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A Beginners Guide to Hydrogen Energy in Utah

By Jerad Giottonini

Utah Clean Cities and Lancer Energy is hosting Hydrogen @ Scale in Utah, an Advanced Fuels event focusing on hydrogen projects throughout the state. 

The event is on October 19, 2021 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol. If you are interested in attending, please register here. 

 

A Beginners Guide to Hydrogen Energy in Utah 

Over the last decade, Hydrogen has become a major consideration in the realm of advanced and cleaner energy options, with the Bidens administration prioritizing the enhancement of hydrogen technologies and projects that acknowledge the “role that hydrogen must play, providing an incredible opportunity for innovation, development and market proliferation internationally” (FCHEA, 2021)

What is Hydrogen? 

Hydrogen (H2) is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. It exists in water, hydrocarbons (such as methane), and organic matter and as an invisible gas, hydrogen can be used in a variety of technologies to harvest its energy. 

Depending on the source, hydrogen fuel may contain low levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Experts say, producing hydrogen from these compounds is one of the challenges of using hydrogen as a fuel.

 

How is Hydrogen Produced?

Hydrogen can be produced from fossil fuels, biomass, and water electrolysis with electricity. The environmental impact and energy efficiency of hydrogen depends on how it is produced. 

Natural Gas Reforming/Gasification: 

  •  Synthesis gas is a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and a small amount of carbon dioxide. Syn gas is created by reacting natural gas with high-temperature steam. The carbon monoxide is reacted with water to produce additional hydrogen. A synthesis gas can also be created by reacting coal or biomass with high-temperature steam and oxygen in a pressurized gasifier. This converts the coal or biomass into gaseous components—a process called gasification. The resulting synthesis gas contains hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is reacted with steam to separate the hydrogen (AFDC). 

Electrolysis: 

  • An electric current splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. If the electricity comes from a renewable source like solar or wind, the result will be considered renewable. (AFDC).
  • Renewable Liquid Reforming: Renewable liquid fuels, such as ethanol, are reacted with high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen near the point of end use (AFDC
  • Fermentation (Biomass): Biomass is converted into sugar-rich feedstocks that can be fermented to produce hydrogen (AFDC).

The U.S. The Department of Energy says hydrogen could help the United States transition to a more advanced energy option but the way hydrogen is produced must reduce overall emissions and provide a renewable and cleaner energy option from well-to-wheel. 

Below are projects that are currently underway in Utah to help explain the different types of hydrogen and how its energy is produced. 

Renewable Hydrogen is produced with no harmful greenhouse gases. Green hydrogen is made by using clean electricity from surplus renewable energy sources, like solar or wind power, to electrolyse water. Electrolysers use an electrochemical reaction to split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, emitting zero-carbon dioxide in the process.

The Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) project is located 130 miles south of Salt Lake City. The project is a geological formation called the Salt Dome. The Salt Dome is considered by some to be the largest renewable energy reservoir in the world. 

The project aims to build a storage facility for 1,000 megawatts of clean power, partly by putting hydrogen into underground salt caverns. The owners, Mitsubishi Power say the project is scheduled to be completed by the year 2025 and would combine renewable hydrogen, solid-oxide fuel cells, and compressed air energy storage to produce enough energy to power 150,000 households. There are other forms of hydrogen capture happening across the state.

Carbon Captured Hydrogen is produced by SMR (steam methane reforming) using natural gas. All carbon is captured (99%) then sequestered or used in industrial applications. 

In Utah, AVF Energy is looking at a project that would use Invasive Tree species for a 99% carbon capture.  AVF Energy plans to convert the invasive wood into biochar which has multiple end uses from Green Coal replacement in Steel production to high quality fertiliser and soil amendment. Experts say the renewable hydrogen produced from this technology can be used in transportation applications as a future carbon negative energy source. The Carbon gas captured can be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in oil wells in Eastern Utah or in Sequestration projects.  

Low Carbon Hydrogen is produced by SMR  (steam methane reforming) using natural gas. This capture requires a combination of renewable and carbon captured hydrogen.  

Located in the Utah Inland Port territory of Salt Lake City, Lancer Energy is building the state’s first super station. Lancer Energy says the station is going to be an SMR unit taking renewable natural gas to hydrogen and then taking the hydrogen through a fuel cell for DC fast charging. 

Lancer Energy is in negotiations for a second super station to be located in Southern Utah. Lancer Energy says this station would connect the ports in Long Beach, California to the Inland Port in Salt Lake City all on renewable fuels. 

Zero Carbon Hydrogen is produced by electrolyzing water using electricity from nuclear power. In the electrolyser, electric energy is used to split water into Hydrogen and oxygen gases. 

Right now, there are no current projects designated as Zero Carbon. This process consumes massive amounts of water and due to the state’s severe drought conditions has been frowned upon by some at the state level. 

Carbon Negative Hydrogen that uses renewable sources and utilized carbon capture technology to remove more carbon than it produces to make a Green, low cost Hydrogen. 

Although hydrogen is a cleaner, more reliable source of energy that can be produced domestically, its long term impacts on the environment are unclear. The federal government is focusing on hydrogen to help address the impacts of harmful emissions, creating the next generation of workforce opportunity, and reducing our impacts to the changing climate. Utah Clean Cities and its partner Lancer Energy supports clean and renewable hydrogen and advanced fuels projects in Utah. 

To learn more about Hydrogen, visit: 

Department of Energy Hydrogen Program 

Alternative Fuels Data Center – Hydrogen Production and Distribution

EERE – Hydrogen Delivery 

White House Fact Sheet: President Biden sets 2030 Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Target Aimed at Creating Good-Paying Untion Jobs and Securing U.S. Leadership on Clean Energy Technologies (April 2021)