Midwest states team up for hydrogen infrastructure, market

Seven states agreed to unite to develop a hydrogen market, supply chain, and workforce to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create new green economy jobs.
Chicago at night / Conal Gallagher via Flickr

Seven states agreed to unite to develop a hydrogen market, supply chain, and workforce to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create new green economy jobs.

The Midwestern Hydrogen Coalition includes Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The agreement will help the states “create good-paying jobs, expand economic opportunity, promote energy independence, and improve public health outcomes,” the coalition’s memorandum of understanding said.

The move comes as the federal government pushes for more cleanly produced hydrogen and included $8 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure law to advance that goal. As part of the program, the U.S. Department of Energy recently announced that it would spend $7 billion on up to six hydrogen hubs around the country.

“These H2Hubs are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lay the foundation for the clean hydrogen future President Biden is building—one that will lift our economy, protect the planet, and improve our health,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in announcing the plan.

Hydrogen generates electrical power in a fuel cell, emitting only water vapor and warm air. It can be used to power homes and factories, as well as cars, trucks and other forms of transportation, DOE said. Hydrogen can also be used to store, move, and deliver energy produced from other sources.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said in a release that the midwestern states’ effort would build on energy legislation he signed into law last year, which mandates a carbon-free power sector in the Prairie State by 2045 and 100% clean energy by 2050.

Enactment of the law made Illinois the first midwestern state to mandate 100% decarbonization. It joined Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, California, Virginia and Washington.

One advantage of hydrogen is that it can be produced from various domestic resources, which reduces the need to rely on fuel sources from abroad. According to DOE, hydrogen can be produced from natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewable sources such as solar and wind.

About 95% is produced from natural gas, which is subjected to steam reforming, a high-temperature process in which steam reacts with a hydrocarbon fuel to produce hydrogen.

Most of the hydrogen produced in the U.S. comes from California, Louisiana and Texas. And almost all of it is used for refining petroleum, treating metals, producing fertilizer, and processing foods.

Members of the Midwest coalition say they are well-positioned to develop a robust hydrogen market due to existing advantages.

“Kentucky’s robust infrastructure, strong chemical and manufacturing base, along with our leadership in the automotive and logistics sectors position us as a natural location for hydrogen economic development,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said in a statement.

The group points to an ammonia production infrastructure in the region, including a system of pipelines and storage tanks.

“Ammonia is an ideal hydrogen carrier,” the group’s MOU said.

The pipeline will help make the costs more competitive with gasoline. The cost differential stems, in part, from the fact that hydrogen contains less energy per unit volume than all other fuels, so transporting, storing, and delivering it to the point of end-use is more expensive on a per gasoline gallon equivalent basis.

But the group is confident they can drive down costs compared with other fuels.

“This partnership will be the start of a new era of energy production that will create jobs and grow our economy,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said in a statement.