United States: DOE launches $8bn H2Hubs program

Jun 17, 2022 | Posted by MadalineDunn

The US Department of Energy recently launched an $8 billion program through which it will develop a network of regional clean hydrogen hubs across America, to fast-track the use of hydrogen as a clean energy source.

Although the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has outlined plans for at least four hubs, a DOE Notice of Intent (NOI) has outlined that the agency could launch between six to 10 hubs to start the program in September/October of this year. Likewise, in an NOI, officials also said that the federal department is only seeking to fund large projects producing 50-100 tonnes of H2 per day, which is the equivalent to a minimum of 18,250 tonnes of hydrogen per year (based on 365 days of production per year).

Speaking about the program, US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said: "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. 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."

That said, there are discussions being had around the DOE's  "clean energy," considering that one of the hubs will be making "clean" hydrogen from fossil fuels, by pairing it with carbon capture and sequestration, which releases methane emissions, and hasn't accounted for methane leaks from wells and pipelines. 

In a statement, discussing this, the DOE said: "While all projects will be required to meet the minimum clean hydrogen production standard, DOE intends to also evaluate full lifecycle emissions for each application and will give preference to applications that reduce GHG emissions across the full project lifecycle, inclusive of hydrogen production, compared to current industry standards." This statement has been perceived as decidedly vague, and subsequently has been deemed by climate advocates as greenwashing that is propping up Big Oil to continue using fossil fuels.  

Nonprofits at the Union of Concerned Scientists and RMI called on the DOE to adopt more stringent standards regarding what makes a hydrogen project clean. The Union's senior energy analyst Julie McNamara said: "Otherwise, it threatens to support the deployment of hydrogen production pathways that will never align with climate goals." 

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