Indiana group joins forces with Illinois, Michigan coalition on hydrogen hub effort

An Indiana group seeking to land a federal hydrogen hub has joined forces with a coalition representing Michigan and Illinois to enhance the chance that the Midwest nabs a share of $7 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Both groups—the Indiana-led Midwest Hydrogen Corridor Consortium and the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen, dubbed MachH2—submitted initial proposals to the Department of Energy last fall and were encouraged last month to submit full applications by April 7.

But the DOE also strongly urged applicants to consider combining their efforts. That led to discussions between the Indiana group and MachH2.

“We want to make sure the Midwest gets one of these hubs,” said Paul Mitchell, CEO of Indianapolis-based Energy Systems Network, a not-for-profit partner in the Indiana coalition. “So this will not be us competing with other Midwestern hubs. It’s now a Midwestern hub competing with the rest of the country. We want to make sure the Midwest is a winner.”

The efforts are part of the federal Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs, or H2Hubs, program that Congress created as part of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in late 2021. 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.

Initially, 79 applicants submitted initial proposals for funding last fall. The DOE encouraged 33 to continue to the next round and expects to make final selections by fall.

In addition to Energy Systems Network, the Indiana coalition includes the Indiana Economic Development Corp., Columbus-based Cummins Inc., Purdue University, London-based BP Plc and others.

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. BP has a refinery in Whiting—the company’s largest worldwide—that could produce hydrogen cleanly by sequestering its emissions underground.

“BP continues to strengthen its ties to Indiana, and we are excited about the expanded Midwest consortium’s potential to compete for Department of Energy funding as we work to accelerate the energy transition,” said Tomeka McLeod, BP’s vice president of hydrogen and carbon-capture storage, in a statement. “This broader coalition brings exceptional capabilities to support the Midwest economy and the net zero ambitions of BP and the U.S. government.”

Northwest Indiana also has a concentration of heavy industry and transportation activity that could be potential users of hydrogen fuel, Mitchell said.

The MachH2 proposal is focused largely on using nuclear plants to produce hydrogen. It’s coalition includes Chicago’s metropolitan planning agency, the University of Illinois system and Constellation Energy, which operates multiple nuclear power plants in Illinois. It also has the backing of the states of Michigan and Illinois.

Mitchell said merging the Indiana efforts with MachH2 will create a stronger proposal that attacks the hydrogen opportunities using two different sources that can be complementary.

In addition, the Indiana proposal focuses heavily on the transportation corridor between Chicago and Detroit, which runs through Indiana. So having Illinois, Michigan and Indiana in one proposal is common sense, he said.

“This collaboration with regional partners strengthens the Midwest’s competitiveness through future-focused energy generation advances that will put us at the center of the global economy,” Indiana Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers said in a statement about the merger. “Indiana’s adoption of economically viable new energy innovations will ensure Hoosiers are powering progress and prosperity for decades to come.”

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