Ohio is competing to be the next ‘hydrogen hub’
Ohio is vying for a spot in a federal clean energy initiative.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act earmarked around $8 billion in fundingto create up to 10 "hydrogen hubs" across the country. The plan is for hubs to produce, store and deliver hydrogen as a green energy source.
Ohio has partnered with the state of Michigan to put its hat in the ring, with its application to create the "Great Lakes Clean Hydrogen Hub."
“The fact that we'll be reducing the carbon footprint in our region is gonna be very important not just for the quality of the air, but it's also important for human health,” said Frank Calzonetti, Vice President of Research at the University of Toledo.
Ohio organizations and industries across the state have joined in support of the project. The Great Lakes Clean Hydrogen Hub Coalition is made up of Linde, Energy Harbor, Cleveland-Cliffs, GE Aerospace, the University of Toledo and the Glass Manufacturing Industry Council.
What is a hydrogen hub?
Hydrogen hubs are meant to make the transition to clean hydrogen more viable.
“The U.S. Department of Energy has a very ambitious program to decarbonize and believes that hydrogen is the way to move toward that goal,” he said.
Advocates believe hydrogen could be the key to reducing emissions in energy intensive industries, such as manufacturing and transportation. Then, ultimately, they hope it will help the country reach Biden’s goal of cutting emissions in half by 2030.
But others aren’t so sure. How "green" hydrogen is depends on how it's produced. The production of "blue hydrogen" involves the use of natural gas – and research shows it can still have a large carbon footprint.
Calzonetti said if the Great Lakes region wins its bid to be a hydrogen hub, it would not be producing hydrogen through that process. Rather, it would rely on electrolysis – which uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
“It's not going to be hitting the challenges that you may have in other regions where you may have some leakage of methane,” Calzonetti said.
The Inflation Reduction Act included tax credits to make hydrogen more cost effective. Calzonetti says hydrogen hubs are necessary to scaling up the industry and driving down its price.
What sets Ohio apart?
The competition is stiff – there are at least 20 finalists. But Calzonetti believes Ohio has distinct advantages that make it stand out.
For starters, he said work has already been started by local businesses. The Davis-Besse power plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio has already begun looking at how to produce clean hydrogen. The power plant station’s electrolysis system is expected to be operational this year.
And, he said, there’s already a strong demand for hydrogen in the region.
“It didn't take us long to find out that there was a tremendous appetite, in Ohio and in Michigan, for hydrogen as a way to decarbonize,” he said.
Plus, Calzonetti said their application included a plan to ensure disadvantaged communities benefited from the investment.
“We have Toledo, Detroit, Cleveland, and also Cincinnati in the lead, working on ways to involve people from these communities, and upgrade the workforce opportunities in those communities to participate in this hydrogen hub.”
The hubs are expected to be designated in the fall.