The Hydrogen Era: Insights into the Upcoming U.S. Energy Transformation


Even in the battle against carbon emissions we are more or less dependent on fossil fuels. To tackle and reduce this dependency, the Biden-Harris Administration introduces hydrogen boost. It is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law with an investment of about &7 billion. There will be seven regional hydrogen hubs across the nation under this initiative, ranging from the Mid-Atlantic to the Pacific Northwest. These hubs, strategically located in disadvantaged areas, aim to create clean energy opportunities and jobs while significantly reducing carbon emissions.

Recently, the Biden-Harris administration announced the possible steps towards using hydrogen to power the country and lower emissions along with creating well-paying jobs. The president announced that $7 billion will be invested to create a 7-regional hydrogen producing hub across the United States. It was planned that these hubs will be created in disadvantaged areas to share the benefit of clean energy with all communities.

As hydrogen is one of the most widely available elements, it has the highest energy per mass as compared to other fuels. These are the main reasons why hydrogen is being considered for this initiative.

This major investment was funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law on 13th October 2023 and as per the plan the following 7 regional hubs were suggested. Each of these hubs will be in:

  1. Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2) – Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey
  2. Appalachia Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) – West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania
  3. California Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES)
  4. Gulf Coast HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub – Texas
  5. Heartland Hydrogen Hub – Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota
  6. Pacific Northwest PNW H2 – Washington, Oregon, Montana
  7. Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2) – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan

According to the White House, once operational these hubs are expected to cut down around 25 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year. This amount of emission is equal to or more than 5 million gas-powered vehicles.

Executive director of energy research organization JCDREAM, Aaron Feaver, said, “Several of the regional hubs will repurpose existing oil and gas infrastructure. The hubs are likely to be a combination of old fossil fuel facilities and new buildings that will house electrolyzer plants.”

Aaron added, “It’s taking coal facilities that would have been decommissioned regardless of the hydrogen hub. Instead of just leaving that as an empty facility and [having] loss of jobs, we’re hoping to transition that to clean energy jobs by utilizing some of the existing infrastructure in those places.”

Also See: A Move Away from Diesel to Hydrogen Trucks is Catching Attention

What Is the Potential of Hydrogen as A Source of Renewable Energy?

Hydrogen is highly combustible but does not produce harmful by-products when burned. Instead, it creates water, thus, the idea is to feed hydrogen into a fuel cell that separates electrons and protons.

Electrons will go into an internal circuit generating electricity and protons will move further to produce water and heat. Hydrogen energy is described often by the colors that denote the method through which it is produced.

  • Blue Hydrogen is produced through steam reforming, which includes natural gas. To mitigate the carbon emissions produced from this method, a carbon capture check is maintained as per the fact sheet from National Grid. Due to this, there is a large reduction in emissions, but this method produces methane.
  • Similarly, pink hydrogen is derived from nuclear energy whereas black coal produces black hydrogen.
  • However, green hydrogen is referred to as the cleanest form of hydrogen. It is so because it is produced through fuel cells and the electricity used in the process is derived from renewable sources.

Feaver added, “If you use electrolytic hydrogen, you can call it green hydrogen, but if your power grid is not really well cleaned up, that hydrogen is not green.”

Biden-Harris Administration introduces hydrogen boost but there will be challenges to ensure that the hubs are eventually producing green hydrogen, and about two-thirds of the investment of the project is associated with green hydrogen.

“What we really end up trying to focus on is the actual carbon footprint and the CO2 emissions associated with the entire lifecycle of whatever hydrogen [we’re] producing,” Feaver added.

According to the White House, two hubs, including one from the Gulf Coast, will rely mainly on blue hydrogen. This will be done to drive down the cost of hydrogen and production facilities will be using carbon capture to offset the emissions produced there.

Source: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Announces Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs to Drive Clean Manufacturing and Jobs

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