State funding for hydrogen development premature

John Phillips


Basin Electric Power Cooperative is within its rights to sell its Great Plains Synfuels Plant to Bakken Energy to produce hydrogen, but members of the Coal Conversion Counties Association do not believe the state of North Dakota should provide financial support for the speculative deal.

Once hydrogen is extracted from natural gas, its properties require that it be re-processed into ammonia for transport in yet-to-be-built interstate pipelines. Anyone who follows energy issues knows that siting, permitting and constructing a high-volume, pressurized ammonia pipeline from Beulah to the West Coast or anywhere else will take many years to complete. Yet Bakken Energy press releases indicate hydrogen production would begin at the synfuels plant in 2026, and that it would be “connected by pipeline to other hydrogen hubs being developed throughout North America.”

Once the ammonia reaches its yet-to-exist hydrogen market, it would be re-processed back into hydrogen. That’s where an actual “hydrogen hub,” as contemplated in federal law, would be located. What’s proposed in Beulah is actually a hydrogen/ammonia feedstock, for which the federal government has yet to commit any funding.

The use of hydrogen as a fuel has been a part of energy research for decades. Though abundant, its low heat value has always hampered its applications, which is why we question the wisdom and timing of state funding. Promising innovations presently occurring in North Dakota lignite fields can be exported abroad to make real strides to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. That is where the state should target its resources.

Phillips is chairman of the Coal Conversion Counties Association.


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