HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The White House has selected the Philadelphia area and West Virginia for two regional hubs to produce and deliver hydrogen fuel, an important part of the Biden administration’s clean energy plan, according to a person familiar with the plan.
President Joe Biden is expected to make the announcement during an economic-themed visit to Philadelphia on Friday.
The two applicants selected are the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub, based in West Virginia, and the Philadelphia-area Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub, according to the person briefed on the plan who was not authorized to publicly discuss it before Biden’s appearance and spoke on condition of anonymity.
There were 23 finalists for the $7 billion hydrogen fuel program. Other hubs also were expected to be announced.
The i nfrastructure law signed by Biden in 2021 included billions of dollars for a program to establish six to 10 regional “hydrogen hubs.” The aim is to help industry replace fossil fuels such as coal and oil, which produce planet-warming greenhouse gases, with cleaner-burning hydrogen as an energy source for vehicles, manufacturing and generating electricity.
States and businesses have been competing for federal dollars in a new Energy Department program that will create regional networks of hydrogen producers, consumers and infrastructure. The intent is to accelerate the availability and use of the colorless, odorless gas that already powers some vehicles and trains.
The Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub, or ARCH2, is a partnership involving the state of West Virginia and EQT, the nation’s largest natural gas producer, among others. They say their region has enormous gas resources and could produce hydrogen from methane using heat, steam and pressure while capturing the carbon dioxide it would generate.
The Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub, or MACH2, is supported by supported by Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as Philadelphia-area labor unions, university researchers and refineries. They say the goal is to be as climate-friendly as possible by making hydrogen through electrolysis — splitting water molecules using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, as well as nuclear power.
Nearly every state has joined at least one proposed hub, and many are working together, hoping to reap the economic development and thousands of jobs they would bring. Big fossil fuel companies, renewable energy developers and researchers in university and government labs are involved, too.
The Energy Department says the hubs will produce “clean” hydrogen, although its definition includes hydrogen produced with natural gas. Gas companies have talked about mixing hydrogen at low concentrations with methane for delivery to homes and businesses.
Many experts consider hydrogen “clean” only if made through electrolysis. But some oil and gas companies say they can use fossil fuels as feedstocks if they capture the carbon dioxide and keep it out of the atmosphere.
Environmental groups are skeptical, arguing that while hydrogen is a clean-burning source of power, it takes a great deal of energy to produce. When it’s made with electricity from coal or natural gas, it has a bigger carbon footprint than simply burning the source fuel.
“It’s unacceptable that the Biden administration and states like New Mexico are promoting hydrogen and carbon capture, which will only increase oil and gas extraction at a time when the climate emergency demands the opposite,” said Soni Grant, a campaigner with the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity.
“Hydrogen is another bait and switch from an administration that continues to break its promises to aggressively tackle climate change and help communities achieve a just, equitable transition to renewable energy,” Grant said.
Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.