Development of Hydrogen Hub offers benefits, obstacles

Industry, labor and environmental experts explain benefits, concerns

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 10 – Leaders representing industry, labor and environmental organizations testified before the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee today to explain the benefits and obstacles of developing a hydrogen hub in the state and why this region is an ideal location for its development.

“I wanted to hear from numerous experts on what the development of the hydrogen hub would mean for western Pennsylvania,” state Rep. Nick Pisciottano said. “Our state has long been a leader in energy production and industry, and I wanted to gather leaders with concerns and vested interests in this project under one roof to hear about what this could mean for PA’s economy, businesses and environment.”

Pisciottano said Pennsylvania is located at a key crossroads of industry and services, while also having the ideal resources – particularly natural gas – and work force necessary to develop a hydrogen hub.

“A hydrogen hub is a cluster of assets that incorporates a number of hydrogen-based energy services,” said Michael Ducker, who is senior vice president of hydrogen infrastructure at Mitsubishi Power. “These services, in conjunction with high-volume storage, match the supply and demand of a variety of surrounding industries. This region is an optimal place in the United States for the location of a hydrogen hub.”

Industry experts noted Pennsylvania still has a lot of work to do in laying out the legislative measures necessary to make the hydrogen hub a reality, while experts from environmental groups questioned if pursuing the project makes sense from an economic and environmental standpoint.

“We heard divergent viewpoints today,” Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro said. “Members of industry and labor, understandably, see vast potential for our commonwealth’s economy and job growth, while environmentalists questioned whether this is an actual pathway to clean energy or a detour away from embracing renewable energy. However, that’s one of the best attributes of our committee: We want to learn the facts and know the tough questions to ask before the General Assembly moves to pass measures and enact change.”

Pisciottano requested the hearing, titled “Developing a Hydrogen Hub,” which was held at Operating Engineers 66 in Pittsburgh.

The committee heard from Christopher J. Masciantonio, the director of government affairs and public policy at U.S. Steel. He outlined how in order for PA to develop a hydrogen hub the General Assembly needs to pass legislation and work with state agencies to support regional decarbonization. The state needs a statutory framework to allow for large-scale deployment of carbon management projects, he said.

“U. S. Steel is intensifying efforts to become an industry leader in lower-carbon production methods,” Masciantonio said. “We have been progressing on our 2030 goal to reduce our global greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 20%, and in April 2021, we announced an ambitious goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Meanwhile, experts from environmental groups raised concerns.

“We need to be certain that there will be a demand for this new hydrogen and, more importantly, that any applications are compatible with achieving our carbon targets,” said Rob Altenburg, who serves as senior director for energy and climate for PennFuture. “There are sectors, including steelmaking, that may have potential, assuming the technology can be developed and made ready for commercialization in time. It is by no means clear if it will require the significant, multi-state build-out of hydrogen capacity that is being discussed, but these are questions that must be answered before we build.”

Joanne Kilgour, executive director of the Ohio River Valley Institute, questioned the cost of the development of a hydrogen hub in PA and the fact that its cost could, in turn, be inflicted on taxpayers. 

“A hydrogen hub in Pennsylvania would necessarily be accompanied by a significant build out of complementary carbon capture, use, and sequestration infrastructure,” Kilgour said. “The incremental cost of carbon capture and sequestration alone would be as great or greater

than the market value of the electricity being produced. Meanwhile, renewable resources, energy efficiency, and storage can provide electricity at costs at or below the current wholesale price and without any carbon dioxide emissions.”

Written testimony from the hearing can be found here: