Fans in Houston are ready for H-Town to lead the way on hydrogen.  Are their players?  Houston Chronicle

Fans in Houston are ready for H-Town to lead the way on hydrogen. Are their players? Houston Chronicle

City fans, like the Houston Future Center and the Greater Houston Partnership, have clear missions: They want to see Houston succeed.

This energy transition calls this success into question as it shakes the core of the local economy, the oil industry. Oil made Houston, and its decline could spell disaster for the energy capital. Fans say it would be a missed opportunity — especially when $8 billion in federal funding to build clean hydrogen centers is ready to be grabbed.

“Clean hydrogen is key to cleaning up American industry,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm saidand reducing emissions from carbon-intensive materials such as steel and cement while creating good-paying jobs for American workers.

The clean hydrogen industry is nascent, but its potential is impressive. Most of the hydrogen in use today is made by applying steam to natural gas, but there is a growing interest in using electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water, allowing hydrogen to be produced from wind and solar power.

Granholm called the energy transformation “the shot of our generation.” Bobby Tudor, head of the Energy Transition Initiative at Greater Houston Partnership, said Houston is uniquely positioned to lead the mission.

He said, “Clean hydrogen, along with carbon capture, use and storage are among the key technology areas where Houston has been built to succeed, and could set an example for other leading energy economies around the world.”

a new report From Houston’s Center for the Future sets an aggressive path forward for hydrogen in Houston. It expects clean hydrogen demand in Texas to rise by 2050, driven primarily by external demand and closely followed by refineries and plants that produce petrochemicals, iron and steel.

The report noted that Texas already produces a third of the country’s hydrogen. The state’s cheap and abundant natural gas resources and constant West Texas winds make Texas a breeding ground for both blue hydrogen, which uses gas as feedstock, and green hydrogen, which is the result of breaking up water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen through a process known as electrolysis. The electricity needed for electrolysis is generated from renewable energy sources.

Blue hydrogen production requires the capture and storage of carbon dioxide emitted from natural gas feedstocks. Here in Houston, abroad Tanks that previously held oil are ready to store captured carbon. In addition, the existing network of pipelines and salt domes needed to store hydrogen makes Texas and its largest cities equipped for the hydrogen challenge.

Here, gas is cheap, which gives it an advantage over gaseous hydrogen. Pipelines already built to handle hydrogen could carry the future fuel throughout the region. In addition, the report found that pipelines designed for natural gas can be reused for hydrogen purposes.

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