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Mitsubishi Power to build hydrogen infrastructure across US West, other regions: CFO

Highlights

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Mitsubishi Power Americas has ambitious plans to develop hydrogen projects in the US, starting with its major project in Delta, Utah, and continuing with other US projects the company hopes can bring down technology costs through economies of scale, the company's CFO said Oct. 5.

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The efforts in Utah start with a partnership with private equity fund Magnum Development to build green hydrogen generation, storage and distribution infrastructure aimed at helping decarbonize the US West Coast, Arun Mitra, also executive vice president of Mitsubishi Power Americas, told S&P Global Platts in an interview.

"The project seeks to supply green hydrogen to a to-be-constructed 840-MW advanced class combined-cycle power plant that will replace a currently operating coal-fired power plant at the site," Mitra said.

The project will produce green hydrogen and store it in underground salt domes, each with a capacity of 150,000 MWh of electricity, which is considerably larger than some of today's biggest battery storage projects that have capacities of around 1,000 MWh, he said.

The Delta project is expected to use two storage caverns, so the total project could have a capacity of 300,000 MWh of power storage and 11,000 mt of hydrogen storage.

Mitra said the developers hope the project will be the first of many, as each salt dome has the capacity to put in 100 caverns, giving the site the ability to store massive volumes of hydrogen that can provide storage capacity to the whole Western US.

Chevron recently said that it would invest in the overall development efforts in Utah to help build out hydrogen infrastructure across the Western Electricity Coordinating Council which helps ensure reliability in the Western Interconnection that extends from Canada down to Mexico.

Chevron will bring expertise in mid- and downstream hydrogen infrastructure and industrial applications, Mitra said.

Development in other regions

Regions with relatively high renewable energy penetration like the WECC and Electric Reliability Council of Texas have a need for seasonal power storage to help prevent curtailing renewable energy output when it exceeds power demand or transmission capacity, he said.

"We are contemplating Delta, Utah, to be the first hub in the country with spokes all over the western territory covering states like Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and California," Mitra said, adding that his company sees "tremendous opportunity to decarbonize the region" because it has about five major utilities, 24 gas-fired power plants with 10 GW of generation capacity and 14 industrial facilities that supply transportation fuels to the Pacific Northwest.

The region also has several states with aggressive decarbonization targets or mandates.

Additionally, the Northeast could be another potential area for developing hydrogen infrastructure, "but we see that coming later," Mitra said.

The Gulf Coast is another region where the abundance of refineries, ammonia and fertilizer manufacturers along with major power utilities and more than 1,100 miles of operating hydrogen pipelines and existing caverns that store hydrogen make it a likely place for further development.

Mitsubishi Power expects the region will adopt blue hydrogen, generated from natural gas, as a transitional fuel that can help utilities decarbonize their customer bases with an ultimate switch to green hydrogen generated from renewable energy resources, he said.

The company has also entered a partnership with Bakken Energy to create a hydrogen hub in North Dakota with a capacity of 310,000 mt/year of blue hydrogen by re-tooling the Great Plains Synfuels Plant located near Beulah, North Dakota.

"The idea is to create blue hydrogen from natural gas using a technology called auto-thermal reformation with carbon capture and sequestration," Mitra said.

As more projects are built, hydrogen production costs could decrease by as much as 50%-70%, like what has been seen with solar and wind power cost reductions, he said, as projects reach industry scale and the technology advances.