CANTON — The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority is part of a new alliance seeking a $2 billion federal grant to help build a center for the hydrogen industry in the region.
The public agency — which uses hydrogen to power part of its bus fleet — joined with about 62 other organizations and government leaders last month to form the Ohio Clean Energy Hub Alliance and begin promoting the concept.
The goal is to provide a cleaner source of energy with little or no carbon emissions and create tens of thousands of jobs in an area that could encompass Ohio, western Pennsylvania and the West Virginia.
The U.S. Department of Energy this week began seeking comment on how to allocate $8 billion to fund at least four clean hydrogen energy centers across the country. The hubs would be areas or regions where the federal government would invest the money, hoping to spark the development of a clean-energy hydrogen industry that doesn’t contribute to climate change. Such a hub would be close to an energy source that would eventually include emerging industries for generation, storage, and transportation to end users.
At least one hub would be based on the extraction of hydrogen from a fossil fuel, which may include natural gas; one from nuclear energy; and one from renewable energy sources.
One of the goals is to reduce the cost of hydrogen, which powers fuel cells, to $1 per kilogram within a decade. SARTA now pays around $6-10 per kilogram for its 20 hydrogen vehicles.
According to SARTA, one kilogram of hydrogen provides roughly the equivalent of one gallon of diesel. The ultimate federal goals are a carbon-free electric grid by 2035 and a carbon-free economy by 2050.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in November authorized the new grant program.
Start an alliance
SARTA Executive Director Kirt Conrad and Andrew Thomas, director of energy policy at Cleveland State University, began discussions early last month about organizing an alliance of business, government and industry. institutes in Ohio to seek funding.
Within a month, they recruited about 60 partners, which now include Dominion Energy, the City of Canton, Stark County Commissioner Richard Regula, the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, Battelle Scientific Research Institute in Columbus, Kent State University, energy technology company Babcock & Wilcox in Akron, Halliburton, Ohio Turnpike Commission, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Travel Centers of America, and the Stark Economic Development Board. They also set up a website for the covenant.
Conrad said it was important they act quickly because other states like New York, New Mexico and Kentucky have already said they are seeking the funding.
“It’s important for us to move forward,” he said. “If we don’t, it will be somewhere else and the benefits won’t be there.”
Conrad said alliance members had a conference call on Tuesday immediately after the US Department of Energy released its request for information. They are working on who would write the alliance responses.
The Department of Energy is asking the public to respond to its request for ideas and information on a strategy for implementing hydrogen hubs by March 8. The department is also seeking ideas and information on the manufacture, recycling and electrolysis of clean hydrogen before March 29. Alliance members can submit their own responses.
SARTA expects the Department of Energy to begin soliciting grant applications by mid-May.
SARTA would benefit
Conrad said if the Department of Energy awarded a $2 billion grant to establish a hydrogen hub in the region that includes Stark County, SARTA would be among the first public transit systems to have access to hydrogen at a lower cost, thus reducing the cost for taxpayers of maintaining the bus. system.
SARTA would also be well positioned to be the transit system that demonstrates the experimental use of any new hydrogen fuel cell technology. Additionally, being located in an area covered by a hydrogen hub would help SARTA in its demands for federal money to purchase more hydrogen vehicles.
SARTA began its transition to hydrogen vehicles in 2016. It claims to have the only publicly accessible hydrogen fueling station in Ohio, which is at SARTA headquarters in Canton.
Conrad said the alliance is looking for new partners such as private companies and organizations that could contribute their expertise, experience, connections and funding.
“What we’re trying to do ultimately is create a hydrogen ecosystem and infrastructure. Part of that is educating the public, educating stakeholders, educating politicians. grant) proposal,” Conrad said.
He added that he had previously discussed the alliance with US Representative Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville. Members also contacted the two U.S. senators from Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine’s administration, JobsOhio and leaders of the Ohio General Assembly.
The grants will require 100% matching, Thomas said, much of which he expected would be set up by private companies or investors.
Conrad said the alliance has entered into preliminary discussions with officials in West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania to combine forces to submit a joint request to establish a hub in a territory that would include all three states.
The advantages of Ohio
The existence of the Utica and Marcellus shales, with large amounts of natural gas, in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia would give the region a head start on competition for funding. Thomas said hydrogen is made from the methane in natural gas.
Ohio also has several industries, which could be end users of hydrogen energy, Thomas said. In addition, the state has some gas pipelines with limited capacity to transport hydrogen gas.
The hydrogen industry is at “a very early stage (in Ohio) but not as early as in other states,” said Thomas, who is studying how to expand the commercialization of hydrogen energy.
But, “we don’t have a well-established way to move hydrogen from the point of production to the point of consumption. … We have a cheap source of hydrogen for production and we have an end-user appetite in Ohio for consumption. What we’re missing is connecting those two together.”
While hydrogen fuel cell vehicles don’t emit carbon dioxide, Thomas said the technology isn’t currently completely clean. The manufacturer emits carbon dioxide when making hydrogen from methane. Currently, SARTA sources hydrogen from Air Products Canada in Sarnia, Ontario. And the trucks that transport hydrogen to SARTA from Canada have carbon emissions.
Thomas envisions the construction of large facilities to recover steam from the hydrogen manufacturing process. In addition to building large hydrogen storage facilities, some may be underground with pipelines to transport hydrogen and facilities at ports and rail hubs to load hydrogen onto ships and trains for transport. shipping. This is in addition to a network of hydrogen fueling stations and zero-emission trucks powered by hydrogen, which he says is a better technology for powering heavy-duty trucks than battery electrics.
Thomas said companies to make the process emission-free will need to figure out what to do with the carbon dioxide that is a byproduct of the hydrogen manufacturing process. Either by using the carbon to make urea, which is a chemical used in the chemical and fertilizer industries; contain the carbon in the soil; or put the carbon in products like concrete. Besides fracking methane, the source of gas to make hydrogen could come from landfills or biomass waste, he said.
Another option is to use electricity from solar, wind or nuclear sources to extract hydrogen from water by electrolysis.
Conrad said he was aware of a group in northwest Ohio seeking to establish their area as a hub for hydrogen created from nuclear power. The Department of Energy said each clean hydrogen hub will be located in a different region of the country.
Contact Robert at 330-580-8327 or [email protected] Twitter: @rwangREP.