Indiana gets the nod to proceed with federal hydrogen hub proposal

Columbus-based Cummins Inc., a partner in the state’s bid for an H2Hub, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the last three years alone in its development of hydrogen-fuel technology. (Photo courtesy of Cummins)

U.S. Department of Energy officials are encouraging an Indiana coalition to proceed with its effort to secure a portion of $7 billion in federal funding to establish a hydrogen hub.

The Indiana coalition is one of 33 groups around the United States that the DOE has encouraged to move forward in its Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs, or H2Hubs, program. The program aims to award $7 billion to fund six to 10 hydrogen hub projects focused on the production, processing, delivery, storage and end use of clean hydrogen, with the goal of boosting the nation’s hydrogen economy.

The DOE selected the 33 from a total of 79 applicants who submitted initial proposals last fall. The DOE has not publicly identified any of the applicants. Full applications are due April 7, and the DOE expects to make its funding decisions by fall.

H2Hubs funding comes from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that passed in late 2021.

The Indiana coalition is evaluating its next step in the process before filing its next application. Paul Mitchell, CEO of the not-for-profit Energy Systems Network, said Indiana’s coalition is in discussions with two other green-lit H2Hub applicants in the Midwest about possibly joining forces to submit a combined application.

Indianapolis-based ESN, which promotes advanced energy development through collaboration, is part of the Indiana coalition, as are the Indiana Economic Development Corp., Columbus-based Cummins Inc., Purdue University, London-based BP plc and others.

Mitchell said Indiana’s preliminary proposal did not receive specific feedback from the DOE, but all applicants did get strong encouragement from the DOE to consider combining their efforts.

Indiana is in ongoing talks with a H2Hubs coalition led by the University of Toledo, in Ohio, Mitchell said, and with the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen, or MACHH2, a multistate group whose members include Chicago’s metropolitan planning agency, the University of Illinois system and Constellation Energy, which operates multiple nuclear power plants in Illinois.

“Our early conversations with these other hubs have all been positive, in that we all understand that it’s critical that the Midwest receive one of these hubs,” Mitchell said.

The DOE has explicitly stated that, to the extent possible, it wants each hydrogen hub to be in a different region of the country.

Another benefit of joining forces with other applicants, Mitchell said, is that it would add nuclear-powered hydrogen production to the coalition’s capabilities, potentially strengthening its appeal to the DOE.

Indiana’s proposal focuses on northwestern Indiana, which has natural underground caverns that could be used to store captured carbon dioxide—a byproduct when hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels. That part of the state also has a concentration of heavy industry and transportation activity that could be potential users of hydrogen fuel, Mitchell said.

The H2Hubs program is focused on clean hydrogen, which refers to how the hydrogen is produced. It can include hydrogen produced using renewable-energy sources such as nuclear or biomass. It can also include hydrogen produced with fossil fuels if the resulting carbon emissions are captured and sequestered.

Dave Roberts, a former IEDC official who is now CEO of a partner organization called the Applied Research Institute, said he and Mitchell are having active conversations with the two other groups about what a combined application might look like.

“Those are real-time discussions, and as you can imagine there are a lot of variables that are going to be in play as that happens,” Roberts said.

Roberts and Mitchell said their goal is to decide on potential partnerships in February, giving the team time to submit its full H2Hubs application by the April 7 deadline.

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