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Proposed green hydrogen hubs along the U.S. Gulf Coast would require a lot of fresh water in drought-prone areas, so clean hydrogen production may need costly and environmentally-damaging desalination plants, activist groups have told Reuters.
As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden Administration last year opened applications for a $7 billion program to create regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across the United States.
“These H2Hubs are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lay the foundation for the clean hydrogen future President Biden is building—one that will lift our economy, protect the planet, and improve our health,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in September 2022.
But the production of green hydrogen – from electrolysis of water using electricity from renewable energy sources – in some proposed areas on the Gulf Coast could be ‘less green’ than thought.
For example, Corpus Christi, Texas, is suffering from drought and restricts watering with irrigation or sprinklers to one day per week.
The city says water supply for a potential hydrogen hub would come from desalination plants that could be built. But activists and environmental campaigners say desalination plants would kill off the life in the Bay.
As the Port and City of Corpus Christi move forward with desalination in Corpus Christi Bay, the Coastal Alliance to Protect Our Environment, an environmental conservation organization, says that “Desalination facilities suck the life from the bay system and then send plumes of brine back into the bay's nurseries.”
“This is the start of a natural life cycle that produces the bounty in our bay system for all to enjoy, only to be threatened by 4 different intake systems and 4 plumes of brine in a not-so-open bay system.”
In a recent letter to Secretary Granholm shared with Reuters, the organization wrote, “It makes no sense to create a purported clean energy source that in turn destroys an entire ecosystem, threatens other economies reliant upon a healthy bay system, and usurps the water supply for residents.”
Several projects are in the running for hydrogen hubs in the U.S., and DOE is expected to announce the winners in September.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com