Leveraging US fossil fuel assets to turn a coal mine into a hydrogen hub

America is seeking to capitalize on retarded fossil fuel assets and infrastructure during its energy transition, and is now preparing to explore the possibility of turning a Washington coal mine into a green hydrogen plant.

The move comes in line with the direction of the administration of President Joe Biden and the US Department of Energy to promote the deployment of a minimum of 4 regional hydrogen centers, and the White House has agreed to allocate $ 8 billion for this under the Infrastructure Act.

On March 21, the Ministry of Energy received more than 300 responses to its second request as part of an information tour aimed at selecting the locations of hydrogen centers.

Fossil fuel origins

As the United States seeks to expand green hydrogen production and build regional hubs, Washington, D.C. is experiencing an interesting experiment. Australian mining group Fortescue Future Industries (the world’s fourth largest iron ore producer) is exploring the possibility of converting a coal mine into a hydrogen plant. .

Fossil fuels
A coal-fired fossil fuel station in Central Washington, Washington – Photo by Renew Economy

The company’s president and founder, Andrew Forrest, said his company aims to turn North America into a global green energy hub, allowing thousands of green jobs to be created, according to Standard & Poor’s Global Platts.

Forrest added that utilizing and rehabilitating the fuel infrastructure and transforming it into centers that produce green hydrogen provides a global source of electricity as one of the solutions to save the planet.

Fortescue’s president’s vision is consistent with the requirement established by the Infrastructure Act and the US Department of Energy, to provide funding for green hydrogen centers, with one of those centers relying on fossil fuels as a raw material.

By law, one of the green hydrogen centers depends on renewable energy as a raw material, and another center on nuclear energy.

The law requires the centers of green hydrogen to receive a financing grant to specify the target group for its production, and it varies between electricity generators, industrial uses, and heating uses, whether residential or commercial, as well as transportation.

Washington Coal Mine

Fortisque Future Industries signed a cooperation agreement announced on May 13 with the Trans Alta Industrial Park that aims to redevelop 4,400 acres in Lewis County that were designated for coal mining before it ended in 2006.

The agreement aims to explore the possibility of converting the Washington coal mine into a green hydrogen production plant.

A coal plant in Centralia (it was getting coal from the Washington mine) of Trans Alta – also – is preparing to retire in 2025, after its operating life exceeds 50 years, and its capacity has been gradually reduced by withdrawing its first units to generate electricity in 2020, reducing its production from 1,300 to 670 MW.

Fortescue stated that it intends to apply to the Ministry of Energy for funding to support green hydrogen projects, and the company considered that the hydrogen production station planned to be established at the coal mine site supplied to the Centralia station meets the conditions of the regional centers specified by the ministry.

Reduce emissions and green jobs

In an explanation of the fate of the workers in the coal mine and its plant, Fortescue Corporation stated that it plans to integrate coal workers in its upcoming project to produce green hydrogen, to expand the rates of green jobs in America by the thousands, according to a statement.

The company’s CEO, Paul Browning, indicated that the production of green hydrogen from the prospective regional hub contributes to the decarbonization of the transportation and heavy industries sectors in the region.

Browning said the power grid located within the prospective center for green hydrogen production could be relied upon to supply electricity to previously difficult sectors such as long-distance trucks, ports, aviation, and heavy industries; Being the world’s least emitting network.

House Environment and Energy Committee member Ab Barno added that hydrogen is an alternative source of electricity in Washington, especially as the capital is moving away from fossil fuels and grid reliability concerns.

Green Hydrogen Regional Center

Fossil fuels
An economic coalition announces its support for turning fossil fuel assets into a hydrogen plant in Washington – Photo courtesy of The Chronicle

The Lewis County Economic Alliance in Washington announced its support for the partnership between Trans Alta and Fortisque, which aims to collaborate and explore the possibility of converting the Central coal mine into a regional hydrogen hub.

The coalition confirmed that the cost of converting the coal mine from being a fossil fuel asset in the province and the US capital to a hydrogen station and center, ranges between 400 and 600 million dollars, and can provide 200 jobs during the construction phase and another 140 jobs with start-up.

With the spread of green hydrogen, Fortescue CEO Paul Browning said there would be no place for fossil fuels, noting that the move is in line with plans to combat climate change, according to the local newspaper The Chronicle in Centralia, Washington.

He added that the timing of a project to research the possibility of converting fossil fuel assets into a green hydrogen center is ideal, as the Trans Alta plant is scheduled to close in 2025, while the hydrogen plant can be operational in 2026.

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