The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has recently released a study showing that the Appalachian region in the USA is well positioned to grow a hydrogen economy due to its natural gas resources, storage capacity and distribution infrastructure.
The report Appalachian Hydrogen Infrastructure Analysis explores how the region’s existing infrastructure for transportation and storage of natural gas might be adapted for use with hydrogen in a move to revive the local economy.
“The Appalachian region was hard hit by declining coal production, but hydrogen offers a path to sustainable long-term growth,” Brian Anderson, Ph.D., Director of the NETL, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), said in a comment.
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Hydrogen, an alternative fuel that has very high energy content by weight, can be used as both an energy carrier and energy source. Currently, the cheapest way to produce hydrogen is from natural gas through steam methane reforming and autothermal reforming.
According to data by the Appalachian Regional Commission, Appalachia covers a total of 206,000 square miles, from southern New York to northern Mississippi, with some 26.1 million residents in 423 counties across 13 states.
The development of Appalachian hydrogen infrastructure will help create new clean energy jobs and assist the administration in achieving its goal of net-zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2035. Such a move would also revitalize distressed communities and advance environmental justice, according to the NETL report.
“The study demonstrates that Appalachia has the resources and infrastructure in and around its borders to lead a clean energy revolution by using natural gas with carbon capture and storage to produce and store hydrogen,” the authors said.
It is estimated that the region’s carbon dioxide (CO2) storage capacity is enough for 60 plants producing around 550 tons per day for 28 years.
The study notes that hydrogen has the potential to replace fossil fuels in many aspects of the energy economy and is therefore being positioned as a critical solution in the global decarbonization efforts.
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