Pennsylvania: Ready for selection as an H2Hub

© Shutterstock

One initiative that has overwhelming bipartisan support in Pennsylvania is making the state a leader in the development of clean hydrogen and ensuring its competitiveness as a Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub through an investment by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

From the federal to the state level and across numerous industries and stakeholders, support has been growing to carve a path forward for Pennsylvania’s industrial sector decarbonization with an emphasis on the deployment of clean hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies.

“If Pennsylvania can achieve the goal of becoming one of our nation’s Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs, we will bring jobs and economic growth and lay a foundation for an industrial and manufacturing sector that can continue to compete in today’s economy,” Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said on June 3. “I’m excited to see support for our ambitions continue to grow. I look forward to continuing to build on this momentum over the coming months to emerge as a national leader in the transition to clean energy.”

Most recently, a bipartisan contingent of Pennsylvania congressional lawmakers, including 15 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one U.S. senator, joined Wolf this month in jointly pledging their commitment to work collaboratively on leveraging the state’s competitive position in energy production and industrial sector productivity to become a national clean energy leader.

“Key to this transition will be the development of a range of innovative and flexible clean energy pathways, including CCUS, clean hydrogen production, and the creation of a diverse market for clean hydrogen end-use,” the lawmakers wrote in their June 2 congressional statement. “The signatories to this letter commit their engagement to make these pathways a reality and signal their support to develop the necessary conditions for the commonwealth to be a leader in deploying these technologies.”

The lawmakers hope to have the state selected as a Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub, which is part of the Biden administration’s plan to create good paying energy jobs by expanding the use of clean hydrogen in the industrial sector. And their coordinated efforts are critical, particularly since the DOE on Monday released a Notice of Intent (NOI) to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), entitled “Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs” (H2Hubs), in the September/October timeframe.

The FOA will be funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes specific provisions for regional clean hydrogen hubs that “will be a network of clean hydrogen producers, potential clean hydrogen consumers, and connective infrastructure located in close proximity,” according to the NOI.

Investment in building out the hydrogen economy is a significant portion of the law’s funding at DOE, which is authorized to spend an appropriated $8 billion over the five-year period of fiscal years 2022 through 2026 to support the development of at least four H2Hubs. The hubs will help achieve the clean hydrogen production standard developed under the Energy Policy Act of 2005; demonstrate the production, processing, delivery, storage, and end use of clean hydrogen; and will be developed into a national clean hydrogen network to facilitate a clean hydrogen economy, the NOI states.

The H2Hubs are crucial to DOE’s strategy for achieving President Joe Biden’s goal of a 100-percent clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

“Hydrogen energy has the power to slash emissions from multiple carbon-intensive sectors and open a world of economic opportunity to clean energy businesses and workers across the country,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on June 6. “These hydrogen hubs will make significant progress towards President Biden’s vision for a resilient grid that is powered by clean energy and built by American workers.” 

Numerous stakeholders across the state are also on board with Pennsylvania becoming an H2Hub.

“We’re committed to collaborating across sectors, with government leaders, businesses, and communities, on the policies that’ll underpin development of these critically important technologies,” Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan told Pennsylvania Business Report.

“Appalachia has a rich history of manufacturing the world’s products and delivering the energy we need,” said Callahan, “and we’re on the cusp of a potential energy and manufacturing revolution.” 

Hydrogen and carbon capture technologies, for example, hold considerable promise in dramatically cutting carbon emissions, particularly in hard to abate sectors, without sacrificing the energy reliability and affordability that society depends on, said Callahan. “Natural gas is already playing a key role in significantly reducing emissions, while driving economic growth, and can be foundational to establishing the region’s hub,” he added.

In May, Gov. Wolf also joined 24 industry, organized labor, and nonprofit stakeholders in signing a declaration similar to the congressional statement that signals their commitment to take the necessary steps to create a regional ecosystem that can achieve decarbonization, transition to clean hydrogen, and ensure the commonwealth is competitive in attracting investment and creating jobs across all segments of its economy.

Among those who signed the declaration include United States Steel Corp., AirProducts and Chemicals Inc., the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Boilermakers Local, the Clean Air Task Force, Epcot Crenshaw Corp., IBEW Local, the University of Pittsburgh, Mitsubishi Power Americas, and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, among others.

“My administration has been working closely with energy, labor and industrial stakeholders across all sectors to develop the public-private partnerships needed to address the challenges of industrial sector decarbonization and develop the necessary conditions for the commonwealth to be a leader in deploying clean hydrogen and carbon capture technologies,” Wolf said. “We will continue to build on this momentum over the next several months as we pursue these opportunities for major wins for the economy, for workers, and the environment.”

State legislators from both sides of the aisle also support the H2Hub plan in Pennsylvania.

For instance, State Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), chairman of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, is working on carbon capture legislation that is related to hydrogen hubs and recently circulated a co-sponsorship memo on it in his chamber.

“We are actively collaborating with the governor’s office, environmental and industry groups to find a path forward on a bill that creates a legal and regulatory framework for both clean hydrogen and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects that could be developed in Pennsylvania in the future,” Yaw told Pennsylvania Business Report. “At present, regulatory authority of these projects are held at the federal level with the Environmental Protection Agency. Establishing a Pennsylvania-specific statute is the first step to facilitate further studies of CCS and clean hydrogen feasibility in Pennsylvania.”

Yaw thinks Pennsylvania is a natural fit for CCS because of the state’s geology and its well-established energy and industrial sectors.

“Aside from the environmental benefits, CCS and clean hydrogen would create jobs, sustain our position as a regional energy leader, and attract billions of dollars in economic investment in Pennsylvania,” Yaw said, noting that he and Wolf agree that Pennsylvania must continue leading the way on energy development and together they will find a path forward to put the state at the forefront of this emerging industry. 

“There’s $8 billion in federal funding to support these projects, so long as we can come up with a solid regulatory framework to attract that development,” said Yaw. “Pennsylvania must prioritize energy and climate policies that work in harmony and boost economic growth, create jobs and make the state an attractive place to live and work for decades to come.”

Yaw, who is working on the details now for his forthcoming bill, said he hopes to formally introduce the legislation in the coming weeks.

At the same time, State Rep. Steve Malagari (D-53) has introduced House Resolution 178, which urges the Biden administration to designate southeastern Pennsylvania as a hydrogen hub.

The geographic diversity requirement of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides for at least two hubs to be located in regions of the United States with the greatest natural gas resources.

“Given that Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the United States and that the southeastern Pennsylvania region is home to the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex, a major natural gas hub, I believe that this region would be an ideal location for the placement of a hydrogen hub,” Malagari said in March when he introduced the resolution.

Such a designation, said Malagari, would help bring new jobs and stimulate the region’s economy, as well as position Pennsylvania to be a leader of a new and growing alternative energy technology.