Published on January 11th, 2021 | by Tina Casey0
In Midst Of Insurrection, Texas Roots For Green Hydrogen Future
January 11th, 2021 by Tina Casey
So what if Vice President Mike Pence and the entire U.S. Congress narrowly escaped death at the hands of a vicious mob incited to attack the Capitol Building by *President Trump — the business of energy must carry on! With that in mind, let’s take a look over at Texas. The Lone Star State has long held sway as the top oil and gas producer in the U.S., but it seems that the siren song of green hydrogen is too tempting to resist.
Texas Is Primed For A Green Hydrogen Future
The words Texas and green energy of any sort would not have made much sense when put together in one sentence way back in the 20th century, but oh my how things have changed. Texas leapt out of the ahead of the wind power pack years ago, and its solar power profile is no slouch either, and it has become the go-to spot for dropping new cleantech systems into the hands of waiting consumers.
Energy storage is also in the mix for Texas, and then there’s the whole electric vehicle thing, but let’s hover over energy storage because that brings us to green hydrogen, which after all is basically a medium for storing energy from various renewable energy sources.
Under the current state of technology the smart money is on green hydrogen produced through electrolysis, which refers to subjecting water to an electrical current. If your electricity is coming from a fossil power plant that kills the whole idea of green hydrogen, but it’s a different kettle of fish when wind or solar power are in play.
If you’re thinking Texas + wind + solar = green hydrogen that’s a good beginning. They’re also throwing biogas into the pot, which makes sense because practically all of the hydrogen produced in the world today comes from a process called steam reformation applied to natural gas, and some of that know-how could transfer over to biogas.
Yes, They Are Super-Serious About Green Hydrogen In Texas
Last November something called the Western Green Hydrogen Coalition launched as an offshoot of the Green Hydrogen Coalition, with the aim of promoting its green hydrogen vision for the western US. With Mitsubishi as a key supporter they already have a foothold in Utah, but Texas is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish considering the state is packed to the gills with powerful, longstanding oil and gas stakeholders.
Or, maybe not.
The University of Texas at Austin is hosting a conference on January 12 called the Texas Hydrogen Roundtable, which aims at demonstrating the state’s potential to become the “backbone of the emerging U.S. hydrogen economy.”
Wait, that’s today. Oh, well. If you missed it, maybe there wasn’t much to miss. The featured speakers’ lineup suggests that hydrogen from fossil sources is tops on the menu. Or, maybe not.
For example, Royal Dutch Shell is a featured speaker, and they just teamed up with the firm Gasunie to build a huge green hydrogen plant in the Netherlands. Shell also has a hand in the Netherlands’s Crosswinds offshore wind project, which includes an element of offshore hydrogen production.
Shell is also working with an electrolyzer consortium including the firms Evonik and Enapter, so there’s that.
The Netherlands connection is of particular interest because last October the US Energy Department engineered a new green hydrogen initiative with the Netherlands, with a focus on improving and validating the next generation of high-efficiency, low-cost electrolyzers.
That brings us to another featured company in the lineup, Dow. The chemical firm was positioned to play a key role in electrolyzer development about 15 years ago. It has maintained a fairly low profile since then, but our friends over at Chemical & Engineering News note that Dow also has set a relatively high net zero goal. It could be eyeballing green hydrogen as part of the plan.
Rounding out the trio of top speakers is ExxonMobil.
That’s all we have to say about that.
Oh wait, maybe ExxonMobil will be working the biogas angle, considering its expertise in the gas field. If you have a chance to check into the conference this afternoon drop us a note in the comment thread and let us know what they say (speakers begin at 3:15 p.m.).
Texas — Capital of Green Energy?
Really, aren’t you just dying to hear what ExxonMobil has to say? We are, considering that the University of Texas is billing the whole conference as part of a broader plan to position Texas as the capital of green energy production.
“Texas is already the U.S. energy capital. The state is a national leader in conventional fuels and natural gas, and an innovator in clean energy,” UT-Austin points out, adding that “It is now poised to become a pioneer in the next big frontier in green power: hydrogen.”
“The hydrogen economy is on its way to growing into a $130 billion industry in the U.S. alone during the next 10 years, and now is the time to plan for ways to make it the centerpiece of the ongoing transition to green energy,” they enthuse.
The key takeaway is that UT-Austin is pivoting its massive, sprawling network of energy R&D resources to bear on green hydrogen.
The pivot has already begun. UT-Austin is collaborating with Frontier Energy (a subsidiary of Illinois-based GTI), in an Energy Department hydrogen project that comes under the agency’s ambitious H2@Scale plan for scaling up domestic hydrogen production.
H2@Scale has been making a green hydrogen pivot of its own, and that is reflected in the UT-Austin project. The GTI connection brings UT-Austin into a network of partners that includes emerging green hydrogen fans Shell, Mitsubishi, and Air Liquide along with the companies OneH2, Texas Gas Service, SoCalGas, Toyota Motor North America, and PowerCell Sweden AB.
Here’s the lowdown from UT-Austin:
“UT-Austin will host a first-of-its-kind integration of commercial hydrogen production, distribution, storage, and use. The project partners will generate zero-carbon hydrogen onsite via electrolysis with solar and wind power and reformation of renewable natural gas from a Texas landfill. It is first time that both sources of renewable hydrogen will be used in the same project.”
Interesting! Some of the hydrogen from the electrolysis and reformation systems will be used in a stationary fuel cell connected to the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and some will go to fuel a fleet of Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell electric vehicles.
Another element of the project will take place at the Port of Houston, where researchers will assess how existing hydrogen-to-refinery pipelines and other infrastructure can be worked into the plan.
Hold on to your hats!
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Image: H2@Scale project hosted by University of Texas, Austin (via UT-Austin Energy Institute).
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