Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast

What's up with hydrogen?

June 13, 2023 Fresh Energy Season 4 Episode 4
What's up with hydrogen?
Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast
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Decarbonize: The Clean Energy Podcast
What's up with hydrogen?
Jun 13, 2023 Season 4 Episode 4
Fresh Energy

Hydrogen is a hot topic in the clean energy space and here in Minnesota. Thanks to the 100% clean electricity law, Minnesota’s electricity supply will be 100% carbon-free by 2040. This is a BIG deal. But to address the global climate crisis, we must be carbon neutral across the economy by mid-century or before—and this includes our industry and agriculture sectors. Fortunately, federal action from the Biden Administration in the past few years, including the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, are also opening up new funding and opportunities for Minnesota to leverage when we’re talking industry-wide decarbonization. 

Join Fresh Energy's Craig McDonnell and Jo Olson, with special guest Mike Reese from the UofM's West Central Research & Outreach Center in Morris, to get the scoop on hydrogen and its role in industrial decarbonization.

Listeners can stay up to date on Fresh Energy's work via our once-monthly email list, blog at, or by following us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. You can support Fresh Energy’s work for a clean energy Minnesota by making a donation today!

Learn more about the UofM's West Central Research & Outreach Center in Morris, Minnesota, and subscribe to their listserv here.

Show Notes Transcript

Hydrogen is a hot topic in the clean energy space and here in Minnesota. Thanks to the 100% clean electricity law, Minnesota’s electricity supply will be 100% carbon-free by 2040. This is a BIG deal. But to address the global climate crisis, we must be carbon neutral across the economy by mid-century or before—and this includes our industry and agriculture sectors. Fortunately, federal action from the Biden Administration in the past few years, including the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act, are also opening up new funding and opportunities for Minnesota to leverage when we’re talking industry-wide decarbonization. 

Join Fresh Energy's Craig McDonnell and Jo Olson, with special guest Mike Reese from the UofM's West Central Research & Outreach Center in Morris, to get the scoop on hydrogen and its role in industrial decarbonization.

Listeners can stay up to date on Fresh Energy's work via our once-monthly email list, blog at, or by following us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. You can support Fresh Energy’s work for a clean energy Minnesota by making a donation today!

Learn more about the UofM's West Central Research & Outreach Center in Morris, Minnesota, and subscribe to their listserv here.

Jo Olson : [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Decarbonize the Clean Energy podcast from Fresh Energy. Fresh Energy is a Minnesota nonprofit working to speed our state's transition to a clean energy economy. My name is Jo Olsen. I'm the senior director of communications and engagement here at Fresh Energy and also your host for today. I am excited to be joined by my colleague Craig McDonnell. He's the managing director of Fresh Energy's Industry Department. And a little later on in the podcast, we'll be joined by Mike Reese, who has been the renewable energy director at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris since about 2001. Hello, Craig, and thank you for doing your first podcast with Fresh Energy.


Craig McDonnel: [00:00:45] Hi Jo. I'm super excited to be here today doing my first Decarbonized podcast. Really exciting work. It's been a momental momentous session here in Minnesota and I joined Fresh Energy in December of 2022. As you know. So really exciting time to be working at Fresh Energy and in Minnesota on industrial decarbonization. As you know, we're here to talk about hydrogen today, so I'm ready to jump right in.


Jo Olson : [00:01:10] Well, I hope it's your first podcast, but not your last. No, this isn't everyone's favorite thing, but I think it's pretty fun. I think we're going to have fun. And what's more exciting than hydrogen, really Like, like you said, we're here to talk about hydrogen's role in industrial decarbonization, which is a very hot topic in the clean energy space and one that you, Craig, have been just super focused on since coming to Fresh Energy late last year. So first to set the scene here in Minnesota and at the federal level, thanks to the 100% clean electricity law, Minnesota's electricity supply will be 100% carbon-free by 2040. This is a big deal, however, to address the global climate crisis, we must be carbon neutral across the entire economy by mid-century or before, and this includes our industry and agriculture sectors. And fortunately, federal action from the Biden administration in the past few years, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, or the IRA, are opening up new funding and opportunities for Minnesota to really leverage when we're talking about industry-wide decarbonization. So, Craig, tell us why innovation and policy progress on these sectors now is so very, very crucial.


