By Shelby Webb
The Houston Chronicle , January 3,2023
Houston-area leaders seeking to make the city one of the nation’s designated hydrogen hubs have received a push from the U.S. Energy Department.
Already, Houston sets itself apart from other applicants with its existing hydrogen production and infrastructure. The region produces about a third of all hydrogen made in the United States, with about 3.5 million metric tons annually, and is home to more than half the country’s dedicated hydrogen pipelines.
Most of that gas is used in the Houston area’s refining and petrochemical industries, but a coalition of private and public groups — including the University of Texas at Austin, French gas supplier Air Liquide, California oil major Chevron, the nonprofit Center for Houston’s Future and GTI Energy, a research and development company based in the Chicago area — are hoping a federal designation and funding will help expand the industry.
They’ve come together under the moniker HyVelocity Hub, and its leaders hope that by expanding the hydrogen industry in Houston and across Texas, the region could rake in a larger share of capital associated with the transition to lower-carbon energy sources.
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“The name HyVelocity conveys the idea that we have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate the creation of a clean hydrogen market at the pace needed to meet aggressive decarbonization goals for communities in our nation and around the globe,” Paula A. Gant, president and CEO of GTI Energy, said last month.
Civic and corporate leaders hope that using hydrogen instead of fossil fuels to power heavy manufacturing along the Houston Ship Channel and elsewhere in the area will reduce the region’s carbon footprint and help local governments and companies meet emissions objectives. Hydrogen now made along the ship channel, however, produces large amounts of carbon dioxide.
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It’s mostly made through steam methane reforming, which uses natural gas to create hydrogen. For every one unit of hydrogen it creates, nine units of carbon dioxide are produced. Companies that use this method hope to soon pair those units with carbon capture projects to reduce emissions, and groups such as the Center of Houston’s Future have touted the region’s potential to begin producing green hydrogen with water and a device called an electrolyzer.
Lawmakers are on board, too. Twelve U.S. representatives from the region signed a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in September, citing the region’s dominance in the industry along with its engineering know-how as reasons why it would be an “obvious” choice to be named a hub.
“There is simply no better place in the United States to establish a large-scale hydrogen hub than Houston,” the lawmakers wrote. “The energy capital of the world, Houston has a unique concentration of industries, manufacturing and expertise that is unmatched.”