US awards US$7bn for seven hydrogen hubs to boost clean energy economy

Article by Kerry Hebden

THE BIDEN administration has announced that seven hydrogen hub proposals are to receive US$7bn in ‘Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’ funding to boost the domestic development and production of hydrogen.  

This hotly contested national competition, which received 79 proposals for hydrogen hubs from states across the country has, however, come in for criticism from some clean energy and environmental groups, as the hubs are backed by consortiums which include oil and gas companies, and not all will produce green hydrogen. 

The HyVelocity Hub in Texas, and the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub, ARCH2, which could receive over US$2bn in federal funding between them, are two such hubs that will use natural gas as a feedstock in hydrogen production. Instead of using electrolysis to produce green hydrogen like the others, these two will rely on carbon capture and sequestration to make hydrogen that qualifies as clean. 

The remaining hubs, Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES), the Mid-Atlantic Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2), the Heartland Hydrogen Hub, and the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub (PNW H2), will use electricity supplied from renewable power to produce hydrogen. MACH2 and the Heartland Hydrogen Hub will also use nuclear energy to produce pink hydrogen. Pink hydrogen is considered green (environmentally friendly) due to its lack of CO2 emissions during production. 

US Representative Randy Weber said it was an exciting day to welcome the HyVelocity Hub to Southeast Texas. “This hub, located in the energy capital of the world, will be a game-changer, harnessing our resources to produce hydrogen, reduce emissions, and create 45,000 jobs right here at home. I am heartened that the Department of Energy (DOE) understands and has recognised our region’s role in powering this nation.” 

However, Julie McNamara, the deputy policy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, called on the DOE to be more transparent in the implementation of the hydrogen hubs programme. In a letter to DOE secretary Jennifer Granholm, McNamara said stricter regulations on the hydrogen hubs to boost community input should be imposed, and that only completely fossil-free projects should receive funding.  

“The H2Hubs programme constitutes an enormous investment on the part of US taxpayers and its long-term success in supporting climate, health, and equity goals will require robust public inclusion and engagement,” McNamara said. “We urge DOE to significantly step-up transparency practices while the window of opportunity is still at hand.” 

Collectively, the hubs aim to produce more than 3m t/y of clean hydrogen per year, to achieve nearly one third of the 2030 US clean hydrogen production goal, while eliminating 25m t/y CO2 emissions from end uses. 

A string of financial benefits is also expected. Along with the generation of tens of thousands of well-paid jobs, the Biden-Harris administration wants another US$40bn in private spending to be invested, primarily from the companies involved in the hydrogen hubs. This will create “one of the largest investments in clean manufacturing and jobs in history”, the White House said. 

The hubs typically consist of networks of businesses, local governments, researchers, and trade groups, that have agreed to work together to produce, transport, and use low-emissions hydrogen. 

The ARCHES hub, based out of California, counts Chevron as a partner and boasts over 100 other collaborators ranging from Amazon, Boeing, and Berkeley Lab to United Steelworkers, and Microsoft for example. It asks those interested in joining the ARCHES network to sign and submit a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and says starting in 2030, the hub is looking at generating US$2.95bn/y in economic value, including significant health and healthcare cost savings from reduced pollution. 

Big spenders

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), was signed into law by President Biden in November 2021. The act was initially a US$547–715bn infrastructure package aimed at rebuilding America’s roads, bridges, and train tracks.  

It was later amended to include support for access to clean drinking water, and high-speed internet and topped up to US$1.2trn, US$65bn of which was earmarked for the clean energy transmission.  

Article by Kerry Hebden

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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