MORGANTOWN — West Virginia is at the heart of one of seven regional clean hydrogen hubs the Biden administration announced on Friday.
The Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) — centered in West Virginia and including Ohio and Pennsylvania — will be eligible for up to $925 million in federal support under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
President Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm traveled to Philadelphia to announce the selection of the seven regional hubs from 23 finalists, which will receive a combined $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding.
The Department of Energy explains that clean hydrogen hubs will create networks of hydrogen producers, consumers and local connective infrastructure to accelerate the use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier that can deliver or store tremendous amounts of energy.
DOE said the production, processing, delivery, storage and end-use of clean hydrogen are crucial to its strategy for achieving Biden’s goal of a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The White House said the seven hubs will catalyze more than $40 billion in private investment and create tens of thousands of jobs — bringing the total public and private investment in hydrogen hubs to nearly $50 billion.
ARCH2, the White House said, “will leverage the region’s ample access to low-cost natural gas to produce low-cost clean hydrogen and permanently and safely store the associated carbon emissions.”
ARCH2, it said, is expected to create more than 21,000 direct jobs — more than 18,000 in construction and more than 3,000 permanent jobs.
In February 2022, Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito and former Rep. David McKinley jointly announced the formation of the West Virginia Hydrogen Hub Working Group to enter the competition for selection. ARCH2 is a collaboration of the state of West Virginia, EQT Corp., Battelle and GTI Energy, and Allegheny Science & Technology, a West Virginia energy technology consulting firm.
Manchin, Capito and McKinley all voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Reps, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller voted against it), and Manchin and Capito made separate announcements about the hub selection on Friday.
In a social media video, Manchin said the hubs are intended to demonstrate the production and use of clean hydrogen. West Virginia “will be on the leading edge of building out the new hydrogen market while bringing good-paying jobs and new economic opportunities into the state.”
The hub, he said, will create “a product with the horsepower our country needs to fuel heavy manufacturing, transportation, generate power and much, much more,” and use domestic feedstock without reliance on unfriendly foreign sources.
In a press release, he said, “We won the hub because of the hard work of countless individuals and organizations, and I could not be prouder to be making this announcement today.”
Capito said, “Today is a major win for the ARCH2 team and for future economic development and energy production in West Virginia. … I’m thrilled for the ARCH2 team, and am so proud West Virginia will continue its tradition as an innovative, energy-producing state through a regional hydrogen hub.”
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included $8 billion for the hubs plus $1 billion for a Clean Hydrogen Electrolysis Program to reduce costs of hydrogen produced from clean electricity, and $500 million for Clean Hydrogen Manufacturing and Recycling initiatives to support equipment manufacturing and strong domestic supply chains. The law required one of the hubs to be located in Appalachia.
Hydrogen production is categorized by various colors, as various sources explain. Among the colors, blue hydrogen is produced by steam methane reforming, which requires burning natural gas to reform methane into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, from which they capture and sequester the CO2.
Grey and brown hydrogen also use steam to produce the gas, but don’t sequester it. Green hydrogen produces the gas from water. Pink hydrogen is produced through nuclear energy.
The White House said that collectively, the hubs aim to produce more than 3 million metric tons of clean hydrogen per year, thereby achieving nearly one-third of the 2030 U.S. clean hydrogen production goal. Together, the seven hubs will eliminate 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from end uses each year — roughly equivalent to combined annual emissions of over 5.5 million gasoline-powered cars.
While the Biden administration is touting the environmental benefits of the hubs, some environmental groups are less than pleased.
Jim Kotcon, chair of the West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club, said, “Climate change is real, but we should be investing in the cleanest, safest, fastest and cheapest energy sources first, not wasting money on uncompetitive energy projects. Bailing out fossil fuel companies with a hydrogen hub will only benefit the big investors that continue to ignore scientific and economic realities.”
David Schlissel, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis director of resource planning analysis, said, “Our research has shown that the government is significantly understating the impact of producing blue hydrogen on global warming. The reality is that blue hydrogen is not clean or low- carbon. Pursuing this technology is wasting precious time and diverting attention from investing in more effective measures to combat global warming like wind and solar resources, battery storage and energy efficiency.”
The other six hubs are: Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey; California Hydrogen Hub – Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES); Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub (HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub), Texas; Heartland Hydrogen Hub, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota; Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2), Illinois, Indiana, Michigan; and Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub (PNW H2), Washington, Oregon, Montana.