Craig McDonnel: [00:02:32] Happy to, Jo. I'd like to back out for a second and set the scene with a little bit of data. The data show that the industrial and agricultural sectors are significant sources of carbon pollution in Minnesota and in the US and will also be the most challenging sectors to decarbonize. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that in 2020 these sectors accounted for a combined 35% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, with 24% of the emissions from industry and 11% from agriculture. So it's a big piece of the pie that we need to tackle and there's a great opportunity here. Technological advancements and the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or as we'll call it, the IIJA and the inflation Reduction Act or as we'll call it, the IRA, mean that we're actually on the cusp of the long awaited hydrogen economy. However, not all forms of hydrogen are created equal, and neither are all uses of hydrogen, which is why I'm so happy to be here today.


Jo Olson : [00:03:23] And which is why this topic is really so complicated. So on this podcast today, we're going to talk about hydrogen and the technologies for producing it, as well as federal and state hydrogen initiatives. Good and not-so-good uses for hydrogen as well. And how fresh energy is diving into the hydrogen conversation. So, Craig, in a nutshell for our audience, what is hydrogen and how is it used in heavy industry?


Craig McDonnel: [00:03:52] At its most basic level, hydrogen is the world's most abundant chemical element, and at the risk of stating the obvious, hydrogen is a building block for water and all living things. Hydrogen is also a critical component of fossil fuels; while hydrogen is all around us naturally occurring hydrogen gas is pretty scarce. Currently, hydrogen demand is driven by use in oil refining, ammonia production, methanol production and iron and steel making. So the vast majority of the hydrogen used in these industries is produced from fossil fuels and is very carbon intensive, which is why it's so critically important for us to address this important element.


Jo Olson : [00:04:27] Yeah, absolutely. And why it's also important that in any discussion of hydrogen for deep decarbonization, we also consider how hydrogen is produced and the potential for harmful greenhouse gas emissions from that production mode. Now, Craig, I know that we talk about the many colors of the hydrogen rainbow, which includes gray and blue, green, pink, red, purple, turquoise, brown and black. Yikes. There are a lot and there probably more coming too. So we're not going to talk about all of them today. But why don't you focus on the most viable color and give a few sentences of explanation for each if if you would?


Craig McDonnel: [00:05:10] Happy to. And so to be super clear, not all hydrogen is created equal from a climate standpoint, and it's extremely important to know the process behind any method that produces hydrogen. So let's start with gray hydrogen. Gray hydrogen is produced from fossil gas using the steam methane reforming method or SMR. The process is the most common hydrogen production method in the world, and 95% of the hydrogen produced in the US is from SMR. And that's true globally as well. So the process is a significant driver of industrial emissions globally and fossil gas's role in that process means gray hydrogen is not a viable climate solution.


Jo Olson : [00:05:48] Okay, so no, go on. Gray. What about turquoise?


Craig McDonnel: [00:05:53] Yeah. Turquoise. Turquoise Hydrogen uses methane as a feedstock as well. So like gray hydrogen, which we just talked about. But the process is different. It does not use the process. Turquoise hydrogen uses pyrolysis, a process where high heat and a catalyst like nickel iron, cobalt and carbon. Are used to break down methane into hydrogen gas and a solid carbon byproduct. There are no carbon dioxide emissions, which is good. But the fact that fossil gas is the feedstock means that the issues of emissions from fossil gas production and leaks in the natural gas transmission system remain.


Jo Olson : [00:06:27] All right. So I'm going to admit, I don't know that I knew how to pronounce Pyrolysis until you just did it. So thank you for that. So also turquoise not optimal. This is a softball. But what about green hydrogen?


Craig McDonnel: [00:06:41] We're getting to the good stuff. And at its core, green hydrogen is the production of hydrogen gas using carbon-free renewable electricity, which could be wind, solar or even hydropower, or from potentially battery storage. And the process utilizes renewable electricity to power an electrolyzer, and that electrolyzer separates water into hydrogen gas and oxygen and that fresh energy. We believe green hydrogen is the most promising technology for producing hydrogen and meeting our climate goals. So as we grow our industry department, we're going to be placing further emphasis on green hydrogen and its uses.


Jo Olson : [00:07:13] All right. So many types of hydrogen and many opportunities of really varying potential. So if hydrogen holds so much promise for decarbonizing, tell me why we aren't using it now.


