At the Texas Hydrogen Roundtable, experts shared how the University of Texas at Austin (UTexas) is advancing its research on hydrogen energy solutions, for instance, through the H2@Scale project with Frontier Energy. According to researchers, Texas is crucial in leading future U.S. and global hydrogen production.
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Hydrogen Research at UTexas
Hydrogen research in Texas is not new. Along with the University of Texas at Austin, many other national institutions have a long path doing significant work in this regard. Therefore, experts consider institutional collaboration to be crucial.
Varun Rai, Director of the UT Energy Institute, shared at the Texas Hydrogen Roundtable how the university is advancing its hydrogen research. According to Rai and several others, Texas is at the center of the national and global energy transition.
“Hydrogen is becoming so resilient and has great potential. The future of natural gas, carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS), and hydrogen solutions looks exciting. Furthermore, Texas is at the center of this future (having a considerable economic and social impact),” said Rai.
Regarding UTexas’ contributions to hydrogen research, Rai pointed out how the university works to improve its application and potential commercialization path. For instance, UTexas provides education and training to its students, aiming to prepare future energy leaders.
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Diversity and interdisciplinary inclusion are equally important, said Rai. The Energy Institute currently collaborates with 350+ faculty members working on various energy research areas, from national and global latitudes.
“The future of the energy system will come from discussions you’ll find in very different views. That is why bringing different resources and approaches to UT is crucial. Much of what UT is doing is addressing the aspect of collaboration, actively incentivizing it across disciplines.” Rai added.
Besides, the university is continually designing new programs and certificates to develop its hydrogen centers of excellence. Rai highlighted much of the research and hydrogen works occur at these centers, accounting for over 30 entities.
Furthermore, Rai stressed much of UTexas research advances had been possible through its connections with industry, foundations, government, and policy-makers.
“All the ecosystem at UT is not new; it has been running for quite some time. Something that has happened in the last few years is that our researchers across the campus have interacted closely. Furthermore, collaboration across universities and scientists working with policy scholars and lawmakers have helped us on moving forward Hydrogen into the market for the next 10 or 20 years.”
A hydrogen ecosystem at UT
At the event, Rai mentioned UTexas has particular thrust areas to establish a hydrogen ecosystem. Material and devices, storage and distribution, system integration, and implementation (supply chain, techno-economic analysis, infrastructure, and policy) are the key focus areas in which the university stresses its efforts.
Additionally, experts highlighted how Texas could provide the lowest hydrogen cost globally. The state already produces Hydrogen in a significant way at the lowest price nationally.
“Texas has excellent resources in terms of natural gas, renewable natural gas (RNG), solar and wind farms, and renewable Hydrogen at all levels (10%, 20%…). Also, major industry leaders have a significant presence in Texas,” said Nico Bouwkamp, Technical Program Manager at Frontier Energy.
In this sense, Bouwkamp provided more details about the H2@Scale project. This joint work between UTexas and Frontier Energy consists of two tracks, one based in Austin and the other at the Port of Houston.
H2@Scale Project with Frontier Energy
The first track, located at the university’s campus in Austin, wants to prove the multiple hydrogen options currently under development and shortly available in the market: electrolysis, wind and solar, reformation of RNG, and so on.
The track also aims to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of Hydrogen, providing power to a computing center at the institution. Through this research, experts expect to get an excellent insight into what to do to achieve cost reductions.
The second track at the Port of Houston focuses on actionable scale plants in Texas, also looking at the policy and regulatory barriers an implementation of this magnitude has. Bouwkamp noted the two tracks aim to provide feedback even if they don`t completely align.
Finally, Bouwkamp shared the project’s progress to date. According to the expert, the H2@Scale project has received national and global attention. For the first track, Frontier and UT worked together to select cost and equipment site, shipped existing H2 equipment for its upgrading, initiated procurement of long-lead equipment, and analyzed TACC and solar power date.
At the Port of Houston track, the progress reflects on compiling data works from existing infrastructure and energy systems, identifying 50+stakeholders for workshops, and initiating engagements with those stakeholders.