May 3, 2023

by: Becky Gillette, Mississippi Business Journal

Hydrogen has a lot of advantages as a green fuel alternative. When burned, it doesn’t create the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide associated with gasoline, oil, natural gas and propane emissions. It is much lighter than fossil fuels and doesn’t create harmful pollution. But, until recently, hydrogen fuel has not been price competitive with fossil fuels.

Now hydrogen is taking a giant step towards prime time with an agreement between Hy Stor Energy, LP, and the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission (HCPHC) to provide hydrogen fuel to the Port Bienville Industrial Park, the Port of Gulfport and Stennis International Airport. The first phase of the project has a goal of producing 350 tons per day with 71,000 tons of hydrogen being stored in underground salt caverns.

“Hancock Port and Harbor strives to grow our maritime, rail and aerospace industries in the region, and hydrogen provides options to fuel growth and innovation at a time when our existing energy capacity is strained but demand is growing,” said Blaine LaFontaine, executive director, HCPHC. “Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission is committed to growing those economic opportunities in a responsible way. Our customers and new industries are demanding to meet their respective environmental and social governance (ESG) goals and create new industry jobs – strengthening the port’s position as a workforce hub of industry, energy and technology.”

Laura Luce, CEO of Hy Stor Energy, said it is a groundbreaking change.

“Hydrogen bridges the gap to enable a 24/7 zero-carbon energy system by converting intermittent electrons to molecules that can be transported and stored,” Luce said. “We will provide zero-carbon, zero-methane energy that is available when whenever needed dispatchable on demand, including when the wind doesn’t blow, and the sun doesn’t shine, and for long durations not yet solved by battery technologies.”

Luce said the planned Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub is up to 10 times larger than any other green hydrogen project under consideration in the U.S.

Luce said Mississippi has the 10th best solar energy capacity in the country, and the Mississippi River has some of the strongest wind resources. Those alternative energy sources will be used to convert water to hydrogen that will be stored in underground salt domes until needed as fuel.

“Hydrogen is quite a diverse fuel,” said Luce, who formerly worked in the natural gas business.

“Hydrogen can solve some of the greatest energy challenges which including decarbonizing energy-intensive industries such as steel and agri-nutrients, and long-duration seasonal clean energy storage. It allows people to have zero carbon and zero methane sources of energy. The reason hydrogen can be developed at scale now is a precipitous drop in the cost of renewable energy. Costs have dropped ten-fold in the past few years. Now hydrogen can follow that same cost decline. For the first time, hydrogen will allow us to use renewables on a 24/7 basis.”

Salt dome storage of hydrogen also avoids the problems associated with battery storage of electricity from renewable sources including limited battery storage capacity, the high cost of lithium and pollution associated with lithium mining.

Luce said another advantage is not being dependent on foreign sources of lithium and of oil, gasoline and natural gas, or even on domestic fossil fuels shipped across the country in trains, tanker trucks or pipelines. It takes less energy to transport hydrogen because it is eight times lighter than natural gas, 22 times lighter than propane and 57 times lighter than gasoline vapor.

Luce said development of hydrogen as a fuel also improves energy security by reducing reliance on foreign sources of energy and even domestic sources when there are severe weather events such as abnormal heat or cold and hurricanes. And hydrogen can be used anywhere from a home level — some off-grid homes in Australia are powered by hydrogen fuel — to a major steel mill. Luce said replacing the coal used to make steel with hydrogen would create huge environmental benefits.

Heavy duty trucks that transport goods from the Port of Gulfport to end destinations are loud and create pollution in heavily populated neighborhoods. Luce said the hydrogen fueled trucks that will be used at the Port of Gulfport will be quiet and pollution free, removing diesel emissions linked to respiratory and heart disease. There are currently $40,000 subsidies from the government for alternative vehicles that use hydrogen or fuel cells.

“There are some really wonderful large corporations in Mississippi that are committed to us to convert trucks coming in and out of Gulfport to run on hydrogen,” Luce said. “I expect hydrogen fuel development to change the movement of goods and services into and out of the port. It is going to allow the entire community and shipping corridors to have zero carbon and methane emissions from transportation.”

There has been pushback in some areas of the country against large solar and wind facilities in heavily populated residential areas and in scenic areas. A lot of industrial areas already have a lot of infrastructure. “Why not use the infrastructure in areas that are heavily industrial to advance hydrogen, solar, and wind?” Luce asks.

Luce said they are also working with Keesler Air Force Base and railroads in the area regarding the use of hydrogen fuel.

Anything combustible can be a safety hazard, and has to be used safely. But Luce said hydrogen has some advantages in that it dissipates at 10 times the speed of natural gas, and 100 times the rate of propane.

“We have to be mindful of safety issues, but on a scale of other fuels, hydrogen really stands up,” she said. “It is no more dangerous than other sources of power. If we are going to use energy and electricity, we have to take care.”

While hydrogen is not yet extremely well known as an energy source, Luce points out that the technology has been around for a long time including on submarines in World War II. Now she sees hydrogen being scaled up to address some of the world’s most pressing problems with pollution trapping gases causing climate disruption and illnesses.

The Richton Dome in Perry County will have the ability to serve as a Strategic Hydrogen Reserve connected to new, dedicated, dual bi-directional pipelines that will extend from Richton in Perry County 100 miles to the Port of Bienville in Hancock County. Plans call for the hydrogen storage salt domes in Richton to be interconnected to new pipeline infrastructure and will further connect multiple salt domes from Louisiana to Jackson.

Hy Stor Energy is working with Connor, Clark & Lunn Infrastructure, a firm with a history of investing in and owning renewable energy projects. For more information about Hy Stor Energy, please visit

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