[caption id="attachment_235089" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Collin O'Mara, the board chair of the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), shows stakeholders a typical electrolyzer that is the size of a 20-foot storage container during the MACH2 summit in Wilmington on Monday. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
WILMINGTON – Hundreds of public officials and industry leaders gathered Monday morning to highlight the strengths of Delaware’s existing infrastructure in the future production of clean hydrogen as it prepares to take advantage of a $750 million federal grant to the region.As part of theMid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), Delaware stakeholders will have to compete with stakeholders in southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey to get a piece of the federal funds announced in October. The hub is negotiating the first tranche of funding that is expected over the next decade to fully build out the plan, but the partners are already starting to conceptualize some of what may come.
[caption id="attachment_235092" align="alignleft" width="300"] Matt Lucey, president of Delaware City Refinery owner PBF Energy, said his company sees a big opportunity in hydrogen. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
In Delaware City, refinery owner PBF Energy aims to build a hydrogen production plant fueled by renewable energy and utilizing purified saltwater, whereafter trucks and eventually a pipeline will transport hydrogen fuel to southeastern Pennsylvania to be used by fuel cell buses in Philadelphia.In Georgetown, Chesapeake Utilities wants to build a production plant powered by solar where trucks will transport the hydrogen to end users in Delaware and to a training center where hub partners and emergency responders can learn about safe hydrogen handling and distribution.In Wilmington, the DuPont Experimental Station campus aims to use clean hydrogen to generate some of its own power.In Newark, the University of Delaware's Center for Clean Hydrogen will support MACH2 partners with technical expertise and hydrogen-specific education and workforce training.“Our world is changing, and our world is changing quickly. And this investment of $750 million in our region is a chance for us to show that we are the world's best at seizing that opportunity,” Sen. Chris Coons told the stakeholders in Wilmington on Monday. “We've got opportunities up and down our state at all different levels and in ways that will transform this state going forward.”Researchers have increasingly come to believe that hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, could be a carbon-free fuel source of the future, powering commercial vehicles, ships and industrial manufacturing plants without harming the environment. For that to happen, however, the production of hydrogen through the splitting of water molecules in a process known as electrolysis would need to become more efficient, and a nationwide distribution network would need to be established.“Think of hydrogen as a Swiss army knife for our clean energy economy to get us to net-zero,” said David Turk, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.
[caption id="attachment_235091" align="alignright" width="300"] Several hundred public officials and stakeholders attended the MACH2 summit at the Chase Center in Wilmington on Monday to learn more about the MACH2 project. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has set a “hydrogen shot” goal of lowering clean hydrogen cost by 80% to $1 per 1 kilogram in one decade. To advance toward that goal, the Biden administration dedicated up to $7 billion toward the H2Hubs program for the development of regional clean hydrogen hubs, where industry and research universities would expand work on clean hydrogen fuel. This year, DOE selected seven hubs for federal investment, with MACH2 being the only hub in the Northeast. The MACH2 hub includes 24 partners to date, including private companies like PBF Energy, DuPont, Chemours, W.L. Gore & Associates, Bloom Energy and more; public entities including transit departments and airports, and labor unions, that would invest upward of $2 billion in the project too. The partners estimate that 20,800 jobs, including 13,400 construction jobs and 7,400 permanent full-time roles at completed projects.U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester said that community colleges like Delaware Technical Community College and organized labor training programs will be essential to filling those roles.“We know that there has to be a talent pipeline,” she said, noting that partners were collaborating from the start on MACH2. “We see this as an opportunity not just for today in the jobs that it creates, but the jobs of tomorrow and making sure that our workforce is prepared for them.”If MACH2 is successful in its objectives, it estimates that it will reduce carbon emissions by 1 million metric tons a year, the equivalent of removing 220,000 cars from roads. And if every hub is successful in its mission, it would total a reduction of 25 million metric tons, or the equivalent of 5.5 million cars.In recounting the year’s deadly wildfires and droughts around the world, and its likely record-breaking average temperature, Sen. Tom Carper said that it was evidence of the importance of clean energy investments.“That's a tale of horribles and we can react to that and say, ‘Oh, that's too bad. There's nothing we can do about that’ … or we can fight back, and we have decided to fight back,” he said.Although the project has received some criticism from environmentalists, MACH2 Hub Chair Collin O’Mara, who is also president of the National Wildlife Federation, affirmed that natural gas would not be used to power any of the federally funded MACH2 projects – and it was one of the only hubs to make that commitment.“We don't need an energy transition, we can actually start with green hydrogen,” he added.
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