The proposed hydrogen center has the potential to bring significant jobs and investment to the BP Whiting refinery.
A regional consortium including BP, NiSource, ArcelorMittal, Purdue Northwest University, Indiana and the state of Illinois submitted a request last week to the US Department of Energy to bring a hydrogen center to the Midwest.
“Job creation must be important at the Whiting refinery if the hydrogen is released,” BP spokesman Joshua Hicks said. “If Whiting becomes an integrated low-carbon energy hub, that will mean a lot of jobs — long-term jobs.”
The Midwest Clean Hydrogen Coalition is seeking federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to develop a regional center for clean hydrogen production and distribution. They are promoting hydrogen as essential to making the country emissions-neutral by 2050 and to clean up carbon-intensive industries such as steelmaking.
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“The idea is to turn the entire region into a major player in the hydrogen field,” Hicks said.
Hydrogen can be produced at the BP Whiting refinery, which already uses hydrogen in the refining process to produce gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other fuels.
“The refinery uses hydrogen in its own processes, which can be used as an anchor to demand,” Hicks said. “We’ll probably start with our own refinery and have a proof of concept there so other people will come to us and say they’d like to use hydrogen as well.”
BP has been diversifying its portfolio in recent years, including green energy, electric vehicle charging stations and a broader retail footprint. Its refineries can also diversify beyond the fuel it traditionally produces to make lower-carbon products such as hydrogen.
“It’s the whole concept of an integrated, low-carbon energy center,” Hicks said. “It’s not just a refinery anymore. It’s become an integrated low-carbon energy hub that produces more than just gasoline, diesel and jet fuel that is being modernized to make green hydrogen possible.”
The goal would be to produce an ample supply of carbon-free hydrogen that would help hard-to-decarbonize industries such as agriculture, aviation, transportation, and steel mills in northwest Indiana. The Alliance promotes its central location, which makes it ideal for distribution.
More than 60 public and private partners are participating in the project, including Ameren Illinois, Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago State University, ComEd, Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, Governors State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Necor Gas, Northwestern University Western and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“The Midwest continues to be a leader in the clean energy economy, from Illinois’ passage of the Climate and Fair Jobs Act to multi-state initiatives like MachH2 that are redefining what it means to be climate conscious in our ever-changing economy,” said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker. “This partnership—which embodies innovation and leadership in the Midwest—is a critical step toward creating an efficient clean hydrogen economy in the region while creating stable, well-paying jobs, and laying the foundation for a cleaner Illinois for generations to come.”
The US Department of Energy is expected to select six to ten regional hubs this year. Hicks said BP may pursue hydrogen production even if the upper Midwest is not selected, but federal money would certainly help launch such a project.
For more information visit MachH2.com.