Illinois a Key Hub for Hydrogen Energy Projects in Midwest

Illinois, along with Indiana and Michigan, has received a $1 billion federal funding award from the U.S. Department of Energy for the Midwest Hydrogen Hub. The Hub is a network that enables decarbonization through strategic hydrogen use and will reduce carbon emissions by nearly 4 million metric tons per year. 

The Midwest Hydrogen Hub is a multi-state, multi-sector network that includes Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan and has the potential to expand into other Midwestern states. Its location in an industrial and transportation corridor promotes decarbonization efforts through hydrogen use in steel and glass production, power generation, refining, heavy-duty transportation, and sustainable aviation fuel. The estimated annual carbon emission reduction of these sectors is equivalent to removing the emissions of more than 867,000 gasoline-fueled cars.

A federal $1 trillion infrastructure bill was passed by Congress in 2021 and included $7 billion for clean hydrogen hubs. The Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen, known as MachH2, includes Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. The Midwest hub is estimated to create over 12,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs. 

Members of the Midwest Alliance will combine resources and expertise to leverage existing clean, zero-carbon energy resources and transportation infrastructure to establish hydrogen production and distribution at scale. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. When made with clean energy, it is an essential resource in meeting the nation’s goal of achieving zero net emissions by 2050. The hub will employ electrolysis technology to separate the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water. As an energy source, hydrogen does not emit carbon. 

Currently, most hydrogen used industrially is purified or produced on-site, and hydrogen fueling stations for transportation are not common. But backers of the hub hope to change that, with hydrogen producers and hydrogen pipelines connecting entities stretching from northern Wisconsin south through Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky, then east to Ohio and Michigan. 

Constellation, the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free energy, is a major participant in the MachH2 hydrogen hub. Constellation will use a portion of the hub funding to build the world’s largest nuclear-powered clean energy hydrogen production facility at its LaSalle Clean Energy Center in Illinois. The project will produce an estimated 33,450 tons of clean hydrogen each year and create thousands of good paying jobs. The cost of the facility is estimated at $900 million. 

Hydrogen can also be burned in an internal combustion engine similar to a gasoline or diesel engine, and conventional internal combustion engines can be converted to burn hydrogen. This reaction produces no carbon dioxide or public health-harming particulate matter, though it can produce nitrogen oxide. Hydrogen internal combustion engines have not been deployed widely, though some sports cars have used the technology and engine manufacturers like Cummins are increasingly considering it as a way to cut carbon emissions.