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Cleaner Future in Sight: Long Ridge Energy Terminal in Monroe County Begins Blending Hydrogen

Photo by Robert A. DeFrank - The Long Ridge Energy power plant in Hannibal has begun blending clean-burning hydrogen with its gas. Five percent hydrogen is blended now, with the goal of increasing to 100-percent hydrogen by 2030. It is the first of its kind in the country.

Long Ridge Energy Terminal in Hannibal is taking the initial step toward providing cleaner power to the region with the first power plant in the United States to burn fuel partially composed of hydrogen.

Natural gas is blended with about 5% hydrogen there, and the intent is for the facility to burn 100% hydrogen by 2030.

Monroe County commissioners and other county leaders attended a demonstration there Friday, along with Ohio Township officials. State entities such as JobsOhio, Ohio Southeast, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office were also represented. The offices of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio sent representatives, as did the Appalachian Regional Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Ohio Building Trades Council, the Parkersburg-Marietta Building Trades Council and other unions were also present, as were the principals and some students of Beallsville and River high schools.

The electric-generating plant is located at the former Ormet aluminum plant site and has been operational since October. It has the capacity to generate 485 megawatts of power for the electrical grid.

Vance Powers, chief financial officer for Long Ridge, noted more than 500 union jobs were created during construction of the terminal, and 50 permanent employees are working on site. He added that local companies are demanding clean energy.

“It’s the most efficient power plant in the world right now,” Powers said.

He also spoke for Long Ridge President Robert “Bo” Wholey, who was unable to attend. Powers recounted progress since the May 2019 groundbreaking.

“The initial 5% blend we are demonstrating today is the initial step in realizing that vision,” Powers said of the goal to burn pure hydrogen by 2030. He added that Long Ridge could be a regional hub for the production, manufacture and storage of clean hydrogen.

After the event, Powers said the plant will burn up to 20% hydrogen without significant modifications to the combustion turbine. Testing will continue through next year at the 5% baseline. He noted this demonstration proves that the combustion turbine will burn hydrogen.

“In order to get from 20 percent to 50 percent, we’ll have to make some internal modifications,” he said. “There’s further modification you make to get from 50 to 100 percent.”

He said the next phase is getting hydrogen in sufficient quantities to satisfy fuel needs. A fact sheet from the company states the 485-megawatt power plant could consume 515 tons of hydrogen per day.

In addition, Powers said the company must determine which customers are willing to pay a premium, “because hydrogen is much more expensive than natural gas today.”

Power is supplied to the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland grid, which coordinates electricity supplies to more than a dozen states.

Powers recognized Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure, which bought the site, and the GCM Grosvenor Labor Impact Fund, General Electric, union craft workers who assisted in building the plant and the hydrogen connection. He also recognized North American Energy Services, which operates the plant.

“I also want to thank the communities in eastern Ohio and in West Virginia that have supported us on both sides of the river,” Powers said. “We’re committed to the Ohio Valley and our local communities, and our operations are providing millions of dollars to our schools, Ohio Township and Monroe County.”

Speakers also included Katy Wilner, chief commercial officer with General Electric Gas Power, which provided the power island for the plant and served as a partner in testing the hydrogen blending process. She said this is a step toward a “carbon neutral future.”

“Global climate change is a priority that needs to be addressed now, and using these technologies can help us change the trajectory,” Wilner said.

John Carey, director of the Governor’s Office of Appalachia for the state of Ohio, said this represents a continuation of Ohio’s tradition as a pioneer in supplying energy to the nation. He added the construction of a new plant on the site of the former Ormet aluminum smelter honors that legacy. He said while 92 percent of the country’s energy came from coal in 2003, that fuel today produces just 25%.

Powers said the aluminum plant’s closure in 2014 meant the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. Since then, Fortress has purchased and repurposed the site, which has acreage for potential development and barge access on the Ohio River, along with rail and highway connections.

He said only 25 acres of the 1,000-acre site is currently used, with potential for more development related both to hydrogen and to complementary industries.

“Today marks a major milestone in our country. Long Ridge Energy leads the way in decarbonizing the electrical power industry,” Andrew Robinson, economic development director from Manchin’s office, said.

Representatives from related industries were also impressed.

“This is a super-exciting day for the Ohio Valley and for the U.S. in general,” Karen Matusic, senior director of external affairs in low-carbon solutions in the tri-state area for the Norwegian-based energy firm Equinor, said. She added that hydrogen is abundant in the area and can be made from natural gas. “We think that we have all the elements here to really make this energy transition to clean energy.”

She added that her company has been active in carbon capture since 1997 and producing commercial hydrogen in Europe.

“We think this area has all the optimal conditions to replicate what we’re seeing in Europe,” she said.

“It’s a great day for Monroe County. A lot of important people here seeing what’s going on,” Monroe County Commissioner Mick Schumacher said.

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