Gulf Coast Highway, Part 2 - The Houston Area's Case for Becoming a DOE-Backed Hydrogen Hub

It took many decades to build out the U.S.’s natural gas production, processing and transportation infrastructure, and just as long to develop demand for natgas — the many millions of residential, commercial, industrial and power-generation customers that now depend on U.S. gas, both domestically and, more recently, internationally as well. Now, with action on both climate change and energy security top of mind, there’s a big push to add clean hydrogen to the energy mix as quickly as possible, as evidenced by the Department of Energy’s plan to invest up to $8 billion in the development of four or more “hydrogen hubs.” This time, we won’t have decades to build out the clean hydrogen supply, demand and infrastructure that will be needed to make a real difference — and that’s precisely the point being made by the folks in and around Houston, who assert that the region has just what it takes to get a consequential hydrogen hub up and running. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at the federal government’s push to advance clean hydrogen and the Houston-led effort to make the western Gulf Coast a center of hydrogen-related activity.

As we said in Part 1, it’s clear by now that the transition to a lower-carbon economy will be an “all of the above” kind of thing, involving everything from wind, solar and nuclear power to battery storage, electric vehicles and fuel cells. And hydrocarbons, whose climate impacts can be reduced by blending with renewable fuels or other means — or mitigated (partially or even fully) with carbon offsets and carbon sequestration. Then there’s clean hydrogen, the focus of this blog series (and RBN’s weekly Hydrogen Billboard), whose development the DOE has deemed crucial to meeting the Biden administration’s goals of a 100% clean electric grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act that President Biden signed into law last November is designed to propel the clean hydrogen market forward in the 2020s, in part by providing a total of $8 billion over five years to support the development of at least four regional clean hydrogen hubs. The new law also sets aside an additional $1 billion to back efforts to reduce the cost of producing clean hydrogen from water via renewables-powered electrolyzers to $2/kilogram (from the current $4-plus/kg) by 2026, and another $500 million to help advance equipment manufacturing technologies and techniques for clean hydrogen processing, delivery, storage, etc.

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