A coalition of energy, petrochemical and steel companies announced on February 3 the formation of an alliance to develop a low-carbon and hydrogen industrial hub in the Appalachian region, specifically in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The group plans to build out an infrastructure for “blue” hydrogen production, where hydrogen is isolated from natural gas, and leftover carbon dioxide from the process is stored underground. Among the companies announcing the hydrogen hub alliance are U.S. Steel Corporation and EQT Corporation, the latter being the largest producer of natural gas in the United States.
The hub proposal was met with disagreement from some in the environmental community. A spokesperson for the Fracktracker Alliance was quoted in media reports that the investment in hydrogen was “an extension of existing polluting industries, by the very same companies that clean our air, land and water” and “an excuse to keep drilling under a new identity.”
On February 8, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) released an analysis of the promise of blue hydrogen technology, which noted that the furtherance of the technology was promoted by the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides more than $8 billion for hydrogen development.
David Schlissel, IEEFA’s Director of Resource Planning Analysis, said:
“The federal government and some state governments are racing to finance carbon capture technologies. That is a mistake. Decades of experiments and hard data show the technology has not been proven to capture 90% of the CO2 over the long term, which is what proponents claim it will do. Some research on how to decarbonize sectors of the economy is certainly warranted, but the best way to reduce the amount of CO2 pollution is to stop producing it. That means shutting down coal plants now and gas-fired plants as soon as possible—plus, moving directly to renewable energy, or green hydrogen produced from renewables if needed, and bypassing blue hydrogen.”