Hydrogen project finalists chosen

CASPER — Three proposed hydrogen pilot projects have been chosen as finalists for grant funding by the Wyoming Energy Authority, pending approval from the state Energy Resources Council. 

Ten companies applied for program funding earlier this year, requesting just over $7 million in grants for projects topping a total of $31 million. Combined, the cost of the three selected projects amounts to just over $2 million. 

If all three proposals are funded, approximately $1.5 million in project costs will be covered by the program. The companies will be responsible for financing the rest. 

Tulsa, OK-based Williams Companies is set to receive the bulk of the grant money — nearly $1 million — for a $1.2 million hydrogen feasibility study in partnership with the University of Wyoming. 

The study could inform development of a $1 billion hydrogen and synthetic natural gas hub in Wyoming later this decade. 

“We’re all-in on Wyoming right now — all-in on the southwestern part of the state,” said William De Los Santos, renewables business development lead at Williams, during the Energy Authority hearing. 

When evaluating project siting, the company’s mantra is, “the right partners, the right projects and the right place,” and Wyoming’s existing assets, conveniently located infrastructure, reliable customers and government support of the energy industry make it an ideal place for hydrogen development, De Los Santos said. 

More than $450,000 in program funding is earmarked for regional energy company Black Hills Energy, which proposed an $815,000 hydrogen combustion demonstration project at its Cheyenne Prairie Generating Station. 

During the first of two project phases, Black Hills Energy will conduct feasibility studies and an engineering assessment of equipment modifications for hydrogen combustion. 

In phase two, which it hopes to reach by 2023, the company plans to begin combustion testing using blended hydrogen and natural gas. 

Jason Hartman, director of power delivery at Black Hills Energy, described the project as an important first step in proving the feasibility of hydrogen development in Wyoming. 

“We see this as an excellent opportunity to be part of the state’s energy future,” he said. 

The remaining $20,000 will go to Jonah Energy, a Denver, CO-based oil and gas developer operating in Wyoming’s Jonah Field. 

In partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the company will invest a total of $50,000 into a plan for using leftover renewable power to create hydrogen, then convert it into renewable natural gas — a process called biomethanation. 

“Many of our customers that buy natural gas from southwestern Wyoming are setting renewable gas goals,” said Howard Dieter, vice president of environment, health and safety at Jonah Energy. 

The company hopes its plan will give it a stronger foothold in the renewable natural gas sector. If the plan is found to be feasible, the company could begin work on a 10 megawatt power-to-gas pilot project in 2022.