Craig McDonnel: [00:07:26] Great question. So the promise of hydrogen as a real solution for climate change hinges on the ability of industry and policy makers to scale the production of price competitive decarbonized hydrogen and the ability of the market to transform. So like other commodities, hydrogen's price is subject to a lot of price volatility, especially when fossil gas is used as a feedstock. And unfortunately right now, gray hydrogen is the cheapest form of hydrogen. And as we discussed earlier, it's a significant driver of emissions.


Jo Olson : [00:07:55] Yep, that makes sense. So fortunately, the Federal government is prioritizing work to make cleaner sources of hydrogen cost-competitive with gray hydrogen. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that looks like, Craig?


Craig McDonnel: [00:08:08] Happy to. There are many federal programs under way to incentivize innovative, affordable and scalable clean hydrogen. There's a lot that I could mention here, but we'd get too far in the weeds. I will mention, though, one of the hallmarks of the hydrogen provisions is the establishment of a program to develop 6 to 10 regional clean hydrogen hubs that are going to spur investment in communities and clean energy and create family sustaining jobs and improve energy security. So these hydrogen hubs are one of the Keystone programs to develop green hydrogen.


Jo Olson : [00:08:40] That sounds really exciting. So from a carbon intensity and emissions standpoint, it's pretty well, it's pretty straightforward, I guess you could say. So First, Energy considers the use of green hydrogen in strategic. Hard to abate end uses where production and consumption can be co-located as like the ultimate gold standard. Craig, why is that?


Craig McDonnel: [00:09:05] Well, we need to transition away from green hydrogen in industry and that's an indisputable fact. However, aside from green hydrogen, the other hydrogen colors options that we have have unresolved issues ranging from their reliance on the use of fossil gas, such as gray, hydrogen and other opportunities there, and the feasibility to scale those technologies, such as in the case with pink hydrogen, which uses renewable or excuse me, it uses nuclear power. But we do know that green hydrogen is the best type of hydrogen and has the most feasible use cases for replacing gray hydrogen in industry.


Jo Olson : [00:09:39] All right. And to remind our listeners, green hydrogen can be generated by renewable energy and has significantly lower carbon emissions. But let's give our listeners an opportunity to hear from some real life examples from someone doing it right here in Minnesota. Welcome to our guest expert, Mike Reese. Thank you so much for being here today, Mike. Thank you.


Mike Reese: [00:10:01] Oh, go ahead.


Jo Olson : [00:10:02] No, no, no. I'm happy to have you.


Mike Reese: [00:10:05] Yeah, Thank you. Thank you for having me. And it's a pleasure for me to be here to talk about the potential for green hydrogen and ammonia in Minnesota.


Jo Olson : [00:10:14] Fabulous. And so for folks listening, Mike is the director of operations and the Renewable Hydrogen and Ammonia Research Lead at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris. My old stomping grounds and his team and the work there, they've pioneered the use of wind power to create green hydrogen in the production of green ammonia and green fertilizers. So thank you for being here. But, you know, before we dive specifically into the center's work on green fertilizer, I know there are probably people listening who maybe will be hearing about the West Central Research and Outreach Center for the first time. Can you give us a quick introduction to the sheer breadth of the work happening in Morris beyond green fertilizer?


Mike Reese: [00:11:04] Absolutely. Well, first of all, we're a research farm, so we have dairy cattle and pigs and crops. And then we also focus on horticulture renewable energy has been a really growing area for us. And so we focus in areas primarily to decarbonize farming operations or agriculture, and those include Agrivoltaics, which is the use of solar panels combined with other applications such as using them not only to produce electricity but to to use them for shade, for cattle or windbreaks or other applications like that. Strategic farm electrification is a big area for us, a growing area. You know, when you think about converting fossil energy fuels to electricity, the testing, the use of electricity and battery-powered electric vehicles in terms of utvs or all-terrain vehicles or pickups or tractors, and then converting thermal sources like natural gas and propane for into heat pumps. But then also we we want to make sure that we are actually making progress in these areas. And the way we do that is through life cycle assessments and techno-economic assessments as well. So that underlies a lot of our research.


Jo Olson : [00:12:28] Thank you, Mike. And I know I'm a subscriber, so I know other people can stay up to date on your work by subscribing to the listserv, which is on the website of the center. So I'll put that in the description of the podcast so those listening can get signed up. Um, okay. So now let's circle back to green hydrogen. The local production and use of green ammonia for fertilizer could have real benefits to Minnesota's farmers, the rural economy and our climate. And it's something that we're at fresh energy really excited to work on in 2023 and beyond. So tell us a bit about your program and its origins, Mike and you might need to start by first explaining how fertilizer is made.


