Hydrogen Energy in Virginia

potential integration of hydrogen into the fossil fuel economy
potential integration of hydrogen into the fossil fuel economy
Source: US Department of Energy, Hydrogen Strategy: Enabling a Low-Carbon Economy (Figure 1)

The Virginia Clean Energy Act, passed by the General Assembly in 2020, mandated that Dominion Energy provide carbon-neutral electricity by 2045 and Appalachian Power by 2050. That mandate did not require the utilities to abandon their investment in power plants fueled by natural gas, or guarantee that the pipelines that transport natural gas would become worthless.

Natural gas is one fuel that could be used to provide carbon-neutral electricity by splitting the molecules to create hydrogen and carbon dioxide. If the carbon dioxide was released into the atmosphere, the hydrogen would be "gray." If the Co(sub>2 was captured and sequestered, the hydrogen would be "blue." It may be possible to use chemical reactions to convert natural gas into hydrogen and elemental carbon, generating no greenhouse gases that would increase global warming.

A third version of hydrogen, "green," could be created by using renewable energy to separate water molecules (H2o) via electrolysis into hydrogen and oxygen.1

In 2021, Lazard calculated that a gas peaking plant could generate electricity over its lifetime, the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), for $55-74 per megawatt-hpour. Using blue hydrogen would raise the cost to $89 per megawatt-hour. Using green hydrogen would increase the cost further to a projected $129 per megawatt-hour, exceeding even the cost of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project at $87 per megawatt-hour.2

In 2020, Mitsubishi Power Americas announced plans to build three natural gas power plants designed to switch to hydrogen, when that fuel became available. One of the plants was planned for the 1,600 megawatt Chickahominy Power Station in Charles City County, which anticipated using natural gas as its initial fuel. However, plans for that facility were cancelled in 2022.3

demand for hydrogen in 2035 was predicted to be concentrated in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads
demand for hydrogen in 2035 was predicted to be concentrated in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads
Source: US Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Hydrogen Demand and Resource Analysis

Hydrogen offers a way to store energy, comparable to a battery. In 2022, the Federal government provided a $500 million loan to an Advanced Clean Energy Storage project in Utah. The project planned to create hydrogen by electrolysis of water, using excess electricity generated by wind and solar facilities during times of low demand. The hydrogen could be retrieved from underground salt domes when demand increased and burned in gas turbines.

The project included replacing a coal-fired power plant with a power plant that was fueled by natural gas. Initially, all electricity would be produced from burning natural gas. As hydrogen became available, it would be blended into the natural gas and be 30% of the mixture. By 2045, the plant would burn 100% green hydrogen.4

manufacturing and storing hydrogen addressed the seasonal imbalance between demand and electricity generation from renewable sources
manufacturing and storing hydrogen addressed the seasonal imbalance between demand and electricity generation from renewable sources
Source: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Intermountain Power Project SITLA Board Meeting, February 17, 2022

Hydrogen also had the potential to replace gasoline and diesel used to power vehicles on highways. That vision required electrolyzing water to produce green hydrogen, plus the creation of hydrogen fueling stations to replace gas stations. In comparison to electricity-based vehicles, hydrogen is a very inefficient alternative:5

...the process of electrolyzing hydrogen already loses 30% of the energy from the process of splitting the H2 from the O. You then have another 26% loss of the remaining energy from transporting the hydrogen to the fuel station, meaning you've already lost a total of 48% of the energy before any hydrogen makes it into a vehicle.

You can save some of this by making hydrogen on site, but electrolysis plants cost millions, so they will more likely be centralized. In comparison, the typical loss from transferring electricity over wires to a charging station is just 5%, so you still have 95% left.

One possibility is for vehicles to use fuel cells to recombine the hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, generating just water vapor and no carbon dioxide emissions. However, vehicles would still require a fueling station to resupply the hydrogen. In 2022, there were no hydrogen fueling stations in Virginia.6

Electricity in Virginia

in 2022, the only hydrogen fueling stations in North America were in California and Canada
in 2022, the only hydrogen fueling stations in North America were in California and Canada
Source: US Department of Energy, Hydrogen Fueling Station Locations

Links

Virginia had few proposed hydrogen refueling stations along major interstates
Virginia had few proposed hydrogen refueling stations along major interstates
Source: US Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Hydrogen Resource Data, Tools, and Maps

References

1. Bill Tracy, "Seeing Red about Blue Hydrogen," Bacon's Rebellion blog, February 12, 2022, https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/seeing-red-about-blue-hydrogen/ (last checked February 14, 2022)
2. "Keep an eye on costs, but Virginia needs offshore wind," Virginia Mercury, April 1, 2022, https://www.virginiamercury.com/2022/04/01/keep-an-eye-on-costs-but-virginia-needs-offshore-wind/; "Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis — Version 15.0," October 2011, p.2, https://www.lazard.com/media/451905/lazards-levelized-cost-of-energy-version-150-vf.pdf (last checked April 9, 2022)
3. "$3 billion planned for next-generation hydrogen power plants," JWN Energy, September 3, 2020, https://www.jwnenergy.com/article/2020/9/3/3-billion-planned-for-next-generation-hydrogen-pow/; "Mitsubishi Power Cuts Through the Complexity of Decarbonization: Offers the World’s First Green Hydrogen Standard Packages for Power Balancing and Energy Storage," Mitsubishi Power, September 2, 2020, https://power.mhi.com/regions/amer/news/20200902.html; "Chickahominy Power cancels plans for natural gas plant in Charles City," Virginia Mercury, March 17, 2022, https://www.virginiamercury.com/blog-va/chickahominy-power-cancels-plans-for-natural-gas-plant-in-charles-city/ (last checked March 21, 2022)
4. "DOE closes on $504M loan guarantee for Utah hydrogen storage project with 150 GWh seasonal capacity," Utility Dive, June 9, 2022, https://www.utilitydive.com/news/doe-loan-guarantee-utah-hydrogen-storage-mitsubishi/625190/ (last checked June 13, 2022)
5. "Why Are We Still Talking About Hydrogen?," Forbes, February 26, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmorris/2021/02/06/why-are-we-still-talking-about-hydrogen/?sh=15ca3a0a7f04 (last checked March 14, 2022)
6. "Hydrogen Fueling Station Locations," US Department of Energy, https://afdc.energy.gov/fuels/hydrogen_locations.html#/find/nearest?fuel=HY (last checked February 1, 2022)


Energy
Virginia Places