A DOE-rejected bid from Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to run clean energy using hydrogen

The clean energy hub could have brought millions to the state, but the DOE chose seven others.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dominion Energy’s regulation station in Delta on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023. At the station, an electrolyzer will use solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, meaning it is a pollution-free source of hydrogen fuel . The project was included in the four-state Western Interstate Hydrogen Hub proposal, but the proposal was not selected for federal funding.

This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to finding solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

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The U.S. Department of Energy has rejected Utah’s bid, along with four other states, to become a multibillion-dollar federal hydrogen hub in favor of seven other offers from across the country.

DOE received 79 bids for the $7 billion Hydrogen Hub program, and the Western Interstate Hydrogen Hub (WISHH) from Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico was one of 33 bidders invited to submit more detailed applications.

But the DOE ultimately settled on seven more, including two in the West. The California hub and the Pacific Northwest hub (which included Washington, Oregon, and Montana) made it. The seven qualified for varying amounts ranging from $750 million to $1.2 billion.

Utah’s efforts were coordinated by the Utah Office of Energy Development. Office spokeswoman Tracy Rees said OED Director Greg Todd was out of the office Friday and unavailable for comment.

The WISHH proposal included two projects in Utah that applied for federal funding. One of them was an attempt to produce “renewable natural gas” from the wood waste produced by thinning forests. A company called Juniper Fuels heats the waste without burning it and captures the methane produced. This methane is then used to produce hydrogen.

“We are disappointed not to be among the final selected hubs, but proud to have made it straight to the final round,” said Jimmy Seear, founder of Juniper Fuels, who said the work will continue without federal funding. “Our projects are progressing quickly and gaining momentum here in the state of Utah.”

The other project in Utah was Dominion Energy’s test of adding 5% hydrogen to its natural gas power. Dominion, Utah’s largest gas provider, tested the blend with 1,800 customers in the Delta, Utah region. The hydrogen hub’s money should be used to test the mixture in larger pipes and higher pressures.

“While we are disappointed that WIH2 was not selected, Dominion Energy Utah will continue to explore innovations and projects that make not only environmental sense, but also social and economic sense for our customers,” said Jorgan Hofeling, strategic communications advisor at Dominion in an email. “DEU expects to advance the development of hydrogen production and blending capacities in the distribution system in the coming years. Our current focus is on completing our current phase, hydrogen blending in Delta.”

Funded by the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the hydrogen centers are part of the Biden administration’s aggressive efforts to transition the country to cleaner energy sources and reduce the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Hydrogen does not produce greenhouse gases when producing energy. But hydrogen does not occur in large quantities in nature and must be produced.

Here are the seven successful applications for hydrogen hubs:

— Appalachian Hydrogen Hub (West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania): This hub will produce hydrogen from natural gas while capturing the resulting carbon dioxide, known as “blue” hydrogen.

– California Hydrogen Hub: This hub will produce hydrogen from renewable energy and biomass and develop a plan to decarbonize public transport, heavy transport and port operations with hydrogen.

– Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub: Based in Houston, this hub will develop large-scale hydrogen production using natural gas and carbon capture, as well as renewable sources.

– Heartland Hub (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota): This hub will focus on decarbonizing the agricultural sector, including fertilizer production, and the use of hydrogen for power generation and space heating in cold climates.

– Mid-Atlantic Hub (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey): This hub aims to repurpose historic oil infrastructure and produce hydrogen from renewable and nuclear sources.

– Midwest Hub (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan): This hub will focus on using hydrogen to decarbonize heavy industries, including steel and glass production and sustainable aviation fuel production.

– Pacific Northwest Hub (Washington, Oregon, Montana): This hub plans to produce hydrogen from renewable sources and is working to reduce the cost of electrolysis, the process of splitting water molecules to produce hydrogen.

Justin Scaccy

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