Mike Reese: [00:13:11] Absolutely. Well, fertilizer is made at what's called world scale plants, and it's a very important nutrient for our crops. Water is the first limiting nutrient, but nitrogen is the second most limiting nutrient. So without nitrogen source, our production is very low. Throughout many decades, a process called the haber-bosch process has been used, and that takes fuels like natural gas and coal and cracks them into hydrogen. And then hydrogen is combined with nitrogen from the air and to produce anhydrous ammonia, which is NH three. And from there other nitrogen fertilizers are also made such as urea or urea ammonium nitrate. And it goes back to the history of chemical manufacturing where people thought that economies of scale and getting larger and larger was was key and obviously doing it in the most economical manner possible. And that has served the world well. It's helped us feed people. Half the world's population would starve without this process. However, there are other harmful implications and one is climate change. About 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from nitrogen fertilizer production because of the use of natural gas and coal in this process. So back in 2002, we were looking at how we could participate in the renewable energy area as a research farm, we serving farmers and rural communities. We wanted to help improve the profitability of agriculture and and generate wealth in our rural communities. And the wealth I'm talking about is not necessarily creating billionaires. It's creating wealth to support hospitals and and social services and police and schools and roads and bridges and and that type of wealth. And so we saw renewable energy as an opportunity to do that. And people might wonder why agriculture, research and renewable energy go together. Both are essentially land-based resources; farmers own land. And so wind turbines and solar panels go on on that land.


Mike Reese: [00:15:37] When we started back in 2002, one of the challenges there's a couple of challenges. First challenge was we installed a utility-scale wind turbine and we're working in that process and found that utilities didn't want the wind because wind was mostly blowing at night and there was a lack of transmission to move that wind to other places. So we started looking at hydrogen. Could we use the wind energy and solar to produce hydrogen? We could. It was kind of at the at the national forefront an effort to use hydrogen for fuel. At that time, we didn't think we could contribute. There was national labs and other entities that were working on it. But what we could what we could do is we could use the hydrogen to produce nitrogen fertilizer. And so we saw that as elegant solution that you have the wind turbines on farmers land, you use the electricity to electrolyze water whole nitrogen from the air, put the two together to form anhydrous ammonia, which is the second most consumed nitrogen fertilizer in Minnesota. And from there that seemed to be good cyclical and closed loop model. And again, we felt that it was an elegant concept, but yet it hadn't ever been done before. So in 2013, with the help from the state legislature and the Legislative Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources, we we constructed the first in the world pilot plant to take wind energy and produce anhydrous ammonia. And from that we've validated the process. We've looked at improving the efficiencies. We've developed the experience to do it. And we received visitors from around the world to see how this works. And there's some other interesting aspects that I think we're going to talk about here a bit later.


Jo Olson : [00:17:38] Thank you. And Craig, did you have something to add here?


Craig McDonnel: [00:17:40] Yeah. Thanks, Jo. I just wanted to jump in for a second and say, like, Fresh Energy is so excited by the work that Mike is doing out in Morris. There's just real opportunities here from we see it. You know, first and foremost, there's the climate benefit and the opportunity to get away from fossil gas to create a key fertilizer and a key compound for plants here in Minnesota. And the second piece that I think really resonates with us at Fresh Energy is this idea of building a new model for fertilizer production. Mike was mentioning there's a world scale model right now, and this is an opportunity to build a decentralized model for the local production and consumption of fertilizer, which has real opportunities for rural economic development and building wealth. So those are just two critical reasons why we're supportive of Mike's work. The work of the legislature that we passed this year for that grant program that we talked about earlier, Jo, and just really excited with that. So turn it back over to you and Mike, but really exciting opportunity here in Minnesota. So thanks for your leadership, Mike.


Mike Reese: [00:18:36] Thank you.


Jo Olson : [00:18:37] Yeah, hear you here.


Jo Olson : [00:18:38] So, Mike, you're in Morris, Minnesota. As I said, my old stomping grounds. I spent some of my childhood in Donnelly. So how did all of this get set up? So set the scene for the folks listening today who maybe don't know the area, don't know the history.


