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Ports of LA, Long Beach expected to reap millions as hydrogen hub test sites

By Donna Littlejohn

PUBLISHED Southern California News Group, October 13, 2023

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach stand to reap millions of dollars from a federal Clean Energy Grant announced Friday, Oct. 13, which will bring $1.2 billion to California.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and a number of city and LA port officials gathered at the waterfront in San Pedro to hail the announcement. A similar celebration took place earlier in the day in Long Beach.

“This is a very exciting morning in Los Angeles,” Bass said in her remarks.

Altogether, President Joe Biden named seven locations that will become so-called hydrogen hubs:

  • Mid-Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey).
  • Appalachia (West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania).
  • California,
  • Gulf Coast (Texas).
  • Heartland (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota).
  • Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan).
  • Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Montana).

Out of the $1.2 billion statewide for California, Bass said, “a large sum will come to Los Angeles.”

Projects now will have to be submitted statewide for specific funding amounts.

“This was a broad coalition of labor, business and government demonstrating what is possible when we work together across lines to create a future that is inclusive for everyone,” Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson said in a separate news conference Friday morning.

He emphasized his city’s commitment for carbon neutrality by 2045.

The California award, according to a White House release, “will leverage the Golden State’s leadership in clean energy technology to produce hydrogen exclusively from renewable energy and biomes. It will provide a blueprint for decarbonizing public transportation, heavy duty trucking and port operations — key emissions drivers in the state and sources of air pollution that are among the harder to decarbonize.”

A significant amount is also expected to be used for the conversion to blended hydrogen fuel at the Scattergood Power Plant near Playa del Rey, a project by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

A project labor agreement is part of California’s deal for the funding, which the federal government said “will expand opportunities for disadvantaged communities and create an expected 220,000 direct jobs” in construction, with some 90,000 permanent jobs anticipated.

Los Angeles Councilmember Tim McOsker, who represents the Watts-to-San Pedro district, also hailed the news.

“You don’t have to choose between a good economy and jobs and a clean environment,” he said, adding it’s all possible and the new technology will increase job opportunities. “We will get it right.”

U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Long Beach, issued a written statement calling the announcement “a home run for both our climate and economy.”

And Port of Long Beach CEO Mario Cordero said the funding “will play a vital role in the Port of Long Beach in efforts to develop a promising source of clean energy” for port operations and goods movement.

The funding was sought in a statewide application for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub program.

Both ports joined in the application and expect to get more than half a billion dollars to test out the benefits of using the fuel to power trucking and terminal equipment.

The $1.2 billion for California comes from a larger $7 billion federal grant announcement by Biden early Friday to build out the regional hydrogen hubs across the country.

The program was made possible through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and will create a network of hydrogen producers, consumers and local connective infrastructure to accelerate the use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka noted that just five years earlier at the same waterfront spot port officials announced their 2030 and 2035 target dates for achieving zero-emissions cargo equipment and drayage trucks, respectively. This grant, Seroka said, will be a significant boost for the port’s ongoing efforts. POLB has the same target dates.

The grant, Seroka also said, sends a message to the private sector and those within the production chain that commercially testing and ramping up the ready availability of those cleaner vehicles is viable.

Commercial availability has been part of the challenge as the ports continue what will be an uphill climb toward clean operations.

Hydrogen is considered part of the solution that will be needed to clean the environment going forward.

While the Port of Long Beach will continue pursuing electric technology, for example, green hydrogen technology further benefits the port in its future move to zero-emissions, Cerdero said.

Statewide, projects will roll out over a number of years under the Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems, or ARCHES, a public-private consortium that led California’s application process for the funding. A proposal by the twin ports amounting to $600 million was part of that application, but specific projects will still need approval by ARCHES.

Both ports already have been testing hydrogen and other technologies, and a transition to those cleaner products will require a substantial investment in fueling and charging stations, along new equipment.

Speaking to the L.A. Harbor commission in March, when support for the application was being considered, Seroka said the challenge ahead, overall, won’t be cheap.

“Be prepared,” he said. “We’re going to be cutting some very big checks in order to participate or we’ll be asked to do so.”