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Midwest Hydrogen Hub Contends for $7B in Fed Funding

The proposal includes the states of Illinois and Indiana, along with private sector partners, and would produce hydrogen as a way to clean up carbon-intensive industries like steelmaking.

A concrete plant in Chicago. The proposed hydrogen hub would help clean up carbon-intensive industries, including concrete and steel production.
(Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
The local hydrogen hub bid is considered a strong contender for a share in $7 billion in federal funding.

The Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen, a regional coalition that includes BP, NiSource, ArcelorMittal, Purdue University Northwest, the state of Indiana and the state of Illinois, is seeking Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. BP officials have said the project could bring significant jobs and investment to the BP Whiting Refinery.

"I've been told the BP Whiting Refinery is a likely candidate to get a hydrogen hub," Northwestern Indiana Building & Construction Trades Council Building Manager Randy Palmateer said. "It would be a huge project that would mean a huge amount of jobs for the skilled trades. It would mean a lot of work for our members."

The trade publication Hydrogen Insight and the independent energy research and business intelligence firm Rystad Energy ranked Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen as one of the 10 U.S. hydrogen hubs most likely to win federal funding. The bid by Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin was deemed one of the strongest proposals nationally along with the Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems, HALO Hydrogen Hub, HyVelocity Hub, Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub, Northeast Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub, Obsidian Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub, Western Inter-States Hydrogen Hub, Southeast Hydrogen Hub and Heartland Hydrogen Hub.

"The hub is targeting hydrogen production from three different production pathways — green, blue and pink," Hydrogen Insight wrote in a report. "Backed by six states, the hub could help decarbonize a vast swathe of emissions-intensive and hard-to-abate users across the US Rust Belt, including steel manufacturing, cement and chemicals production, and, like the Appalachian applications, would be politically desirable for federal funding due to its socio-economic profile. The Midwest Alliance is backed by 70 members — comprising hydrogen producers, end users and public bodies — including nuclear power plant operator Constellation, Air Liquide, steel producer ArcelorMittal, EU-funded research institute EIT InnoEnergy, Plug Power and ExxonMobil."

The Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen is pitching its bid for a regional clean hydrogen production and distribution hub as a way to clean up carbon-intensive industries like steelmaking and help make the country zero emission by 2050 as a way to combat climate change.

The BP Whiting Refinery already uses hydrogen in the refining process to make gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other fuels. It could produce hydrogen commercial as a carbon-free energy alternative, such as to replace coke, a purified form of coal, in the Region's blast furnaces.

It could also be used in industries like agriculture, aviation and transportation that have been difficult to transition away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels thus far.

Backers include the Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago State University, ComEd, the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, Governors State University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Nicor Gas, Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Some environmental groups have expressed skepticism, given the support of industries that have traditionally been major polluters.

"This process involves some of Indiana's biggest polluters and is happening almost entirely in the dark," said Chris Chyung, Executive Director of Indiana Conservation Voters. "We want to bring attention to that lack of transparency and ensure that the federal government is prioritizing emissions reductions; expansion of renewables, storage, and transmission; environmental justice; and family-supporting jobs as it moves forward."

Politically, the bid has gotten bipartisan support.

"With robust and well-established agricultural, manufacturing, and transportation infrastructure networks, a hydrogen hub in the Midwest offers opportunities to advance an unparalleled, comprehensive hydrogen ecosystem," Illinois's congressional delegation wrote in a letter of support. "As the state with the most abundant nuclear power facilities, a growing number of other carbon-free energy sources, and a commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions, Illinois is a prime state from which to maximize existing energy infrastructure for hydrogen. Illinois has been a leader in clean energy deployment, and we look forward to incorporating clean hydrogen into our resource mix."

(c)2023 The Times (Munster, Ind.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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