Mike Reese: [00:18:55] Absolutely. Well, Mor ris is a the city of Morris is set in a rural farming community. You know, corn and soybeans and other small grains are primary crops in the area have a fairly small population. The county itself is about 13,000 people. And the community of Morris is about 5500 residents, and that includes the students at the Morris campus. Again, agriculture is one of the largest industries in the area. It supports all of the services that we talked about and and supports the way we make living here in west central Minnesota. 20 years ago, the director past director, who was in my role said that we we really look at renewable energy as a way that farmers can improve their profitability and and again, help rural communities generate wealth. And so he launched a renewable energy initiative and asked me to lead that effort. So we received funding in from 2005 to 2007 from the state legislature, as well as other sources, to start developing a renewable energy platform that included renewable hydrogen and ammonia. So through that process, we became involved with the company in Norway called Norsk Hydro, and they had been producing ammonia for for decades, and they started using hydroelectric power that was stranded. So it was very similar to what we have here in in west central Minnesota and across the state and in the Dakotas. Stranded, renewable resource. And so we thought we could learn quite a bit from them. And so we went and visited them and we talked about the the use of wind energy to produce ammonia.


Mike Reese: [00:20:57] Found out some of the challenges with that, but and then dug into how it all began. And so the haber-bosch process is what what what Norsk Hydro used and what is currently used today to produce anhydrous ammonia. Carl Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch developed the Haber-bosch process. They both won Nobel Prizes for chemistry and it's one of the top five innovations of all time. I think of it as kind of the Rodney Dangerfield of innovations, because when you talk about Haber Bosch, not too many people know mate. Well, people don't know what you're talking about typically when you say that that process. But it saved billions of lives. And without that, again, we still use it today, 100 years later. And over time, it developed and became larger and larger and larger. The environmental impacts became greater. And now we sit in rural Minnesota where we use consume a large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer. In the state of Minnesota, we consume about 500 million to $1 billion a year with the nitrogen fertilizer and all that money goes out of the state. And so we thought that this would be an opportunity to create a local industry or regional industry and keep those dollars here locally. At the same time, having the benefit of lowering the carbon footprint of agriculture and decarbonizing nitrogen fertilizer production.


Jo Olson : [00:22:34] Well, and it's exactly like you said earlier, to bring it back. An elegant solution on on just so many levels. So you've been doing this now for a while down in Morris. What have you and the team learned and how are these learnings setting the pace for green hydrogen to green fertilizer projects across the US?


Mike Reese: [00:22:55] Well, again, we we commissioned the first winter ammonia pilot project in the world. And so I think that's really important to have an example, first and foremost. And when we first commissioned the plants and and we're working through the plant, it became apparent that because it was the first in the world, there were some other challenges that we had to face. There were components that were mismatched. And but at the same time, we've we've validated the process. It wasn't the most efficient process. And since that time, we've been working on the efficiencies and and working on the education and outreach. We have worked also with partners to use ammonia in other for other applications besides nitrogen fertilizer. It's 100 times less costly to store and transport hydrogen in the form of ammonia, and so there's interest in using it for grain drying and for for engines and other applications. So we've we're doing research in those areas. I think, again, I'll go circle back to the life cycle assessment that we also conduct here. So we we conduct life cycle assessment on on the energy that we're consuming in our crop production. And right here in at the West Central Research and Outreach Center, the amount of fossil energy footprint attributed to nitrogen fertilizer is about 35% of the total for corn production, and it's closer to 50 to 60% for small grain production. So nitrogen fertilizer has a huge impact on the fossil energy footprint. And so that's one of the key learnings and it helps guide our decisions on how we move forward in this.


Mike Reese: [00:24:41] For example, grain drying for corn is up to 45% of the fossil energy footprint. So if we're able to use green ammonia for grain drying, we can have a path towards decarbonizing and reducing fossil energy consumption, production agriculture up to 80%. And so I think that's transformative. It's it requires additional research, but we're moving in that direction. Nice. And fertilizer, on the other hand, is a drop in replacement. So once we make that economical, then it can be switched out for what farmers are currently using. That's one of the nice things about that. And. You know, the the policy at the federal level that recently has been passed or the the Inflation Reduction Act and the as well as the Infrastructure Act has really given a strong foothold and strong foundation for to make this economical now. And so now we're at a point where even though we've been working on making this more efficient, we've been developing technologies. Those aren't necessarily as important because the policy has made this economical. And really it's a question of of who's going to be doing this. Is it going to be Minnesotans or is it going to be companies that are coming into come into Minnesota and take extract the value out of our state? And so Craig had mentioned the policy and legislation that the state enacted to provide grants to co-ops for grain, nitrogen fertilizer. And to me, that's key to shaping how we want Minnesota to move forward in this area.


