UVM enters partnership to research applications of green hydrogen fuel

UVM is partnering with Vermont Gas Systems, Inc. and GlobalFoundries on a new green hydrogen project, according to a Jan. 20 press release from UVM’s strategic communications. 

VGS reached out to UVM and GF in early winter 2021 for assistance with ideas and research with the aim of shifting its own operations away from fossil fuels and towards the use of clean renewable energy, said Neale Lunderville, president and CEO of VGS. 

“We reached out to UVM and [they were] eager to push into the field,” he said. “It’s become a really, really nice, fruitful partnership with UVM and bringing their experts to this partnership is really raising it for us because green hydrogen used for combustion is a fairly new field.” 

VGS hoped to get UVM involved in research on the use of green hydrogen, a source of renewable energy that does not use fossil fuels for production, said Kirk Dombrowski, vice president for research at UVM. 

GF plans to utilize this partnership to look for ways to implement green hydrogen into their own manufacturing and heating systems, said Jeff Cram, GF’s manager of electrical distribution. 

“I think for GlobalFoundries this is an opportunity to partner with the businesses in the community and help reduce the greenhouse gas footprint that we have on this site,” Cram said. 

Dryver Huston, professor in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, will work closely on this research, alongside other colleagues and students in CEMS, Dombrowski said. 

Huston completed extensive research and engineering work with hydrogen in the past, making him well suited to work on this project, he said. 

“Now I see [hydrogen] coming back, and so we’re just as enthusiastic as we were 10 years ago,” Huston said.

This project is still in its planning phase because it is VGS’s first large project involving hydrogen, but the next steps of research and approval are expected to start this spring, he said. 

The idea of green hydrogen as a major source of fuel for the future is becoming more promising for the state of Vermont, particularly for powering vehicles and buildings, Lunderville said.

“When I think about the future, I think about a place where Vermont has plentiful, renewable electricity,” Lunderville said. “And that plentiful renewable electricity is creating hydrogen which we can use in our pipes.” 

UVM, VGS and GF aim to advance research and construction in the late spring, summer and into next fall until they can make more specific plans and the future looks hopeful, Dombrowski said. 

“I think that it’s really important that we be engaged with our communities and take our direction partly from them and create some really meaningful benefits for our state,” he said. “So this is part of it, and I think you’ll see more.” 

When VGS gets the regulatory approval, the production of green hydrogen can begin with the goal of finishing the research and project next year, Lunderville said.