Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub represents largest green hydrogen project of its kind in the U.S.
By RUSSELL TURNER – Dispatch Editor
As the effort to combat the growing climate crisis by moving away from fossil fuels gains momentum, many in the energy sector are betting on hydrogen to be the fuel of the future. A new partnership involving a Mississippi-based company is betting on Perry County and the greater Pine Belt region of the state to be the epicenter for hydrogen production and storage in the U.S.
Hy Store Energy LP announced Monday its plans to build and operate the Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub. When completed, the facility would be the largest green hydrogen production and storage operation in the U.S.
According to a statement from Hy Stor Energy, the company and its strategic partner Connor, Clark & Lunn Infrastructure (CC&L Infrastructure), plan to develop, commercialize, and operate large-scale, long-duration hydrogen hubs “that will serve as a model for our nation’s green hydrogen development efforts going forward.” Mississippi was selected for the partnership’s first project because of the state’s “distinct geology, strategic geographic location, abundance of available water and renewable energy from the sun and wind, and collaborative business environment.”
South-central Mississippi has fifty-three known shallow salt domes, with crests above 6,000 feet. The Richton formation is one of the largest and most studied among the domes that can support development of large, underground storage caverns.
Hy Store Energy has identified multiple sites across the Pine Belt for potential development and is under active development in Perry County where it already has a permit from the State Oil and Gas Board to store hydrogen in the Richton salt dome formation.
Perry County Board of Supervisors’ President Tim Wise and Hy Stor Energy CEO Laura L. Luce each confirmed on Tuesday that the two sides had been meeting and working on the project for development in Perry County.
“We are very excited about this announcement and this opportunity,” Wise said on behalf of the board. “This is a great opportunity for Perry County.”
“We stand ready to assist Hy Store Energy because the proposed hydrogen hub offers critical benefits to our region. Ours is a diverse community and the prospect of developing clean, reliable, and affordable green hydrogen would aid our growth and well-being of our citizens.”
Wise said he was very impressed with company officials, especially Luce, who has a long history in salt dome storage as a former executive for Spire, NGS Energy and Enron North America.
In a phone conversation with The Dispatch Tuesday morning, Luce returned the compliment, saying the Perry County Board of Supervisors had been very supportive of her company’s efforts and that Hy Store was excited about moving forward with its efforts in Perry County.
Luce said Hy Store Energy said Perry County and the other strategic locations are enhanced by the proximity to existing infrastructure including an array of interstate gas transportation pipelines and electric transmission lines, as well as interstate highways, rail lines, deep water ports, and the Mississippi River.
“The biggest challenge the energy transition faces today is how to bridge the gap to allow renewables to replace fossil fuel electric power generation safely and reliably,” Luce said. “In an era of increasingly frequent extreme weather, it’s imperative to have the ability to store large quantities of renewable energy capable of providing multiple days of power over long periods of high demand.”
“We believe the approach we’re taking in Mississippi will become the blueprint for future green hydrogen projects that not only address the energy transition challenges we face but also bring new jobs, economic revitalization, and low-cost energy to communities in the region. We see this as an important way of advancing U.S. climate leadership.”
What is green hydrogen?
Area residents are fairly familiar with efforts to utilitize the Richton Salt Dome formation as part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), a stockpile of crude oil designed for use in a national emergency. However, expansion of the SPR lost momentum and multiple efforts to revive the project have fallen short.
What makes the Hy Stor Energy project different is that is focused on the production, storage and delivery of green hydrogen at scale. There are numerous types of hydrogen with names ranging from brown hydrogen to pink hydrogen based on how it is produced and the varying levels of environmental implications.
Grey hydrogen, for example, is the most commonly-produced form of hydrogen and is produced by a process called “steam reforming”. Black and brown hydrogen use bituminous coal black (black) or lignite coal (brown). None of these methods capture the greenhouse gases hat result from their production processes.
Green hydrogen is the most environmentally friendly as it is produced by using electrolysis to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. It is different from other forms of hydrogen production because it uses renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, effectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
“Our plans are that we will have on-site dedicated solar arrays to ensure that we can produce green and clean hydrogen,” Luce added. “There is a lot of demand for companies looking to reduce some or all of their carbon footprint.”
“That creates a very unique opportunity for this project.”
A long-term investment with tremendous potential for growth
According to the trade publication E&E News, Hy Store estimates that building out all of the required infrastructure to bring the project online and begin producing and storing green hydrogen (including the electrolyzers, a vast number of solar arrays, the caverns, etc.) could cost up to $3 billion.
Company officials say the planned scale of the Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub is up to 10 times larger than any other green hydrogen project under consideration in the U.S. and would be one of the largest in the world. During its first phase, the Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub is expected to produce an estimated 110 million kilograms (kg) of green hydrogen annually and store more than 70 million kg of green hydrogen in its underground salt caverns. Pending regulatory approvals and equipment availability, the hub’s first phase is planned to enter commercial service by 2025, the company’s press release stated.
“The development and commercialization phases are expected to create hundreds of new jobs and attract new manufacturing and industrial companies to the state,” the Hy Store press release stated. “The Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub will also bring education and workforce development opportunities, supporting the transition to a local and resilient green hydrogen energy system.”
Luce elaborated on that Tuesday, saying the Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub would produced at least 40 full-time, high-paying jobs when it goes into production and well over 1,000 during construction. But, that could be just the tip of the iceberg, she added, as much more potential for growth comes from companies locating nearby to take advantage of the availability of the green hydrogen.
“This is a long-term investment with tremendous opportunity for growth,” Luce added. “We want to bring industry to us.”
That premise has resulted in broad support not only from local leaders, but also top state officials. Among those lending their support to the project are Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the Mississippi State Oil and Gas Board, the Mississippi Public Service Commission and supervisors from Perry, Simpson and Smith counties.
“Mississippi’s well-established and robust energy network is strategically positioned to support Hy Stor Energy and the growth of a Mississippi hydrogen hub,” Lt. Gov. Hosemann said. “We welcome this innovative opportunity to share our unique salt dome storage capacity and our trained workforce.”
Officials outside the state have taken notice as well.
“We have worked with a number of cutting-edge and innovative hydrogen-related projects across the world,” said Matt Weaver, Business Lead – North America of Nel Hydrogen. “Based on that experience, we believe that the Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub proposed by Hy Stor Energy is truly groundbreaking and can serve as a model for green hydrogen efforts going forward.”