Arkansas' collaboration with Louisiana and Oklahoma on a hub for producing and delivering clean hydrogen was among 33 projects that gained federal encouragement in December.
The program is part of the Biden administration's fight against fossil fuel emissions warming the planet's atmosphere.
The three-state effort, dubbed the HALO Hydrogen Hub, is competing for a slice of $8 billion in funding the government is using to push industries and engineers to adopt hydrogen as a fuel for trucks, manufacturers and electricity generators.
The project in Clarksville with Syntex Industries LLC (see Page 1) isn't part of the Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs program, but it shares many of the same technological and environmental goals.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that the president signed into law last year allocated the funding for establishing six to 10 hydrogen hubs around the nation. It also included tax subsidies to make low-carbon hydrogen more competitive with methods that use fossil fuels to power carbon creation.
The U.S. Department of Energy is overseeing the hub program and reviewing final applications. It is expected to pick winners and start awarding money by the end of the year.
Past commercial hydrogen production has almost completely relied on steammethane reforming, in which hydrogen producers and petroleum refineries separate hydrogen atoms from carbon atoms in methane by using superheated steam. Natural gas is the main source for the methane in the process.
But green hydrogen programs like the one planned in Clarksville use renewable energy to power electrolysis, which splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Often called power-to-gas, the process is favored by environmentalists, but electricity for making hydrogen can also come from nuclear or fossil-fuel sources.
The HALO Hydrogen Hub plan would use all three feedstock energy sources allowed in the hub program, according to an analysis by Resources for the Future, a nonprofit that developed an online Hydrogen Hub Explorer data tool. Those feedstocks are renewable energy, nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage components.
In contrast to the hub program, Clarksville's hydrogen plant was conceived to be part of a hydrogen grid that Syntex Executive Director Tom Waggoner called "key to our whole strategy."
"The national power grid is undergoing a tightening of capacity as coal plants are being shut down and renewable energy is being brought in. But because renewable energy is intermittent, you can't schedule it and dispatch it on demand." This means the grid struggles to meet demand at certain times, Waggoner said.
"So we're seeing a need for additional generating capacity. We're taking more of a distributed generation approach where we're producing smaller power plants that can fit into the existing grid with less cost and can provide additional power. As we move to EVs and so forth, these will help to build capacity to meet the growing demand on the grid. And by placing [hydrogen plants] along the interstate highways, we can also provide hydrogen near the refueling centers that will be in demand as transportation moves away from fossil fuels toward a cleaner fuel. We think it will be a hydrogen-based fuel."