The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) earlier this month awarded a $50 million federal grant to H2theFuture, a 25-organization partnership aiming to develop a new energy cluster in South Louisiana, spanning the clean hydrogen life cycle, from R&D at Louisiana universities, to an end-use project at the Port of South Louisiana.
The award is one of 21 projects from around the country chosen from 529 applicants that were funded by a $1 billion appropriation from the American Rescue Plan Act, which aims to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities, including those managing decades of disinvestment. The grant will be supplemented by $24.5 million in matching funds provided by the State of Louisiana, bringing the total project size to $74.5 million.
H2theFuture, led by Greater New Orleans, Inc. and its affiliate Greater New Orleans Development Foundation, will develop and implement a clean hydrogen cluster strategy that will retain and create Louisiana jobs, while substantially lowering carbon emissions in the South Louisiana industrial corridor. The H2theFuture Coalition will execute projects across five interrelated workstreams, which are each individually funded by this grant:
- H2Workforce – Industry training for displaced workers, rural citizens, and minorities, led by the Louisiana Community & Technical College System
- H2Business Development – Led by Baton Rouge Area Chamber, in partnership with One Acadiana, South Louisiana Economic Council, Southwest Louisiana Economic Alliance, and GNO, Inc., a strategy to attract new businesses and grow/retain regional businesses across the hydrogen value chain
- H2Testbeds – University facilities and programming at Nicholls State University, Louisiana State University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and University of New Orleans to enable translational research of low carbon hydrogen technologies
- H2NeXus (New Energy Center of the United States) – A physical and programmatic hub for a range of clean energy programs and initiatives, located within The Beach at UNO, called “NEXUS”
- H2Public Private Partnership – The first-ever U.S. hydrogen fueling barge, located at the Port of South Louisiana
- H2theFuture is positioned at the intersection of the economy and the environment: green hydrogen has the potential to reduce total emissions produced by hydrogen in Louisiana by as much as 68% in Louisiana (McKinsey & Co.)
“ announcement by President Biden and Secretary of Commerce Raimondo is a significant milestone in Louisiana’s transition to a cleaner, more sustainable and more diversified energy future,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “As the first state in the Gulf South to implement a Climate Action Plan, Louisiana has demonstrated the vision and leadership required to meet the historic challenge that climate change represents. This infusion of federal and state dollars, on top of the nearly $20 billion of private capital investment in Louisiana emissions reduction projects announced in the last two years alone, moves us closer to the ultimate goal: net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
Green hydrogen is different from traditional, “gray” hydrogen in that it is made from water, as opposed to natural gas. The hydrogen is extracted from water by an “electrolyzer,” which is powered by offshore wind-generated electricity. The result is an H2 molecule that is chemically identical to one made from gray hydrogen, but with zero carbon footprint. This hydrogen is then used as a feedstock for the production of ammonia (for fertilizer), refining oil and steel, and other processes; it can also be used for fuel.
Louisiana is among states best positioned for a clean hydrogen cluster, with the highest per-capital use of industrial H2 in the United States, and many other intrinsic advantages. This area is home to many relevant assets, including ports, pipelines, and people with decades of experience in energy and industry.
“The Port of South Louisiana has a long history of fueling the nation and the world,” said Paul Matthews, CEO of Port of South Louisiana. “Our port has committed to leading America’s energy transition along the Lower Mississippi River and we are thrilled that this first of its kind hydrogen fueling barge will bring a fleet of low carbon vessels into commerce. This is a small, yet meaningful step in a larger movement to reduce our carbon footprint and broaden an energy economy for the families of South Louisiana.”
The H2theFuture award will inject funding throughout the network of partners, allowing for the creation of 21 projects spread across five focus areas. These projects include, but are not limited to, the development of clean energy and electrolyzers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; the creation of a physical research, education, and innovation hub (NeXus Center) within The Beach at UNO; and the construction of a hydrogen fueling barge for Mississippi River tugboats which will be located at the Port of South Louisiana.
The H2theFuture coalition includes Greater New Orleans Development Foundation/Greater New Orleans, Inc., Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Louisiana Economic Development, Southwest Louisiana Economic Alliance, South Louisiana Economic Council, One Acadiana, New Orleans Regional Planning Commission, Acadiana Planning Commission, Capital Region Planning Commission, Port of South Louisiana, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Louisiana State University, University of New Orleans, Nicholls State University, University of New Orleans Research and Technology Foundation, Dillard University, Southern University and A&M College, Southern University of New Orleans, Xavier University of Louisiana, Louisiana Community & Technical College System, Green Light New Orleans, Urban League of Louisiana, Louisiana Parole Project, Louisiana Black Chamber of Commerce Foundation, City of New Orleans, and Opportunity Hub.