US Energy  Department secretary, Jennifer Granholm,  has revealed that developing hydrogen as a fuel source is a major US Government priority, as her department issued an $US8 billion ($AUD12.1)  hydrogen hub funding notice.

Granholm  revealed the news during her opening address to 1,000 online participants in a Department of Energy Hydrogen Program meeting  on the 6th June.

She said the U.S. Department of Energy is pursuing plans to establish at least four regional clean hydrogen hubs across the country  and that the bipartisan infrastructure law authorised the $8 billion spend over five years for the current financial year through to 2026, in order to develop regional clean hydrogen hubs that demonstrate the production, processing, delivery, storage and end-use of clean hydrogen.

Granholm said  the Energy Department  will be looking to fund hydrogen hub proposals from US states prioritising environmental justice, equity, clean energy, community engagement, workforce development and climate action, adding that the priorities for the U.S. energy landscape and key goals are to ensure benefits to all Americans and focus on jobs, with 40 per cent of benefits in disadvantaged communities.

“There has never been more interest in and more resources behind and more help for this technology and we just cannot let this moment slip by,” she said.

Granholm told the meeting that they needed to work together to ensure that “this moment for clean hydrogen changes the course of history, to build our hydrogen-powered clean energy future.”

Her statements  coincided with a  notice of intent to fund the infrastructure law’s $8 billion program to develop regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across America. This notice of intent was issued to make interested parties aware that DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations will issue a funding opportunity announcement in the near-term.

Under the plan H2Hubs will create networks of hydrogen producers, consumers and local connective infrastructure to speed up the use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier, which is critical to the DoE’s strategy for achieving President Biden’s goal of a 100 per cent clean electrical grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The DOE’s director of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies office and hydrogen program coordinator, Sunita Satyapal, also addressed the meeting  discussing the federal strategy for hydrogen.

Hydrogen is able to store and deliver energy, but doesn’t typically exist by itself in nature, and  must be extracted from compounds that contain it, typically H2O or as we better know if, water.  Hydrogen can be extracted  from water using electrically energy, preferably by green means without emissions such as  renewable energy including wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power and from biomass (through biological processes). It can also be extracted using through low-carbon pathways using fossil fuels  but this is known as brown or blue hydrogen and is not as desirable for the environment in the long term.

The US DoE has noted that around 10 million metric tonnes of hydrogen is produced annually with 55 per cent used in petroleum refining and 35per cent for making ammonia and methanol.

Satyapal said that in the near-term the Department’s strategy for hydrogen development will focus on producing hydrogen through electrolysis, advanced fossil and biomass reforming/conversion for delivery from on-site production centres through tube trailers and cryogenic trucks. Hydrogen would be stored in pressurized tanks when gaseous and in cryogenic vessels in liquid form.

Currently hydrogen produced from renewable energy costs about $US5 ($AUD7.11) per kilogram. Cost is clearly still a major challenge with hydrogen production, and the DoE says that is why it’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office is focused on developing technologies to  reduce the price down to around $2 ($AUD2.80) per kilogram by 2025, and  to lower the cost of clean hydrogen to $1 ($AUD1.42) per kilogram within a decade.

The US government has identified emerging hydrogen markets in ports, steel manufacturing and medium- and heavy-duty trucks.