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A forward-looking NETL study is determining how to best initiate and grow a hydrogen economy in the Appalachian region by identifying pathways using existing and future infrastructure scenarios.
NETL Investigating Pathways to an Appalachian Hydrogen Economy

A forward-looking NETL study is underway to determine how to best initiate and grow a hydrogen economy in the Appalachian region by identifying pathways using existing and future infrastructure scenarios.

“The Appalachian region has been hard hit by declining coal production, but hydrogen offers a path to sustainable long-term growth,” said NETL Director Brian J. Anderson, who also leads the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization. “With the Appalachian Hydrogen Infrastructure Study, NETL is evaluating how the region’s current natural gas transportation and storage infrastructure might be adapted for use with hydrogen. We are also looking at what additional transportation and storage facilities might be needed to successfully revitalize these communities through a transition to a hydrogen economy.”

Successful development of Appalachian hydrogen infrastructure will help create new clean energy jobs, revitalize distressed communities, advance environmental justice and help achieve Administration goals of net-zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2035 and the broader economy by 2050. 

In addition to identifying current and planned hydrogen infrastructure in Appalachia, the study is also assessing technological advances that can enable the transition. Areas such as repurposing existing infrastructure, hydrogen blending, and identifying possible transportation and storage corridors are being considered.

“NETL has the expertise to not only evaluate how the region can make this transition, but how to do it safely,” said NETL Senior Fellow Nathan Weiland, who leads the Lab’s hydrogen research and development activities. “NETL’s hydrogen research encompasses a comprehensive range of topics from lifecycle analysis down to specific technologies to monitor pipelines for leaks and corrosion. We will also be investigating regional uses of hydrogen for decarbonizing the power, steel and chemicals production industries, as well as potential for hydrogen-fueled heavy duty vehicles, including trucking and rail transport.”

Efforts are also underway to assess regulatory authority among federal, state and local agencies in the region that can impact current and future build-out pathways. These pathways will be consistent with existing and potential technologies and regulations and provide valuable guidance for the investment and research and development potential for transportation and storage of hydrogen. 

“As part of the study, NETL will evaluate opportunities for creating affordable, clean hydrogen,” Weiland said. “We are analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions and economics of hydrogen production from fossil energy resources like natural gas coupled with carbon capture and storage technologies, enabling the development of midstream infrastructure and downstream demand.”

Ongoing tasks as part of this study leverage NETL’s considerable energy analysis capabilities to develop techno-economic models to understand the cost involved in transporting hydrogen or hydrogen/natural gas mixtures by pipeline and the cost of temporarily storing pure hydrogen or hydrogen/natural gas mixtures in different types of subsurface reservoirs. The study will also provide economic justification for the Appalachian Hydrogen Infrastructure plan and propose next steps. 

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.