so for the foreseeable future, according to a 2020 DOE report. The cost of steam reformation, the main method used for hydrogen production, varies from US$1.43/kg to US$2.27/kg with CO2 capture and storage (CCS) depending on the price of natural gas, says the report. Gasification, another production method, can cost between US$1.16/kg and US$1.63/kg for coal and between US$1.31/kg and US$2.06/kg for coal/biomass/waste plastic with CCS. Green methods currently cost several times more.

The funding is expected to help develop technologies to produce, transport, store, and use fossil-based hydrogen, with progress towards net-zero carbon emissions. Focus will be on advanced and novel technologies capable of improving performance, reliability, and flexibility. This is expected to enable the US to continue to extract the maximum economic value from fossil-fuel energy resources.

The funding opportunity, Fossil Energy Based Production, Storage, Transport and Utilization of Hydrogen Approaching Net-Zero or Net-Negative Carbon Emissions, will focus on enabling advancement with seven programme areas.

These include net-zero and carbon negative hydrogen production from modular gasification and co-gasification of mixed wastes, biomass, and traditional feedstocks; solid oxide electrolysis cell technology; carbon capture; advanced turbines; natural-gas based hydrogen production; hydrogen pipeline infrastructure; and subsurface hydrogen storage. Funding will be used to solicit research and development aligned with these areas.

CCS can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of low-cost hydrogen sourced from fossil energy feedstocks and processes and enable progress towards hydrogen production with net-zero emissions.

Funding is being provided by the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy, which is responsible for research, development, demonstration efforts of advanced power generation, power plant efficiency, water management, and CCUS.

National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the projects. NETL, part of the US DOE national laboratory system, supports the DOE in advancing energy security.

Counter to the DOE prediction that fossil-based hydrogen production will remain the cheapest method for the foreseeable future, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says such predictions ignore IEA projections about the structural rise in natural gas prices due to market forces. More importantly, it doesn’t take into account the potential volatility of gas prices. Such volatility was observed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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