Posted on May 24, 2023
Hy Stor Energy on Thursday took the next step to develop a large-scale hydrogen production and storage hub in Mississippi.
The company said in a press release it submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Energy for funding of the operation that would generate zero emission hydrogen energy and create hundreds of jobs.
The funding would come through DOE’s Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub initiative.
Federal investment of up to $1 billion would push Hy Stor Energy’s development plans into a multi-billion-dollar project, the company said, and establish Mississippi as one of the nation’s largest producers of clean hydrogen.
Ground breaking could come as early as this year, according to the press release.
WHERE AND HOW WILL IT WORK?
Based in Jackson and with an office in Gulfport, Hy Stor has acquired over 70,000 acres from Jackson south to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to be used for green energy production.
Hydrogen will be created by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis, using wind and solar energy to produce zero carbon or methane emissions.
A rendering of the company’s zero-carbon hydrogen ecosystem shows the type of facility, located near water and with wind turbines for the production, storage, and delivery of carbon-free energy in one location.
Hy Stor has locations under its control in Hancock County, along with Perry, Jones, Covington, Lawrence, Smith, Simpson, Claiborne, Bolivar and Hinds counties, the company said.
The plan is to have electrolysis for hydrogen production at several locations based on customer demand, and with close connections to the company’s storage facilities.
STORING HYDROGEN IN SALT DOMES
One of the reasons Hy Store officials chose to locate in Mississippi is the geology needed for storing hydrogen.
“Salt cavern geology is only found in specific locations around the world, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is one of them,” said Claire Behar, Hy Stor’s chief commercial officer.
“Salt cavern storage is the lowest-cost solution for bulk storage of hydrogen,” the company said, and the only commercially viable solution for storage over days, weeks or a season.
Underground salt caverns on the Gulf Coast already are used by the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to store emergency crude oil in massive caverns — typically 200 feet in diameter and 200 feet tall.
In 2010, the Department of Energy eyed the Richton salt dome near Hattiesburg as one of those storage caverns.
The plan was to draw water from the Pascagoula to flush out a cavern in the salt, then pipe the salty brine wastewater 80 miles to the Gulf, where it would be deposited south of the barrier islands, the Sun Herald reported.
It was estimated the process would cost $71 million and would require 50 million gallons a day from the Pascagoula River for five years to complete the flushing of the salt dome.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT THIS TIME
Hy Stor has another plan for using the salt domes without this kind of environmental impact, the company said.
Instead of pumping the salty water to the Gulf, the company said it will have dedicated disposal wells it will operate for the brine water.
“The brine water will not be placed in any freshwater or community water sources,” the company said in an email to the Sun Herald.
They are working with partners that can use brine in their operations, the company said, and also looking at aquaculture opportunities, such as working with University of Southern Mississippi to restore healthy coastal estuaries and Gulf coastlines, the company said.
One of the challenges will be the safe handling and transporting of hydrogen.
On the plus side, hydrogen is non-toxic and much lighter than air, so it dissipates more rapidly in the case of a leak, according to the Department of Energy.
Yet hydrogen is very flammable and can ignite more easily than gasoline or natural gas, the DOE says, so adequate ventilation and leak detection are important in the design of safe hydrogen systems.
Hy Stor has several options for transporting hydrogen to customers, the company said, including trucking, barge, rail and pipelines.
“Hy Stor will be developing and operating purpose-built dedicated hydrogen pipelines,” the company said.
In June 2022, the company announced a partnership with Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission to provide green hydrogen to Port Bienville Industrial Park and Stennis International Airport.
The Richton Dome will serve as a Strategic Hydrogen Reserve, the company said, connected to new pipelines from Richton to and from Hancock County and the Port of Bienville.
The new pipeline infrastructure will connect multiple salt domes from Louisiana to Jackson and domes in Simpson, Smith and Perry counties, the company said.
Hy Stor plans to first distribute hydrogen energy to Mississippi and neighboring states, the company said, then to the eastern U.S. and eventually internationally.