Ohio, other Midwestern states agree to collaborate on expanding hydrogen production, use

COLUMBUS — Ohio and six other Midwestern states on Monday announced a coalition designed to help develop a hydrogen market in the region, with the goal of creating more jobs and reducing emissions of carbon and other pollutants.

Under the agreement, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his counterparts in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin set up a Midwestern Hydrogen Coalition to collaborate on creating a “robust Midwestern market” for hydrogen and ammonia produced with little or no greenhouse gas emissions.

The governors pledged in a memorandum of understanding to seek infrastructure investments, align incentive programs, cooperate on workforce development programs, work together to obtain federal funding, and remove barriers to hydrogen development, among other things.

Doing so, according to the agreement, will “catalyze new industries and good-paying jobs,” make existing industries globally competitive, “enhance energy security and minimize volatility in energy prices, and “dramatically reduce pollution in the hardest-to-abate sectors.”

Participating states will work with commercial partners, universities, and non-profits to evaluate strategic challenges and opportunities in developing a robust Midwestern market for clean hydrogen, green ammonia, and related low- and zero-carbon energy carriers and technologies, and jointly develop solutions.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said it’s too soon to say whether the governor will seek to use state money for investment in hydrogen infrastructure in Ohio.

“The first step was agreeing to be a part of building up this hydrogen infrastructure as a potential [fuel source that is] more widely used than it is now,” Tierney said.

The agreement is explicitly voluntary and doesn’t create any legally binding commitments or obligations for Ohio or the other states to follow. Ohio, or any other participating state, may withdraw from the coalition at any time.

Hydrogen is expected to be used more often in the coming decades as a fuel for electricity production, heavy industry and cars and other transportation. The agreement notes that hydrogen has other uses, too, such as being combined with “waste” carbon dioxide from industrial production to create fertilizer.

A Cleveland State University study released last March concluded that “Ohio has several key advantages over other states in ramping up a hydrogen economy,” starting with the fact that there’s already a market for hydrogen among the state’s petrochemical and fertilizer industries.

Ohio currently produces about 161,000 metric tons of hydrogen per year, mostly from natural gas, according to the Cleveland State study. “Green” hydrogen, on the other hand, is produced with no fossil fuels via an electrolysis process powered by renewable energy.

But the state could produce far more than that. If 15% of Ohio’s natural gas production is repurposed for hydrogen generation, the study concluded, about 2.5 million metric tons of hydrogen per year could be made for local markets. That’s more than what’s currently needed, but it is “comparable to what will likely be required for projected 2050 Ohio markets,” according to the study.

“Ohio has always been a leader in innovation and technology, and this partnership will be the start of a new era of energy production that will create jobs and grow our economy,” DeWine, a Greene County Republican, said in a statement. “This is just the beginning of our support for a clean hydrogen market, and we look forward to relationships like the one announced today developing and expanding in the Buckeye State.”

Tierney noted that this agreement doesn’t prevent Ohio from entering into other hydrogen-related partnerships with other states, though he said no additional agreements will be announced in the short term.