Hydrogen developer Bakken Energy has signed a memorandum of understanding with railroad company BNSF Railway to jointly work on the design of the Heartland Hydrogen Hub, a project focused on making clean hydrogen abundant and affordable.
According to the company, the partnership will specifically focus on the role of railways as consumers and transporters of hydrogen. Hydrogen does not emit CO2 when combusted, but it must created by either steam reforming of methane gas or electrolyzers splitting the H2 out of water.
Bakken Energy is also working with the states of Montana, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Minnesota to design the hub.
“Railways could play a critical role in distributing our clean hydrogen production, and could also be consumers as trains transition from diesel. BNSF is the ideal partner to work out the role of railways in our Heartland Hydrogen Hub," Steve Lebow, Founder and Chairman of Bakken Energy, said.
In 2021, Bakken Energy reached agreement with Basin Electric Power Cooperative to purchase the assets of subsidiary Dakota Gasification Co. and the Great Plains Synfuels Plant. Bakken and its partners plant convert that facility to a hydrogen production site.
The Heartland Hydrogen Hub will produce hydrogen using natural gas that would otherwise be flared, while including carbon capture and sequestration.
Bakken Energy’s CEO Mike Hopkins added, “Part of the equation is production, but the other part is distribution and that’s where BNSF will be invaluable. Being able to transport our hydrogen by rail would dramatically reduce our distribution costs and therefore the cost to consumers.”
John Lovenburg, VP of Environment and Sustainability at BNSF, stated that the company's collaboration with Bakken is part of its commitment to a more sustainable energy and transportation system, including exploring the role railways can play in a hydrogen economy.
BNSF Railway is one of North America’s leading freight transportation companies, with a rail network of 32,500 route miles in 28 states and three Canadian provinces.
Bakken Energy previously signed MOUs with engine equipment maker Cummins and trucking firm Schneider National Carriers on long-haul trucking aims related to the Heartland Hydrogen Hub. The Hub is under consideration for $7 billion in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Energy's Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs program.
Mitsubishi Power also is a primary partner with Bakken Energy on the hub. Mitsubishi is exploring or engaged in H2 projects globally, including the Advanced Clean Energy Storage site in Utah.