Micro Real Estate

Hydrogen Hubs and the Case for Hydrogen Airships

A sleek, metallic hydrogen airship

Hydrogen Hubs

The Biden Administration recently announced $7 Billion in funding for Hydrogen Hubs – regions of the US that will see significant investment from both the government and the private sector ($43 Billion from industry is what the Biden Administration quoted). The Hydrogen Hubs are in regions that seem kind of obvious since they already have a lot of hydrogen activity and are really more of a formal designation to allocate funding to regions that already have some investments in Hydrogen production and infrastructure, and significant renewable energy production that can be stored with hydrogen.

Hydrogen Cities

The hubs are relatively large regions of states and groups of states, so I think there should be smaller scale designations of Hydrogen Cities. I’d propose that the first Hydrogen City would be Lusby, Maryland. Where the heck is Lusby? It’s on the southern part of the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and has everything necessary to ramp up hydrogen production. There’s obviously a lot of water that can be used for electrolysis from the Chesapeake Bay, and Lusby is actually on a narrow peninsula (less than 5 miles wide) with the Patuxent River as the other body of water.

Not only is there a lot of water for electrolysis, there’s also a lot of water for cooling and compressing gas. So much so, that the Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) facility was built in Lusby to export natural gas and can store 14.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas on site. I imagine that at least part of this facility could be used for liquefaction, storage, and export of hydrogen.

In addition to the Cove Point LNG facility, the Calver Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant is under 5 miles away, and the town of Lusby has cheap electricity because of it, typically around 8 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This cheap and green energy source can be used to create green hydrogen through electrolysis.

Furthermore, Lusby is just across the Patuxent River from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station which is the headquarters of Naval Aviation and host several squadrons. In the next 10-20 years, this military base could be a major consumer of hydrogen.

The Case for Hydrogen Airships

I think as the hydrogen hubs (and Hydrogen Cities like Lusby) grow and hydrogen needs to be transported between the hubs and remote locations, there will be significant opportunity for hydrogen airships. Hydrogen Airships? Like the Hindenburg? That burned to the ground in 1937, killed 36 people, and essentially ended the use of hydrogen in airships? Yes, hydrogen airships are the future.

Helium is obviously a safer gas to use for airships because there is zero risk of a fire, but it is a very limited resource (i.e. it’s crazy expensive) and it is heavier than hydrogen, so when used as a lifting gas, the airship is not able to carry nearly as much cargo.

I know that this sounds a bit crazy because the images of the Hindenburg disaster are imprinted on children from a young age (especially in New Jersey, where the disaster happened), but there’s a company working on an airship that uses hydrogen as a lifting gas to also transport liquid hydrogen long distances. The H2 Clipper is designed to use hydrogen as both a lifting gas and a power source, which I think makes a lot of sense.

There needs to be a lot of work on the safety of hydrogen airships, but there has been 100 years of technological innovation in the Fire Protection engineering discipline that has not been applied to hydrogen airships. Let alone, nearly all the deaths from hydrogen airships in the past were of the crew of the airships, and we now have the technology for unmanned aircraft, so unmanned hydrogen airships seem to be within the realm of possibility to keep humans safe.

Oh, and Lusby has a small airport, which would be perfect for launching airships!

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