As the emphasis on combating climate change increases, the race is on for governments, private entities and public corporations to develop new low-carbon energy technologies. Hydrogen production is at the forefront of that effort.
Hydrogen can be used to store excess energy from solar, wind and carbon-sequestered natural gas and converted back into electricity or heat when there is demand, just like a battery. Hydrogen can also power hard-to-carbon-abate sectors, including cement processing, steel manufacturing and fertilizer production. Using existing infrastructure, hydrogen can supplement or in some cases replace fossil fuels in heavy transportation, power generation, and industrial uses. Hydrogen is easy to transport to and from points of production and end-use. Hydrogen is also versatile, as it can be transported and stored as a gas or a liquid, and it does not emit greenhouse gasses at the point of consumption. Clean hydrogen production like that contemplated in San Juan County has the potential to advance efforts in attaining clean air standards, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost economic development and job creation and improve healthy lifestyles for citizens in New Mexico and throughout the country.
The Four Corners Clean Energy Alliance has an excellent visual explanation of the econnomics of the emerging hydrogen industry.
The United States federal government and the State of New Mexico have set a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To further progress to that end, New Mexico participated in the hunt for designation as one of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Hydrogen Hubs.
San Juan County's sunshine, low-cost and abundant natural gas, access to the high-voltage transmission line network, excellent workforce and workforce training at the San Juan College School of Energy and business-friendly local governments can combine to play a big role in clean hydrogen production.
New Mexico joined three other states - Colorado, Utah and Wyoming - in making itself a potential location for a national hydrogen hub through the Western Inter-State Hydrogen Hub (WISHH). The group filed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in February 2022 to establish a framework for coordinating and developing a regional clean hydrogen hub. WISHH submitted a concept paper and applied to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for a competitive $1.2 billion hydrogen development grant. The WISHH concept paper was encouraged to “advance” to full completion, one of just 33 of the 79 submitted concept papers. Although the WISHH portfolio was a finalist, it ultimately was not approved by the DOE.
The work done by WISHH brought attention to San Juan County of three of the WISHH consortium’s eight projects are slated for San Juan County. The three project developers are continuing their plans in San Juan County and 4CED is supportive of these exciting new developments. More information is found in the links below.
San Juan County Projects
Well over $1 billion of new hydrogen projects are being contemplated for San Juan County. More about them below.
Yideeską́ądi Nitsáhákees - “Thinking For The Future”
The Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI) and Four Corners Economic Development (4CED) are collaborating on this project to develop a nationally designated commercial‐scale agricultural test farm in the western U.S.
Avangrid is looking to build a green hydrogen/ammonia plant that could service regional needs for fertilizer, power and other industrial needs.
Libertad is developing clean hydrogen production via electrolysis plus infrastructure in San Juan County to serve off‐takers in heavy haul transportation, energy storage and power generation and industrial processes across the West.
Why Four Corners?
The Four Corners region of New Mexico has the potential to be a Hydrogen Hub. Specifically, the Navajo Nation and San Juan County have the resources, experience, talent and support to capitalize on current federal government directives to secure funding to create that hub.
Hydrogen Hubs require several inherent necessities to augment success. Numerous factors make San Juan County, NM, perfectly situated to be a leader in clean hydrogen generation, storage and usage, as well as hydrogen equipment manufacturing.
San Juan County has a vast supply of inexpensive natural gas, water and sunshine for solar energy. It also has a very favorable and supportive set of communities and county governments.
Sophisticated oil and natural gas industry
San Juan County’s workforce possesses significant knowledge of the energy industry developed through decades of experience. The well-trained, productive, experienced talent pool will transfer nicely to developing solar, wind, carbon capture, and hydrogen technologies.
Robust energy transportation infrastructure
Hydrogen generation would build on San Juan County’s strong base of energy infrastructure, from natural gas mining and distribution, to a high voltage power network for electricity distribution exports.
World-leading work force training, national labs and academic institutions
San Juan County is open for new hydrogen development! The San Juan College School of Energy at San Juan College in Farmington, NM is recognized as New Mexico's center of excellence for energy workforce training. The school's state-of-the-art 65,000 square foot facility provides hydrogen developers a willing and capable partner in delivering the basic and advanced training needed to futher the advantages hydrogen developers have in San Juan County.
Current application of clean hydrogen technologies
PESCO manufactures hydrogen distribution equipment and systems right here in San Juan County. This company and other local equipment fabricators stand ready to assist new developers with the latest technology.
Robust historical agriculture base
In addition to the 275,000-acre Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI), there are 6,000 small farms and ranches in the region, more than any other New Mexico county.
The region's interest stems from the prospect of turning increasing energy costs due to coal closures and renewable energy transitions into a positive, through electrical self-sufficiency.
NAPI needs affordable and reliable electricity to run the farm. Electrical costs rose approximately 30% in the last quarter of 2022, a significant increase presenting unsustainable costs. That cost is expected to grow more while becoming less reliable.
Clean hydrogen production would offer the ability to build economic sustainability into the region, delivering high-wage jobs to support the Navajo Nation and San Juan County. Both lost hundreds of high-wage jobs with the closing of the San Juan Generating Station, forcing people to leave the Nation and the County. That trend will continue, with Arizona Public Service Company announcing closure of San Juan County’s remaining coal-fired power plant in 2031. The plant and mine represent 40% of the revenue of the Navajo Nation.