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The Contenders - What We Know of the Secret List of Survivors of DOE’s Hydrogen Hub Cutdown

The U.S. has committed billions of dollars over the last couple of years to clean-energy initiatives, everything from advanced fuels and carbon-capture technology to renewable energy and electric vehicles. The “all-of-the-above” approach also includes clean hydrogen, whose development the U.S. Department of Energy (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. As part of its efforts, the U.S. plans to provide generous financial support for the buildout of several hydrogen hubs — initial concept papers were submitted last year by dozens of applicants for the federal largesse, and the DOE recently provided formal “encouragement” to 33 proponents to submit a full application this spring, in what amounts to an informal cutdown, but declined to name them. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the 18 projects we’ve been able to identify that survived the trimming, what they tell us about the selection process, and how it compares to our previous expectations.

Much like the federal government did with wind and solar power in the 2000s and 2010s, the U.S. has made clean hydrogen a priority, with the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs (H2Hubs) proposal intended to accelerate the process. The DOE opened up $7 billion in funding (courtesy of 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) for the hubs in September 2022. For the first stage of the process, the DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstration (OCED), which will administer the hydrogen hubs, required interested parties to submit concept papers about their planned projects. Each paper’s assessment was based on evaluation criteria that included qualifications, experience, and capabilities; expected contributions toward a national hydrogen network; plans to develop production, end-use, and connective facilities; and community benefits.

Of the 79 concept papers that were submitted, 33 were encouraged by a DOE panel in late December to submit a full application by the April 7 deadline. The OCED announcement didn’t name those projects, although it noted that applicants are free to share their papers and the DOE’s response to them. We don’t have the full list of applicants that received positive feedback, but we’ve been able to identify 18 of them through various methods, including project announcements, press releases and news reports, and they tell us a little something about how the process is playing out. (If there’s a project that should be included in our list, please email Managing Editor Jason Lindquist.) Figure 1 below details the 18 projects we’ve been able to confirm so far, along with their general location. It’s important to note that there are lots of pieces to the individual proposals, many of which have not been detailed in public, and several of them include multiple states. (States included in at least one confirmed proposal are shaded in Figure 1. The numbers correspond with the project list below the map.)

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