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Manufacturing Incentives Encourage W.Va. Hydrogen Power

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was supported by several state Congress members, allots $8 billion for the expansion of hydrogen use in at least four regional hubs; some argue West Virginia should host one of them.

(TNS) — Hydrogen could be on West Virginia's horizon.

Energy industry leaders and elected officials are eyeing West Virginia as the potential site of massive federal investments to support the White House's plan to decarbonize the industrial sector.

Shaped by Sen. Joe Manchin, D- W.Va., the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed last year and the Inflation Reduction Act passed earlier this month include domestic manufacturing incentives for both fossil fuel-based and renewable-based hydrogen.

It's the former kind of hydrogen that featured most prominently during a recent state Public Energy Authority meeting at which a Manchin staff member reported great interest from across the energy spectrum in making West Virginia part of a regional hydrogen development hub.

A coalition formed by a majority of West Virginia's congressional leaders and Gov. Jim Justice submitted a formal proposal in March to participate in a U.S. Department of Energy's competition for a hydrogen hub funded by the agency.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act enacted in November and supported by Sens. Joe Manchin, D- W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R- W.Va., and Rep. David McKinley, R- W.Va., allots $8 billion for regional hydrogen hubs to expand industrial use of hydrogen.

Hydrogen, which is light and has the highest energy per mass of any fuel, is viewed as key in the energy transition away from fossil fuels that drive climate change.

Andrew Robinson, economic development director on Manchin's staff, told the Public Energy Authority last week that the coalition led by those three members of Congress and Justice received a "wide gamut" of energy proposals.

Robinson noted that the coalition had received requests for information from technology companies, nonprofit and for-profit groups and proposals for coal-to-gas, natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy production. A request for information is a process of seeking information about a service or product from vendors.

Reps. Alex Mooney, R- W.Va., and Carol Miller, R- W.Va., voted against the federal infrastructure law and are not part of the coalition.

The $8 billion is to fund at least four industrial hydrogen hubs in different regions of the country that use varied feedstocks, with a requirement that at least one hub uses fossil fuels to produce hydrogen while others use renewable energy and nuclear energy, respectively.

Two of them must be in regions "with the greatest natural gas resources" to the maximum extent possible.

"I believe Appalachia fits that description quite well," Robinson said.

Robinson said the coalition is waiting on a funding opportunity announcement from the Department of Energy. A funding opportunity announcement is a publicly available document in which a federal agency announces its intentions to award grants or cooperative agreements.

In its March proposal to participate in the hub competition, the coalition pointed to the state's more than 4,000 miles of pipelines, geologic potential to store carbon dioxide in deep rock formations that would be captured during hydrogen production and deep fossil fuel legacy to make the case that the Mountain State should be a hub site.

Robinson noted that U.S. Steel Corp., Equinor US Holdings and Shell Gas & Power announced earlier this month that they had entered into a nonexclusive agreement to pursue a collaborative energy hub in "the Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania region."

"Our hub efforts may reach outside of the state," Robinson said. "But there will be a strong focus on West Virginia as we move forward if we're able to help guide the ship."

The hub would be powered by carbon capture, use and storage as well as hydrogen production and use.

Carbon capture, use and sequestration is an umbrella term for technology that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and uses it to create products or store it permanently underground. Such technology retrofits commercial power plants to mitigate coal and gas asset emissions and is unproven at commercial scale.

West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection secretary and Public Energy Authority member Harold Ward noted the DEP requested permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take primary enforcement authority, or primacy, over a class of wells used to inject carbon dioxide into deep rock formations in an environmental rules package that Gov. Jim Justice signed into law in February.

Robinson said companies were "very interested" in a law enacted by the West Virginia Legislature earlier this year that set up a state regulatory program for underground carbon dioxide storage.

Hydrogen hub proponents say the plan will help usher in a reduction of emissions from carbon-intensive goods, like steel and cement, and support economic growth wherever the hubs are located.

As climate change worsens, criticism of carbon capture and fossil fuel-based hydrogen say they would lock in increasingly uneconomic, environmentally damaging use of fossil fuel infrastructure that contradicts the "clean hydrogen" label being used by the coalition.

Blue hydrogen is derived mainly from breaking methane into hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

Researchers from Cornell and Stanford universities found in a study published last year that greenhouse gas emissions from the production of blue hydrogen are "quite high," especially due to leaked methane.

Methane has a 100-year global warming potential of 28 to 36 times that of carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The study found the greenhouse gas footprint of blue hydrogen is more than 20 percent larger than burning natural gas or coal for heat and about 60 percent larger than burning diesel oil for heat.

But supporters of the Inflation Reduction Act note its potential to boost "green hydrogen," produced by a renewable-base electric current splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Andrew Forrest, chairman of Fortescue Future Industries, an Australia-based global green energy company that has been eyeing West Virginia, said earlier this month that passage of the Inflation Reduction Act will mean his green hydrogen-focused company will look to invest in places in America that it otherwise wouldn't.

"Investments that would have been diverted to Europe will go to places like West Virginia and Wyoming," Forrest said in an email.

Fortescue announced in May it's exploring converting a Centralia, Washington, coal mine into a green hydrogen production facility.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes expanded tax credits for hydrogen, carbon capture, and renewable energy, including a 10 percent tax credit boost for renewable electricity-powered facilities in energy communities like those throughout West Virginia.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a clean energy-focused strategic research firm, predicted last year that green hydrogen would be cheaper than blue hydrogen by 2030.

(c)2022 The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, W.Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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