Craig McDonnel: [00:26:30] Great point, Mike. Really appreciate the thinking there and the partnership at the legislature, as we mentioned earlier. And just want to say, you know, from a fresh energy standpoint, we're excited. You have, you know, proof of concept in that pilot project. We are advancing towards that commercial scale. And again, just to reiterate the opportunity we have in Minnesota to decarbonize nitrogen fertilizer and synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. So we're super excited about that because there is that opportunity to build that decentralized model. And then as we're going forward, you know, we're excited to continue working with Mike to think about some of those other applications as we spin up our industry department for what are the highest and best uses of green hydrogen and green ammonia. Right? There are going to be other applications. And as we learn more, we're going to be digging into those details and look forward to working with partners like Mike and the Minnesota Farmers Union and everyone else that we work with. So we see this as one step forward and kind of that industrial decarbonisation effort. And we see, you know, green fertilizer and green hydrogen really operating at the intersection of climate policy and agricultural sustainability. And just know that we think of this as kind of a multi-pronged approach. Decarbonizing those inputs is critically important, but also thinking about the interplay between inputs, water quality and climate will be important work for us going forward too. So again, just really excited for this work and thanks so much for that time. But Jo, I think we had another question for Mike maybe.


Jo Olson : [00:27:49] Well, yes, I guess maybe this is a bit of a softball. But Mike, your your team has so much going on that is just super exciting. What's next?


Mike Reese: [00:28:01] I really view green hydrogen and ammonia for for for agricultural uses like green H and fertilizer as a gateway. You know, we already use substantial amount of ammonia throughout the Midwest. And so it just makes sense that when we're talking about hydrogen hubs and and going in that direction and decarbonizing industry that we start with agriculture and we can do that again, dropping in a nitrogen fertilizer right in the current process. But what that enables is it enables us to look at other areas. So steelmaking, for example, is represents about 8% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. We have quite a bit of iron ore mining in the state. It would be great to be able to produce green steel right here in Minnesota and and export that around the world. You know, we have access to ports. We have the mining industry. We have the technology available. We have companies like Cummins Manufacturing Electrolyzers now in Fridley. So we have many of the components to do that. In addition, there's other areas such as using hydrogen and ammonia to for power, for power generation during times when wind and solar is not available. So we can have a seamless intersection of those technologies. And if you look at another area that has a high carbon footprint that's in the construction area, 6% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are related to construction industry, and quite a bit of that is through the production of concrete.


Mike Reese: [00:29:48] In fact, we have limestone quarries in Minnesota that produce quicklime, and in that process you're heating up the limestone with propane or natural gas boilers, which generates Co two. But then also as the limestone is heated up, it releases CO2. So we have an opportunity to capture that Co two and CO2 from other industries and use combined with hydrogen or ammonia to make products like urea, sustainable aviation, fuel, methanol, and the list goes on. So again, I really do view that nitrogen fertilizer production is a gateway to many more good things for Minnesota. And kind of reminds me of of what a friend of ours, former senator State Senator David Senjem, said, see the future and go there. And so I think we can see the future and see see the steps to get there. And produce green lights and fertilizer and then go into green steel manufacturing. Green concrete production. Green fields, production for aviation. And so I think we have a really bright future. And Minnesota can lead the way in this area. And I would like to thank fresh energy for also helping to lead the way.


Craig McDonnel: [00:31:10] Thanks for that, Mike. And just to jump in, you know, I think one of the things that's really exciting it's been said and it can't be understated, is that this is a decisive decade in our race to confront the climate crisis here. And so we're seeing all these opportunities and all these layers to put together a complex puzzle. As Mike said, we're excited for the potential applications of green, hydrogen and green ammonia here in Minnesota. And thinking about you have things like the Inflation Reduction Act and what's called the 45 V tax credit for hydrogen and how Minnesota policy can layer on top of that and really build the conditions to create kind of those ecosystems to address emissions in heavy industry and agriculture and find those win wins. You know, one of the things to mention again, that's so exciting here on green ammonia in the specific application, as Mike noted, is not only the climate benefits, but it's that opportunity to really recognize some rural economic development efforts and diversify income stream for farmers and help them realize a new source of revenue. So continuing to look at what are those macro conditions that will benefit rural Minnesotans and position us as going to be something fresh energy is going to engage in that work. So we're just excited for where this is going.


