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North Dakota Snags Two of the Early Grants From Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill’s Hydrogen Funding

By September 27, 2022 5   min read  (932 words)

September 27, 2022 |

Fuel Cells Works, North Dakota Snags Two of the Early Grants From Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill's Hydrogen Funding

North Dakota has already collared two hydrogen-related grants from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, though neither are directly related to a proposed hydrogen hub at Beulah, which is also vying for funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has $8 billion designated to build out four regional hydrogen hubs.

Both of the $1.6 million grants North Dakota snagged are focused around producing hydrogen from biomass. They were awarded to University of North Dakota and the North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center.

The UND project will look at gasification of biomass to produce both power and hydrogen, while the EERC project will generate clean, locally sourced hydrogen using gasification on an unusual feedstock — construction wastes. Both entities are kicking in a match of around $500,000 for the research projects.

The two biomass gasification projects were selected because they can help work out some of the larger technical difficulties that exist in the hydrogen space, according to Brad Crabtree, Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy for the Department of Energy. DOE is also interested in hydrogen produced form biomass because it presents a unique opportunity to produce net carbon negative emissions fuel.

“Normally, when biomass energy gets burned, that carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere,” Crabtree said. “At the very best, you’d get something like a closed loop, where you’re taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but then when you burn it, it goes back to the atmosphere.”

By adding hydrogen production and carbon capture to the loop, the hydrogen becomes the fuel, and the carbon dioxide is permanently removed from the system, producing a net carbon negative fuel.

Both projects will also help connect the dots on early stage research and development along the way to larger projects in the state, Crabtree said.

“One of the big changes in the infrastructure bill that’s very exciting for states like North Dakota, and I think it was a major source of bipartisan support for the legislation, is that for the first time there’s real investment, not just in research and development, which is vitally important, but bringing those technologies that have shown themselves to work at smaller scales into the marketplace at a larger, truly commercial scale,” he said.

Crabtree, a native North Dakotan, has a long history in the carbon capture space. He previously served as director of the Carbon Capture Coalition and joined Great Plains Institute as policy director in 2002.

His elevation to the Biden Administration post in Department of Energy gives him a bird’s eye view of what’s ahead in the hydrogen space for states like Montana and North Dakota, which are both seeking ways to innovate a future for its abundant fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas.

But first there’s the chicken-egg challenge to overcome.

“In order to build out the hydrogen economy, you need technologies that have been proven in a stepwise way, starting at very small scales and increasing over time before you actually bring them to the marketplace,” Crabtree said. “Companies and investors need to understand that these technologies really work as real-world applications before they’re willing to invest in very large projects such as those being contemplated in North Dakota.”

Viable hydrogen is one of several “moonshots” chosen by the Biden administration. The goal is to reduce the cost of producing clean hydrogen for energy production by 80 percent within 10 years, to $1 per kilogram.

“In the context of that moonshot initiative, the infrastructure bill provides critical investments in the demonstration of not only the production of hydrogen, but also the transport, storage, and ultimately end uses of hydrogen,” Crabtree told the Williston and Sidney Herald. “It’s intended to provide support across the whole value chain to create a hydrogen economy.”

The hub funding is yet to come in that value chain, Crabtree said. The legislation that Congress approved seeks to select four regional hubs, and has designated $8 billion toward that. A proposed hydrogen hub near Beulah is among projects vying for those funds.

“Ultimately, these regional hubs are going to be selected and managed by this new office of Clean Energy Demonstration,” Crabtree said. “We’re actually retooling the Department of Energy at the same time, to better implement this infrastructure bill and all the resources that are going into commercializing (hydrogen) technologies.”

As someone who worked for a long time in the carbon capture space, Crabtree is very familiar with the Dakota Gasification plant.

“It’s a globally important, historic really, demonstration project of carbon capture technologies,” he said. “And they brought in the International Energy Agency to help with evaluating the geologic storage component of the project in Saskatchewan and had independent analysis and modeling done. And they’ve been consistently, for over two decades now, storing nearly 3 million tons of caring dioxide a year from gasification of lignite coal.”

Whether North Dakota will ultimately snag one of the hub spots funded by the infrastructure bill remains to be seen, and but whether the facility is chosen or not, there are other provisions in both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act that can still benefit the project.

“The geologic storage and carbon dioxide pipeline provisions that I mentioned are much broader and will apply to many more regions of the country,” Crabtree said. “And then of course there’s the tax credit opportunity. That will be available to any project that’s not limited by geography, and it’s not competitive. If you qualify for the tax credit, as a matter of law, you will be entitled to it.”

SOURCE: Williston Herald

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