The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced plans to award seven hydrogen hubs to advance regional clean energy projects, improve energy security, and promote high-quality employment opportunities. The Heartland Hydrogen Hub (HH2H) is one of seven selected by DOE. Located in the heartland of the United States, the hub’s goal is to decarbonize multiple sectors in the region, including agriculture and industrial manufacturing, while producing clean hydrogen for end use in fertilizer, industrial use, and power generation. But what is a hydrogen hub?
Instead of a single, fixed physical site, a hydrogen hub represents a comprehensive network of hydrogen producers, transporters, and consumers, all contributing to the advancement and commercialization of a hydrogen-based energy market. “Think of hydrogen as the Swiss Army knife of energy,” says Charles Gorecki, CEO EERC and HH2H LLC. “Once infrastructure is constructed as part of these selected hubs, hydrogen can be produced, transported, stored, and utilized in a variety of ways with regional resources, adding another option to provide clean and reliable energy to the people of the United States.”
The development of HH2H entails establishing an extensive infrastructure network that extends across multiple states and is dedicated to hydrogen production, storage, transportation, and utilization. Once a well-structured plan is in place, the subsequent stages encompass construction and market integration. Within this framework, one of the project’s key collaborators, Xcel Energy, plans to use its existing and future nuclear, solar, and wind resources in the upper Midwest for hydrogen production. HH2H’s partner, Prairie Horizon Energy Solutions, a collaboration between Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) and TC Energy, will adopt a similar method for hydrogen production using renewable and natural gas resources.
Once produced, the hydrogen can either be stored for later use or shipped and used directly for a variety of things, including ammonia, urea fertilizer, natural gas pipeline blending for power generation and local distribution facilities, and industrial operations. “We’re essentially building a new market in this region,” says Chad Wocken, the Project Manager for HH2H. “The benefits of this new industry will go far beyond clean energy and extend beyond the five-state HH2H region.”
HH2H aims to create a total of 3800 new jobs and seeks to involve local communities, indigenous tribes, and various stakeholder organizations to identify strategies and initiatives that foster collective economic and societal well-being within the region. As part of the multistate collaboration, trade groups and universities from Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have signed letters of support pledging involvement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) opportunities for minorities and underrepresented groups. Prairie Horizon Energy Solutions has also been in communication with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and Sumitomo Corporation of Americas to establish meaningful participation in the initiative.
The HH2H team anticipates beginning work in the first quarter of 2024 and initiating the first phase, concept development, of a four-phase commercial development. “This is a large, long-term commercial development,” says Wocken, “one that will catalyze significant investment in the region’s energy production, transport, and use, while also enabling an all-the-above approach to clean energy.”