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Proposed Plant in Washington Would
Get Hydrogen From Water

by Matthew Weaver
Capital Press, April 13, 2023

DOE's decision will be announced in the fall.

Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River east of Pasco is one of four lower Snake River dams covered in an environmental review that found removing the dams is the best option to improve salmon runs. An Oregon renewable energy company has signed an agreement with the Grant County Public Utility District in Ephrata, Wash., to design a power plant that would be fueled by renewable hydrogen from water.

The plant would mark a key step in Obsidian Renewables' efforts to build a Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub. The $3 billion hub would produce up to 360 metric tons of hydrogen per day. The gas could be used to generate electricity.

The hub's modular storage systems can store hydrogen for days or weeks, making the energy available to fuel electric generators "during times of high demand but low renewable availability," according to Obsidian's public application.

The hub would produce and store hydrogen at the Port of Moses Lake in Washington and the Umatilla Depot in northeastern Oregon.

The principle for producing hydrogen is simple. Electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules.

The Lake Oswego, Ore., company plans to use surplus electricity from wind, solar and hydropower, said Ken Dragoon, director of hydrogen development at Obsidian.

The process of splitting water has been known for more than two centuries, and done for nearly a century, Dragoon said. One of the limitations has been the amount of electricity needed.

"It takes 9 liters of ultra-pure water to make 1 kilogram of hydrogen," Dragoon said.

"Nine liters is just over 2 gallons of water," he said. "A kilogram of hydrogen has the energy content of a gallon of gasoline."

The company plans to build facilities at industrial parks with water supplies, and mitigate water use by using wastewater or water efficiency projects, he said.

The parks already have a variety of industrial users, including food processors, Dragoon said.

The wastewater would have to be purified. The amount of energy needed for purification would not be "an appreciable amount, compared to the amount of electricity used to make the hydrogen," Dragoon said, calling it "a pretty minimal amount of electrical power."

"The objective is no net increase of water use out of aquifers," Dragoon said.

The company plans to make the hydrogen available for other industrial uses and transportation.

The hub is one of 33 projects seeking funding from the United States Department of Energy. Obsidian will submit a complete funding application for $700 million, which includes funding for the Grant PUD project.

Parts of the project would move forward without the funding, Dragoon said.

The money would also help the company to fund community benefits programs, such as education, training and apprenticeships, Dragoon said.

DOE's decision will be announced in the fall.

The company is working on water and electricity sources at its proposed sites. Obsidian hopes to have part of the project up and running by 2026 or 2027.

Matthew Weaver
Proposed Plant in Washington Would Get Hydrogen From Water
Capital Press, April 13, 2023

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