Commissioners Approve Land to Renewable Energy Developer

May 28, 2020

Land in Butte, Montana could be used to construct hydrogen production and gas turbine facilities.

Oriden LLC, which focuses on clean energy production, has been approved to purchase land in Butte, Montana that could be used to construct hydrogen production and gas turbine facilities.

This infrastructure may eventually help power areas from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest, according to the Montana Standard. The idea was first approved last year.

County commissioners approved an agreement that gives Oriden up to five years to purchase 160 acres in the industrial park for energy processing operations. The county will reserve the parcel for Oriden for an annual fee of $5,000, and the company can purchase the land outright within five years by paying $240,000 in full, or $1,500 per acre.

The parcel does not have direct access to industrial water and some other ready infrastructure like some other vacant parcels, according to Kristen Rosa, administrator for the industrial tax district. 

“This is the first step in what we hope to be a bigger project,” said Rosa to commissioners.

The Option to Purchase Agreement was first presented to the Tax Increment Financing Industrial District Board on May 15 and the Board unanimously voted to recommend an agreement approval to the Council, reported the Montana Standard. 

As Los Angeles is ridding itself of coal power, it has also created the first critical need for hydrogen storage in the Western region, according to Michael Ducker, Mitsubishi vice president of Renewable Fuels.

The process of producing hydrogen would involve converting treated and polished water from the Berkeley Pit into hydrogen, through electrolysis, which leaves only oxygen and water vapor as a byproduct. The hydrogen gas would be transferred via a 450-mile gas pipeline, then stored in salt domes in Delta, Utah. 

The Delta salt domes can each be pumped with up to 150,000 Mwh worth of compressed hydrogen, which is enough to power over 13,000 homes for a year, according to the Montana Standard. Hydrogen not pumped to Delta could be converted to electricity at the site in Butte with gas turbines and then transferred along high voltage transmission lines.

Near the salt domes is the Intermountain Power Plant, which supplies electricity to 23 cities in Utah and six cities in the Greater Los Angeles area. The plant aims to operate on 25% hydrogen and 75% natural gas by 2025 and 100% hydrogen by 2045.

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Cristina Tuser