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Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Carves Out Billions of Dollars for Hydrogen: How Utah Could Benefit

Monday, November 15, 2021 President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The bill allocates money for alternative fuels such as hydrogen. Experts with the Western States Hydrogen Alliance  (WSHA) say the money could help drive large-scale deployment and investment for the hydrogen industry in Utah and the United States.

“Hydrogen fuel cells do perfectly in the large scale setting,” WSHA Executive Director Roxana Bekemohammadi said.“ Hydrogen fuel cells are a vital part of the decarbonization of especially, heavy duty equipment be it trucks busses, locomotives vessels, and even aviation”. 

According to an Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, fuel cell technologies and hydrogen energy are being increasingly viewed as essential decarbonization options across the United States and around the world for a wide range of sectors, including transportation, goods and people movement, power generation, energy storage, natural gas blending, marine propulsion, aviation, heating, steelmaking, and other industrial applications.

“This bill demonstrates the incredible potential for creating the nation’s hydrogen economy,” added Frank Wolak. “FCHEA is encouraged by further discussions surrounding the Build Back Better Act which includes an array of tax and policy activities that complement this infrastructure bill and will continue to drive innovation, economic growth, and emissions reduction.”

The infrastructure bill includes a package of resources for hydrogen including $8 billion for development of a number of large-scale Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs across the country, $1 billion for Clean Hydrogen Electrolysis Research and Development, and $500 million in funds for Clean Hydrogen Manufacturing and Recycling. Also, the bill directs the federal government to develop the country’s first national hydrogen roadmap and strategy. 

“We are excited that the Biden Administration and Congress are supporting four hydrogen hubs.
They want one that will be utilizing fossil fuels, one that will utilize nuclear power, one for renewable energy, and the last one is up in the air,” WSHA Executive Director Roxana Bekemohammadi said. 

The bill lays out other opportunities to help propel the deployment of l hydrogen energy and fuel cell technology throughout the nation’s energy and transportation systems. 

Bekemohammadi says the $1 billion allocated to clean hydrogen electrolysis research and development could help Utah based company OxEon Energy, a company that produces solid oxide electrolyzer and fuel cells. OxEon Energy is investigating the use of a solid oxide fuel cell stack as the power generation device for eVTOL applications. The challenges of robustness of the SOFC device was addressed under a NASA funded program to develop a solid oxide electrolysis unit that successfully generated oxygen on Mars. 

“On top of that, they are hiring locally so I anticipate there is going to be economic development through this money potentially being invested in OxEon”, WSHA Executive Director Roxana Bekemohammadi said. 

Another Utah based project that could benefit from the infrastructure bill is the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA). Located in the Utah Inland Port territory of Salt Lake City, Lancer Energy is building the state’s first super station. Experts say 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. UIPA plans to capture hydrogen using SMR  (steam methane reforming) using natural gas. This capture requires a combination of renewable and carbon captured hydrogen. 

Republican Senator Mitt Romney was the states only lawmaker in Washington to support the President’s Infrastructure Bill.

Senator Romney released the following statement, After months of unnecessary delay by House Democratic leadership, today’s passage is a win for Utah, as we will now be better positioned to meet transportation challenges, mitigate drought conditions, prepare for and respond to wildfires, extend broadband to rural communities, and fulfill critical water needs. In stark contrast to Democrats’ efforts to pass a separate bill to drastically expand social programs, the bipartisan group I worked with proved that it’s possible to achieve solutions without raising taxes or adding trillions to the national debt. I urge President Biden to keep his promise to sign this legislation without delay, so we can modernize our nation’s physical infrastructure, address supply chain issues, and demonstrate that, even in polarized times, Congress can still come together on behalf of the American people”. 

Utah Highlights:

Authorizes $3 Billion for Utah’s Roads and Highways

  • Utah has 2,064 miles of roads in poor condition. Commute times are up 7.2% in the state since 2011 and bad roads cost drivers an average of $709 per year in repair. This bipartisan legislation authorizes roughly $3 billion in highway funding for Utah over five years to construct, rebuild, and maintain its roads and highways.

 Includes key legislative priorities championed by Senator Romney:

  • Smart Intersections Act: Provides resources to state, local, and tribal governments to improve the functioning of their traffic signals;
  • Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act: Establishes a commission to study and recommend fire prevention, mitigation, management, and rehabilitation policies for forests and grasslands;
  • Secures additional funding for wildfire mitigation and recovery, including hazardous fuel removal, burned area recovery, prescribed fires, shared stewardship contracts and agreements, and more;
  • $50 million for Central Utah Project Completion Act: Provides water for municipal use, mitigation, hydroelectric power, fish and wildlife, and conservation;
  • $500 million for the Western Area Power Administration for drought-related shortfalls; 
  • $300 million to fund outstanding Emergency Watershed Program needs for post-fire recovery and wildfire mitigation;
  • $100 million for drought contingency plan funding;
  • $1 billion for the FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure Communities (BRIC) program for pre-disaster mitigation, including wildfire and drought projects;
  • $214 million to fully fund the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement: Legislation to bring running water to the 40% of Navajo Nation in Utah who lack it; and
  • $1.7 billion for the construction and improvement of Indian Health Services sanitation facilities.

Delivers $219 million to Utah for water revolving funds

  • The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would authorize roughly $219 million over five years for the Beehive State through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund program & Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

Invests in Utah’s Airports

  • In July, the FAA announced Utah airports received over $1.8 million in federal grants through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP). The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $25 billion for airport improvement projects such as expansions, installations, assisting with planning, rebuilding runways, improving lighting and runways, and air navigation facilities.

Provides $65 billion to expand broadband access across the country

  • Builds on Senator Romney’s efforts to expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities in Utah.

Eliminates federal red tape by reforming the permitting process to speed construction projects

  • Builds on the Federal Permitting Council’s efforts to shortening the government approval process for large infrastructure projects by bringing relevant agencies together to reduce inefficiencies. 

    Provides $40 billion in funding for bridge construction, maintenance, and repair

  • Of that, $30 billion will be apportioned by formula to ensure bridges in every state are provided with needed resources. Utah currently has 62 bridges classified as structurally deficient.

About the Western States Hydrogen Association 

The Western States Hydrogen Alliance is a member-based non-profit alliance, dedicated to advancing the market for hydrogen and fuel cells in the commercial sector within the Western United States. WSHA’s focus is on swift and decisive action in the immediate term, acknowledging that an open window of opportunity exists in the market now.

About the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association 

The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) represents over seventy leading companies and organizations that are advancing innovative, clean, safe, and reliable energy technologies. FCHEA drives support and provides a consistent industry voice to regulators and policymakers. Our educational efforts promote the environmental and economic benefits of fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies. 

Resources

Utah Clean Cities Coalition Hydrogen Projects 

A beginners Guide to Hydrogen in Utah 

Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA)

Western States Hydrogen Association

listen to the entire interview with WSHA Executive Director Roxana Bekemohammadi.