Jo Olson : [00:32:16] Yes. Here, here.


Jo Olson : [00:32:17] Thank you so much, Mike, for sharing your time with us today. It was so awesome to have you on the podcast. We don't have guests that often, but every time we do I think, gee, we should do that more. So I really appreciate your time. And now, Craig, let's turn it back to you. Talk a little bit about how you and your role at Fresh Energy and how you work with Mike. I know there have been some cool things underway at the Minnesota legislature this year as well, so let's dive in.


Craig McDonnel: [00:32:42] Yeah, Thanks for that question, Jo. You know, how we've been working together is really. Mike has just been a critical thought leader across Minnesota. And every time I have a conversation, even when he's not in the room, his work has been referenced here. So we're thinking deeply about how do we build off this fundamental research and how do we create those conditions. As I kind of mentioned earlier here, to support industrial decarbonisation efforts in Minnesota. And so, so much of it is really going to be based on the technical feasibility of the technology and making sure that it's ready for prime time and then thinking about how we can build that foundation to launch a new technology and confronting any potential trade offs, which this is true of any technological application here, is we're addressing not only the climate benefits, but understanding how it impacts local communities and how it impacts, you know, other environmental attributes, thinking about water quality, air quality and those things. So it's really important for us to just continue these conversations and to address them in a transparent way, which is why it's so wonderful to have Mike here on the podcast and socialize his work with our audience too, because we see real opportunities here to launch a new technology in Minnesota, but making sure, making sure that we're doing so in a way that is just really kind of, I guess, inclusive is how I would frame it. So everyone is understanding where we want to go and what is the application that we're talking about.


Speaker4: [00:34:02] Fabulous. Thank you.


Jo Olson : [00:34:05] Now, Craig, could you talk a bit about how you, in your role at Fresh Energy are working with Mike? I know there have been some cool things underway at the Minnesota legislature this year as well. So can you elaborate on some of your favorite things?


Craig McDonnel: [00:34:20] Yeah, One of the big wins for Fresh Energy this past legislative session was partnering with Minnesota Farmers Union and Mike to create a grant program for green fertilizer here in Minnesota. The proposal is a win for farmers, for rural communities and the climate. This new grant program will provide up to $7 million in funding for a green fertilizer facility here in Minnesota. And at Fresh Energy. We're really excited about this proposal for three reasons. First, the grant program requires green hydrogen to be produced and used in the production of green fertilizer Critical win. Second, the program requires that grant recipients be agricultural or rural electric cooperatives. This is exciting because it's going to help build a decentralized green fertilizer industry here in Minnesota. And lastly, we're really excited that Minnesota is again leading the country in developing a model for the local production and consumption of green fertilizer.


Jo Olson : [00:35:12] All right, Well, I'll admit it. That's an awful lot to think about. And we haven't even touched on the topic of hydrogen and settings outside of industrial spaces, which is just as complex and challenging. But I think that's a podcast for another day. Now, before I let you both go, Craig and Mike, I want to give you each a moment to add some closing thoughts to the conversation. Craig, any final closing thoughts as we wrap up?


Craig McDonnel: [00:35:41] One of our closing thoughts here, Jo, is we're going to be continuing to engage in the hydrogen conversation at Fresh Energy, especially our industry department, and thinking deeply about how we can leverage the federal funding that's coming down the pipe from the Inflation Reduction Act and continuing to think about what are the highest and best use cases for hydrogen. We touched briefly on green fertilizer here in Minnesota, but as the conversation evolves, we'll look at other uses for green hydrogen as well, possibly in steelmaking or other hard to electrify sectors. Looking forward to chatting with you more.


Jo Olson : [00:36:12] Perfect. Can't wait. Guess that's a wrap on our podcast about hydrogen today for industrial uses. Thank you, Mike and Craig for giving our listeners some insight into industrial decarbonisation and a real life example of what the innovative work looks like right here in Minnesota. So for the folks listening, you can stay up to date on Fresh Energy's work via our blog at or follow us on social media. We did just launch an Instagram, so I would say check that out. We've actually got some pretty cool photos going up there. In the meantime, thank you everyone for listening and subscribing to our podcast. You can support Fresh Energy's work by making a donation today. Visit our website again at and click donate in the upper right corner. Thank you for listening.