FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 13, 2023
Dan Radmacher, Media Specialist, (540) 798-6683, firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy selected the winners of the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs grant program, which will direct billions of dollars to several proposed facilities across the country. One of the winners is the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub, which will be located in West Virginia and will also serve Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Appalachian hub, unlike other DOE selections, will produce hydrogen exclusively from methane gas and will lead to the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the region.
Hydrogen produced from methane gas combined with carbon capture, as planned here, is known as blue hydrogen.
“Truly clean hydrogen — created from renewable energy using non-polluting electrolysis methods — can make a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions,” said Chelsea Barnes, Director of Government Affairs and Strategy. “Appalachian communities have borne the brunt of the pollution from fossil fuels for more than a century, and the administration should be focused on helping these energy communities transition to clean technologies. We urge DOE to work with selected projects to advance zero-emission hydrogen technologies — and not further our reliance on methane gas.”
While the hydrogen produced by these hubs will provide direct emissions reduction benefits to several forms of industry like chemical production and alternative fuels, the emissions reduction benefits are much more speculative for energy generation sites. Appalachian Voices is concerned about the production of blue hydrogen from methane gas for energy production for a number of reasons:
Carbon capture at these facilities is an unproven technology at this scale,
There is only a modest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from hydrogen blends,
The financial investment in these new technologies could be better spent on proven renewable energy technologies.
Proponents of blue hydrogen production often brand the technology as “clean” or environmentally friendly under the assumption that the carbon dioxide it produces as a byproduct will be captured effectively. Many of the announced hydrogen hubs are claiming to have a 90 to 95% capture rate of carbon dioxide. However, large-scale hydrogen production plants in the United States have been unable to reach this goal, with some falling far short with less than a 50% carbon capture rate.
Plans for hydrogen combustion at gas fired power plants have already raised safety concerns in the region, where utilities like Duke Energy are preparing to install “hydrogen-ready” combustion turbines that use hydrogen blended with methane gas in order to reduce emissions. Because hydrogen is leakier and more flammable than methane gas, research suggests that a maximum of 20% blend of hydrogen in existing infrastructure is proven to be safe. At this concentration, power plants that produce energy from burning gas blends will only reduce emissions by 6 to 7%.
“The cost of the infrastructure needed to introduce hydrogen from these hubs will be passed to consumers and could threaten to displace the buildout of cheaper forms of electricity production like solar that meaningfully contribute to the reduction of emissions,” said Ridge Graham, North Carolina Program Manager of Appalachian Voices. “Communities across our region have neither the time nor the money to spend on this.”
Appalachian Voices will continue to monitor this announcement as more details emerge from this project.
Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.