Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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Guest Column | Gallup at epicenter of emerging hydrogen economy

By Patty Lundstrom

On Friday, June 3, Gallup found itself at the epicenter of an economic breakthrough for New Mexico and the nation.

Three New Mexico cabinet secretaries, the Navajo Nation president and experts from leading-edge private industry joined over 80 local citizens and stakeholders at the McKinley County training center for the 2022 Economic Roundtable, “Super-charging the Region: Building a Transformational Hydrogen Economy.”

The hydrogen roundtable was the most recent in an eight-year series of annual roundtables hosted by the Greater Gallup Economic Development Corporation. This year’s topic was chosen due to the exciting opportunities for the Gallup region and for the state of New Mexico to become a nationwide leader in the emerging “hydrogen economy.”

Roundtable participants got a full update on the potential of hydrogen-fired energy to serve as an environmentally-friendly replacement of coal-fired power plants, and how New Mexico – and Gallup in particular – can be a part of the “revolution.”

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and her leadership team, supported in part by the New Mexico Legislature, have entered into a four-state agreement with Arizona, Utah and Colorado to prepare a federal proposal to serve as one of America’s “Hydrogen Energy Hubs.”

The governor was represented at the roundtable by Environment Secretary James Kenney, Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Sarah Propst and Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes.

Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer offered strong support for the initiative, as both an economic and environmental solution for the Navajo people and their neighboring citizens of the Southwest.

In tandem with this bold proposal, and to help lead the way for New Mexico, the GGEDC and its public and private partners have been making plans to convert the coal-fired Escalante Generating Station in Prewitt into a hydrogen-fired electric utility and industrial complex, utilizing the region’s abundance of natural gas as the fuel source.

Significant investment and innovative technology have been brought forth by Tallgrass Energy, keynoted at the roundtable by Justin Campbell, vice president for Power & Transmission.

The design of the newly converted plant will greatly lower the carbon emissions from the electric generation process, with the eventual goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

International consultants James Blair and Philip Marschall of Navigator Consulting presented their promising analysis of the economic opportunity in hydrogen energy for New Mexico and the Gallup region.

In summarizing comments toward the end of the roundtable, Jason Sandel of Farmington, president of New Mexico Energy Prosperity, provided a powerful testimonial in support of the hydrogen energy economy, not only for the McKinley/Cibola corridor but for the San Juan County and Four Corners region as well.

I provided closing remarks, informing the participants of a follow-up conference to be held in early August to build on the momentum of this Roundtable and provide strong and detailed input into the Four-States Hub proposal to be submitted to the US government this fall.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but we’re just now learning how to tap its potential to energize the planet.

We are located on one of the nation’s primary east-west corridors, we have a history as an energy-producing region, and we are proactive and visionary about moving into the future.

For these reasons and more, the greater Gallup region is in a great position to help lead this hydrogen movement, and I invite everyone’s support going forward.

Patty Lundstrom is executive director of the Greater Gallup Economic Development Corporation and state representative for McKinley and San Juan counties.


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