Will Hydrogen Hub Come to Philly?
The Delaware Valley is known for many things, and some are hoping to add another title for the region: Hydrogen Hub.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) promotes hydrogen hubs as a “central driver” in helping communities benefit from clean energy investments, good-paying jobs, and improved energy security. The nationwide plan calls for six to 10 regional clean hydrogen hubs funded by billions of tax dollars.
The deadline to file a proposal for a hydrogen hub with the DOE was April 7. Two proposals have emerged in the commonwealth. One is in Pittsburgh, the other an effort involving southeast Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware called the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2). By all accounts, the idea has many fans.
That includes the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, which stated support for the hub and the money it could bring to the region.
“We definitely see it as a good economic opportunity for the region,” says Hasna Achik, manager of economic competitiveness and energy initiatives at the chamber. “As far as job creation, this was between 20,000 and 25,000 jobs in our region, and it would be a mix of blue-collar and white-collar jobs.”
Jim Snell, Steamfitters Local 420 Business and MACH2 core team member has no doubt it can be done.
“Looking at southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southern New Jersey as a whole, we have the critical infrastructure and the skilled, motivated labor force needed,” Snell told the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA) in November 2022.
“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,” says DOE on its website. “The production, processing, delivery, storage, and end-use of clean hydrogen, including innovative uses in the industrial sector, are crucial to DOE’s strategy for achieving President Biden’s goal of a 100 percent clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
Biden believes the earth is warming but that humanity can combat the situation by curbing emissions and replacing fossil fuels with alternative energies.
Marcellus Shale Coalition also supports awarding hydrogen hubs that can encourage development in Pennsylvania. With the environment weighing on a lot of minds, Marcellus Shale Coalition says Pennsylvania’s natural gas resources are the cleanest in the nation while at the same time providing a viable feedstock for hydrogen production. Match that with proximity to markets and the area’s workforce, and Marcellus Shale Coalition calls the state a logical choice to produce clean hydrogen and deploy carbon capture facilities.
“Hydrogen derived from natural gas and carbon capture can be effective tools to decarbonize key sectors of the Pennsylvania economy, promote growth, and serve as a model for the rest of the nation,” says Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Some organizations do urge caution. While the Sierra Club of Pennsylvania believes that hydrogen will have a role to play for certain energy uses that are hard to decarbonize with other technology like steel making, international shipping, and possibly for long-term renewable energy storage, state director Tom Schuster says there are many proposed uses for which hydrogen is inefficient, unhealthy, or even dangerous compared to using electricity directly.
For example, Schuster says using methane to create hydrogen, even with carbon capture, could increase rather than decrease overall greenhouse gas emissions if the hydrogen is misused, such as in combustion turbines for generating electricity or for heating buildings. As a result, Schuster is concerned that a “rush to create a large supply of hydrogen without carefully considering appropriate end uses” could be counterproductive to climate goals.
Still, industry groups such as Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA) think a hydrogen hub in Pennsylvania would position the region as a leader in low-carbon manufacturing and ensure Appalachia and the Mid-Atlantic remains an energy powerhouse for years to come.
“The economic growth stemming from this type of project will prove beneficial to communities throughout Pennsylvania where growth has been stagnant, and unemployment has been prevalent,” says PMA executive director Carl Marrara. “Now more than ever, we need to put our nation’s resources to work for American job creators and consumers. Unleashing American energy leadership through developing hydrogen hubs in our region is essential for our commonwealth and the United States as a whole.”
The DOE told Delaware Valley Journal it plans to announce which projects were selected in the fall.