Community meeting discusses pore space leasing for regional hydrogen hub

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Guernsey Co. shale well rig
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

CLAYSVILLE, Pa. — Residents recently gathered for a meeting at Claysville Community Center to discuss new longwall mining efforts in Washington County. However, the most shocking item on the agenda for residents was information regarding pore space leasing in the county.

Similar to mineral rights leasing, pore space leasing refers to the leasing of underground geological formations where liquified carbon will be injected for long-term storage. This process is known as carbon sequestration or carbon capture and storage, and it’s used to offset carbon emissions.

At least one company is already looking to lease pore space rights in southwestern Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia. Not much is known for certain about the project, the terms of these leases or how they will impact landowners.

That’s why, in part, the Center for Coalfield Justice hosted the meeting in Claysville on Feb. 20. Nina Victoria, community advocate at the Center for Coalfield Justice, said the industry was “moving in silence.”

“We want to make sure our communities are aware of what’s being proposed and what they’re being asked to sign over,” she said.

Who and where?

Tenaska, a private and independent energy company, is planning three carbon storage hubs in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia known as the tri-state carbon capture and storage, CCS, hub.

Tenaska recently announced it would be approaching landowners in specific parts of each state, asking them to lease their pore space rights for CCS. A key component of CCS is Class VI wells. Class VI wells are used to inject CO2 into underground subsurface rock formations. 

According to the project’s website, locations being considered for pore space leasing of CCS include Washington and Greene counties in Pennsylvania, Harrison, Carroll and Jefferson counties in Ohio and Hancock, Brooke and Marshall counties in West Virginia.

Similar to the way the natural gas industry identifies viable drilling locations, companies will use monitoring devices to model and estimate the geological suitability of land for CCS and pore space leasing.

“Just like gas leasing benefited farmers from a financial standpoint, leasing the pore space under any property would benefit any landowner and possibly farmers in a very similar way,” said Tom Murphy, former co-director of the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research and Penn State University.

Tenaska added that pore space leasing would not affect farmers’/landowners’ ability to lease their mineral rights, and that “a CCS storage field can coexist with oil and gas production.”

The tri-state CCS hub will be used to store carbon underground, although the source of this carbon is currently unknown.

Some have speculated that Tenaska’s CCS hub could be affiliated with carbon produced by the recently funded Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub, also known as ARCH2. However, according to Kyle McColgan, communications lead for ARCH 2, Tensaka is not an official partner of ARCH 2 and its hub is not directly associated with the project. 

What is ARCH2? 

The ARCH2 hydrogen hub is part of the larger network of hydrogen hubs, seven in total, across the United States that will receive a portion of $7 billion funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. ARCH2 is anticipated to receive up to $925 million.

The hub will be centrally located in West Virginia but will span parts of eastern Kentucky, Ohio and western Pennsylvania. It will consist of hydrogen pipelines, multiple hydrogen fueling stations and CO2 storage infrastructure (CCS) across the four states. 

The main goal of the hydrogen hubs is to reduce carbon emissions. According to McColgan, some of ARCH 2’s partners will be looking into CCS sites to store carbon in the ground long-term as a way to offset carbon emissions.

Details on ARCH 2 are still limited, and McColgan would not specify which type of hydrogen ARCH 2 will produce, however, it’s likely natural gas will be used as a feedstock to produce hydrogen, given the region’s immense natural gas stores.

The seven hydrogen hubs are anticipated to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 25 million metric tons of CO2 per year. Additionally, ARCH2, specifically, is estimated to bring 3,000 permanent jobs and 10,000 construction jobs.

Reactions

Murphy said CCS has never been done at the proposed scale of ARCH2. There are only a handful of Class VI wells active in the U.S. currently, while dozens are under review. There are none in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Class VI wells are mostly permitted at the federal level by the EPA. Only three states — North Dakota, Wyoming and Louisiana — have primacy over Class VI wells, which allows them to run their own permitting and regulatory programs. Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia do not have regulatory power over Class VI wells, although West Virginia is in the process of getting primacy.

Victoria said there needs to be more regulation surrounding pore space leasing and safety regulations for CCS and Class VI wells. Pore space rights were brought up at the Claysville meeting to make residents aware of new language that could be added to their existing mineral rights leases.

After hearing the limited information available, residents were concerned they would be used as “guinea pigs” for the hydrogen hub project. Victoria said the Center for Coalfield Justice will continue to host informational meetings for landowners and farmers as details surrounding ARCH2 come out.

“(It goes back) to protecting our residents and letting them make informed decisions, and encouraging their community leaders to make informed decisions that are going to protect the people,” she said.

Correction: Updated information was added to this story on March 4 at 3:45 p.m. to ensure the most accurate information was present. 

(Reporter Liz Partsch can be reached at epartsch@farmanddairy.com or 330-337-3419.)

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What is a hydrogen hub?

A hydrogen hub encompasses a network of hubs that store, use and distribute hydrogen as a form of energy through power plants, storage facilities and pipelines. There are several different types of hydrogen, but the most common include blue, green and grey.

Blue hydrogen

  • Made using natural gas and/or coal
  • Involves steam reforming that combines natural gas and heated water to produce steam, which is hydrogen
  • Produces a byproduct of carbon dioxide, making carbon sequestration necessary for blue hydrogen to be clean*

Green hydrogen

  • Made using renewable energy by splitting water molecules that make hydrogen
  • Does not emit carbon dioxide and is considered the cleanest* form of hydrogen production
  • More expensive than blue and grey hydrogen

Grey hydrogen

  • Similar to blue hydrogen, is produced by natural gas/coal
  • But it doesn’t include the process of carbon capture and storage
  • Not considered clean* like blue and green, although the definition of clean energy can be and is often debated
  • The only type of hydrogen widely used today

*Clean energy is generally considered to be an energy source that does not emit, or emits little, carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

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