Report finds Washington positioned to capitalize on demand for hydrogen


A recent report from the state Department of Commerce found Washington can position itself as a leader in green hydrogen as the state looks to further reduce reliance on fossil fuels in the coming decades.

Takeaways in the report, which was released on Jan. 5, include findings that demand for clean electrolytic hydrogen will continue to increase, and a need to “rapidly scale up production of green hydrogen” through electrolysis and the push for green hydrogen production provides a “critical opportunity to create more equitable outcomes.”

“Green hydrogen is a critical tool in Washington’s decarbonization toolkit and we must use it wisely,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in a statement Monday. “Since we need significant amounts of clean electricity to produce hydrogen, we know we must target the most critical sectors that are harder to decarbonize, such as industrial uses and heavy transportation. This report helps chart a path for us to deploy hydrogen in the most strategic ways for our economy while building a more just energy future for all Washingtonians.”

“Frankly, people don’t think of Lewis County as the origin of great, high technology,” Inslee said during a visit to Centralia College in January, where officials touted their efforts to increase hydrogen education and training in Lewis County. “They need to understand; that is what is happening. And it’s happening because of you and this team really showing local leadership. That’s why it’s happening. It’s not coming from New York or Washington, D.C. It’s coming from right here.”

According to the report a green hydrogen project near East Wenatchee, another project in the northwest hydrogen hub, will house a 5MW electrolyzer, which creates around two tons of hydrogen gas a day.

The project can expand to 80MW with 32 tons of production capacity.

Energy from the project comes from the Wells Hydroelectric Project on the Columbia River.

“In addition to producing a valuable renewable gas, we anticipate the plant will increase our ability to integrate more renewables in a manner that is cost-effective, will reduce maintenance costs and free up reserve capacity to benefit our customers,” said Gary Ivory, Douglas County PUD general manager.

While the report doesn’t explicitly reference a proposed green hydrogen facility at the soon-to-be shuttered TransAlta plant in Centralia, it notes Washington’s inclusion in the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub. The designation will bring up to $1 billion in funds from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The facility could have the capacity to store 110 tons of hydrogen at a time, which equates to one day’s worth of production. Cowin said transportation from the facility will “most likely” be done by truck.

Robert Cowin, a Fortescue senior manager of Western U.S. government relations, said during a hydrogen forum earlier this month the project would negate any potential impact on local utility customers.

“Our project is not going to directly raise electricity prices,” Cowin said. “To the extent that there were any additional costs by serving our facility, we’d expect that those would be passed on directly to us. That’s the way the PUD does business. We committed to that publicly. So I want to be very clear on that because it’s really easy to scare people and tell them their electricity prices are going to go up. And it’s simply not the case.”

The report finds that hydrogen and renewable fuel machinery and equipment will increasingly play bigger roles in refining and chemical production, heavy-duty transportation, maritime and long-distance trucking and industrial heat, among others.

According to the report, Washington should prioritize the most strategic uses and focus on environmental justice and workforce considerations as demand for hydrogen increases.

“This report makes clear that green hydrogen is an important part of Washington’s decarbonization journey, and that Washington has one of the strongest markets in the country for this clean fuel opportunity. Commerce stands ready to use all state and federal tools to support the production of hydrogen and ensure it can help our hard-to-decarbonize sectors like aviation and industry to decarbonize,” Commerce Director Mike Fong said.