Biden to announce regional hydrogen hubs in hopes of sparking a clean-energy revolution

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President Joe Biden on Friday will announce the locations of seven regional hubs to manufacture hydrogen – a fuel cleaner than fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal – but one which can be derived from renewable energy, nuclear power or planet-warming methane gas.

Biden will make the announcement alongside Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at the Tioga Marine Terminal in the Port of Philadelphia – which will eventually use hydrogen produced from renewable energy and nuclear power at a new Mid-Atlantic hydrogen hub comprising parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Seven regional hubs will be awarded funding from a pot of $7 billion that was passed last year as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law. In addition to the Mid-Atlantic, the new hubs will include:

  • An Appalachian hub, located across West Virginia, Southeastern Ohio, and Southwestern Pennsylvania – this hub will be the one largest in terms of production and derive hydrogen from the region’s methane gas;
  • A California hub that will span the state and encompassing the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland;
  • A Houston, Texas-based hub that could eventually expand to include parts of Louisiana, which will derive hydrogen from methane gas and renewable energy;
  • An Upper Midwest hub spanning Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, which will derive hydrogen from wind energy and will be used for agriculture and power;
  • A second Midwest hub will span parts of Illinois, Indiana and southwest Michigan and will be derived mostly from nuclear power;
  • And a Pacific Northwest hub will span parts of Eastern Washington and Oregon as well as parts of Montana and will focus on hydrogen for freight and agriculture.

Officials said they are still determining exact locations for the hubs in each region.

The Biden administration hopes these hubs will spark a new US industry that senior administration officials estimated could catalyze around $50 billion in public and private investments and create tens of thousands of jobs.

“I think of hydrogen as the ultimate energy carrier,” a senior administration official told reporters on a Thursday press call. “It’s earned the nickname as the Swiss Army knife of clean energy.”

Senior administration officials estimated that together, the seven hubs will eventually produce 3 million tons of hydrogen per year – a third of the total national goal DOE has set for 10 million tons of hydrogen produced by 2030.

In addition to economic impacts, the Biden administration is betting big on hydrogen for its climate goals. Senior administration officials said the fuel will be used to clean up sectors of the economy like heavy duty trucking and industry, both of which are hard to wean off fossil fuels.

Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency has also made hydrogen as an integral part of its proposed regulation to cut emissions from power plants – another huge fossil fuel emitter in the US economy.

A senior administration official estimated the hubs would reduce the country’s planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution by roughly 25 million metric tons per year from end use, adding that is roughly equivalent to taking 5.5 million gasoline-powered cars off the road.

The hubs that use methane gas to generate hydrogen will be outfitted with carbon capture technology to reduce their carbon dioxide pollution, a senior administration official said. The official did not provide estimates for possible emissions of methane – a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the first two decades it’s in the atmosphere.

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