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A North Dakota energy company announced a deal this week to convert a gas plant into the largest and cheapest clean hydrogen facility in the United States, underscoring an ongoing debate about hydrogen’s growth and emissions footprint.

Bakken Energy LLC said it had reached an agreement with Midwestern utility Basin Electric Power Cooperative to purchase the Great Plains Synfuels Plant in North Dakota, which currently produces synthetic natural gas from coal. In partnership with Mitsubishi Power Americas Inc., Bakken plans to transform the plant into the nucleus of a clean hydrogen hub that will produce the fuel, according to a statement.

The North Dakota plant will produce about 310,000 metric tons of “blue” hydrogen per year and capture 95 percent of its carbon emissions, Basin Electric said. Blue hydrogen involves linking hydrogen production to carbon capture technology.

Clean hydrogen production facilities typically take up to 10 years to become operational, but Bakken Energy CEO Mike Hopkins said the North Dakota hub will cut that time in half and slash costs by repurposing the existing equipment at the plant.

Supporters of blue hydrogen say the fuel is a critical strategy for decarbonizing sectors that are hard to electrify, such as heavy industry, industrial processing and biofuel production.

But the merits of blue hydrogen have recently come under question, including through a study in Energy Science & Engineering last week concluding the fuel can be worse for the climate than burning natural gas.

[Ester Wells]

More: N.D. company plans largest clean hydrogen plant in U.S.

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