Indiana will receive part of a $1 billion investment into hydrogen production.
The federal government today announced $7 billion in funding for seven regional hubs across the U.S. Hoosiers stand to gain jobs and other economic growth benefits through the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Midwest Hub includes Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. The three states could see additional investments from the private sector as well as 13,600 direct jobs split between them, the DOE said.
The new funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law lays a foundation for America’s clean energy transition, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a news release. The hope is that hydrogen will be a less volatile, more affordable and cleaner energy option for Americans, Granholm added.
Still, while state and corporate leaders champion the Biden Administration’s investment, environmental advocates in Indiana worry a lack of transparency and subsidizing legacy carbon-emitters to continue their reliance on fossil fuels.
Chris Chyung, executive director of the Indiana Conservation Voters, said in a statement the funding can be a game-changer for Hoosiers, but the hard part will be making sure the hub’s programs actually reduce emissions.
So what is a hydrogen hub exactly?
The Midwest Hub, known as MachH2, is one of seven across the country that will produce hydrogen as a fuel source for the region’s industrial and manufacturing sectors. This hub will be located at or near BP’s refinery in Whiting, Ind., which has been in operation for more than 130 years. The investment also will involve creating a “hydrogen mobility corridor” in Indiana and across neighboring states.
The Midwest will largely include what is called blue-hydrogen (more on that below), according to Gov. Eric Holcomb.
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Who is part of the Midwest Hub?
The hub consists of more than 70 public and private organizations throughout Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and some in Wisconsin that support and are part of the project. In Indiana, those organizations include the Indiana Economic Development Corp., Purdue University, London-based BP, Energy Systems Network and more.
What is Indiana’s role and response?
This hub is strategically located in a key U.S. industrial, manufacturing and transportation corridor, according to the DOE. It is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within those sectors — which are very prominent in Indiana. For example, Indiana is home to more than a quarter of the country’s steelmaking capacity.
Indiana Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg, in an emailed statement, said the state is focused on building an economy of the future.
“This new hydrogen hub will accelerate our clean energy efforts, cultivating new sources of energy for industry and residents alike while making Indiana — and the Midwest region — a destination of excellence in hydrogen technology,” he said.
Following today’s billion-dollar investment in the Midwest, Holcomb focused on BP’s Whiting facility in a news release, saying the company’s blue-hydrogen project will “cement Indiana’s pole position in the new energy economy.”
What is hydrogen used for?
Hydrogen can have a variety of uses and technology continues to advance to make sectors ready to use the fuel. Most notably, the hub is meant to help replace carbon-based fuels used in the production of steel and glass, power generation, heavy-duty transportation, refining and aviation fuel.
All of these industries currently are some of the top emitters of greenhouse gasses as well as harmful particulate matter pollution within Indiana.
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How is hydrogen produced?
There are several ways that hydrogen can be generated, all requiring energy, but the main two are called green and blue hydrogen.
Green hydrogen is when the energy used to power the process comes from renewable sources such as wind or solar. Blue hydrogen, on the other hand, produces hydrogen by using natural gas. To be considered blue hydrogen, the carbon emissions from the natural gas must be captured and stored underground in a process called carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS.
Is hydrogen clean energy?
There is a lot of debate around this question. Hydrogen itself is clean: When it is burned, it generates energy in the form of heat and water as its byproduct. As a result, there is no climate-warming carbon dioxide created in the process.
However, you can’t separate from this question the way the hydrogen is produced. Proponents of the hubs say that hydrogen is a clean energy source, regardless of how it is produced — even blue hydrogen, because the carbon emissions are captured and stored.
Some environmental advocates disagree. While they consider green hydrogen to be a clean option that could help reduce emissions across industry, they are concerned about the reliance on blue hydrogen in the Midwest Hub.
The Citizens Action Coalition, a consumer advocacy group in Indiana that focuses on energy issues, said it maintains its “strident opposition” to the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
“Blue hydrogen is a false solution to climate change as it relies on fossil gas as the feedstock and is wholly dependent on the dangerous scheme that is CCS,” CAC executive director Kerwin Olson told IndyStar.
He and the organization also are opposed to carbon capture because they said it relies on a massive network of pipelines transporting carbon dioxide under immense pressure and then storing it under agricultural land and other areas throughout Indiana and the region.
What is the timeline?
It is unclear at this time what the next steps are for moving forward with the Midwest Hub, both across the region and in Indiana.
That state has already taken some steps toward the hydrogen production that is meant to happen through the Hub. In September 2022, Holcomb signed House Enrolled Act 1209 into law, creating a regulatory framework for companies to store captured carbon dioxide underground in Indiana.
In the same month, Holcomb joined a coalition of seven other Midwest governors to partner in a hydrogen market and supply chain to develop an industry in the region.
The hydrogen hubs will be developed in fours stages, according to the DOE, and the public is encouraged to engage with the process. Stakeholders and community members can find out more about he hubs by emailing the department at [email protected]. For questions specifically about the Midwest Hub, send emails to [email protected].
Call IndyStar reporter Sarah Bowman at 317-444-6129 or email at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @IndyStarSarah. Connect with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Join The Scrub on Facebook.
IndyStar’s environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.