(The Center Square) – Just days after the Biden administration named North Dakota and other states as one of seven regional hydrogen hubs, the Department of Commerce was fielding calls.
“When I mentioned we were already fielding calls from other companies, part of it is not necessarily producers or even the users,” Tom Oakland, Energy and Economic Coordination Office Manager for the department, told The Center Square. “It’s manufacturers. If you think about it, the amount of infrastructure required to build all of these projects and the equipment that goes with it, is very expensive. And now that we have this hub award coming, those manufacturers have the map to look at as far as where they may want to locate.”
The Biden administration chose the Heartland Hydrogen Hub to receive up to $925 million in funding for the project.
The project is predicted to create about 3,800 jobs in the region. The University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center, known as the EERC, oversees the project that includes Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
“Like anything, we can produce we can produce as much energy as we want but if we don’t have partners in neighboring states that utilize it, there’s not much reason to do it because we are exporting a lot of our energy to users across the Midwest,” Oakland said.
The EERC is partnering with Marathon Petroleum Corporation, TC Energy, and Xcel Energy. The hub consists of “multiple clean hydrogen production facilities, uses, and connective infrastructure and would produce commercial-scale quantities of clean hydrogen at a rate considerably exceeding DOE’s minimum requirement,” according to the EERC.
The Heartland Hydrogen Hub would help “decarbonize the agricultural sector’s production of fertilizer.”
“Energy and agriculture are two biggest sectors that are industries in the state of North Dakota,” Oakland said. “The hydrogen, or ammonia, is essential to our farmers across the state. And I think that jumping into hydrogen production, or ammonia production, or zero carbon production methods is going to be a major player in keeping our agricultural producers competitive in the long term.”
The Commerce Department is sorting through the phone calls and making introductions between the companies or entities to make the buildout of the infrastructure “as efficient and economical as possible,” Oakland said.