CBE Seminar: ARCHES: Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems

ISEB 1200
Plamen Atanassov, Ph.D.

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 
UC Irvine

Abstract: This seminar will introduce the audience to the scope and aims of this extraordinary hydrogen technology demonstration mega-project and will be followed with a panel discussion with the participation of Professor Jack Brower, director of UCI Clean Energy Institute and one of the builders of ARCHES (Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems) from its conception and through the hurdles of its establishment and growth. ARCHES is team is led by Angelina Galiteva – ARCHES CEO (Renewables 100 Policy Institute), Scott Brandt – ARCHES COO (UCOP), Adam Webber – ARCHES CTO (LBNL) with Tyson Eckerle (GoBiz) and Chris Hannan (Building and Construction Trades) as members of ARCHES Board on behalf of the State and the Trades.

ARCHES was born to address the nascent opportunity to establish and assert State of California leadership in transition towards hydrogen economy created by the DOE Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations for regional hydrogen hubs. The idea was to claim and secure the hub focused on the use of renewable sources (solar, wind, etc.) to produce, store and use clean hydrogen and thus directly preparing the State economy for addressing the Hydrogen EarthShot Challenge ($1/kg H2 in 1 decade). These DOE hubs are meant to be regionally co-located networks of clean hydrogen producers, consumers and connective infrastructure, with significant cost share from involved entities to aid the demonstration of clean hydrogen ecosystem, which can be developed into a national clean hydrogen network and facilitate a clean hydrogen economy. It was our belief from “day one” that the State of California as a whole is the most beneficial “region” for the purpose of these projects’ allocation. From the beginning of the process of ARCHES creation and consolidation (some two years ago), a number of private sector, university  and other stakeholders have expressed interest in participating in the formation of such a possible, with deployment centers of mass in Southern California and the Bay Area clusters that also extend into the Central Valley and neighboring states with high renewable resources, geologic storage possibilities, key transportation corridors and coastal/port systems with need for clean energy and reduced pollution.

The University of California System (including Lawrence Berkley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories) have partnered with The State of California, through the Office of Business and Economic Development (GoBiz); The State Building and Construction Trades Council, which is a coalition of 157 unions statewide; and The Renewables 100 Policy Institute, a non-profit committed to advancing the global, sustainable transition to 100% renewable energy; in establishing a public/private partnership (registered ad operated as an LLC) for the development of a winning proposal in response to DOE call and more: building the hydrogen ecosystem in the State of California and securing the path for decarbonization of the state economy.

ARCHES is being established as a public/private consortium to realize the tenets of a renewable regional hydrogen hub at scale that leverages and enhances regional infrastructure and serves as an exemplar for validated hydrogen deployments and interactions, especially in the harder to decarbonize sectors including ports, maritime, resiliency, heavy-duty transportation, long-duration storage and the power sector. The holistic vision of ARCHES is to not only demonstrate and found long-lasting deployments but also build the knowledge base and accelerate discoveries, technologies and interconnections to prove out the viability of hydrogen energy systems from the person to the product including the necessary intangibles and social issues such as workforce development and energy/environmental justice. In doing so, ARCHES will utilize the vision of California, its strong educational and research systems, its entrepreneurial spirit, its innovation ecosystem and its concern for the environment. To realize this vision, ARCHES will bring together and engage different industries, academia, utilities, local and state governments, unions, municipalities, trade organizations, non-profits, etc. Only by bringing together these disparate threads can a unified hydrogen vision and efficient, rapid deployment be realized, thereby allowing validation and quick promulgation of learnings.

President Biden announced on October 13 that ARCHES was selected to receive up to $1.2 billion to create a Hydrogen Hub in California. To win this bid ARCHES secured $11.7 billion in matching funds, including some $2 billion from the State of California and the rest from the private and public sector. 

Bio: Plamen Atanassov graduated the University of Sofia (1987) specializing in chemical physics and theoretical chemistry and received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry/electrochemistry from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences where he was a scientist at the Central Laboratory of Electrochemical Power Sources (now Budevski Institute of Electrochemistry and Power Systems). Atanassov moved to the United States in 1992 and joined University of New Mexico (UNM) as a researcher and later as a faculty member with the Chemical and Nuclear Engineering department. He founded UNM Center for Emerging Energy Technologies (CEET), was associate dean for research of UNM School of Engineering and later served as the director of UNM Center for Micro-Engineered Materials (CMEM). Starting October 2018, Atanassov joined UCI where he is a Chancellor’s Professor with the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, holding a courtesy appointment with Materials Science and Engineering. His educational efforts are directed towards creating a Ph.D. program in electrochemistry and electrochemical engineering.

Atanassov materials for energy programs are focused on development of novel electrocatalysts: non-platinum electrocatalyst for fuel cells, nano-structured catalysts platinum catalysts and advanced supports, catalysts for CO2 electroreduction and products valorization, ammonia electrosynthesis and new materials and enabling technologies for energy conversion and storage. Atanassov bio-electrocatalysis research includes enzyme electrochemistry, enzymatic and microbial fuel cells and systems for biological and bio-inspired energy harvesting and water treatment. He has published more than 460 peer-reviewed papers (bringing 37K+ citations and forming an h-index of 99). He supervised 44 completed Ph.D. dissertations at UNM and UCI and had advised more than 27 postdoctoral fellows. He holds 67 issued US patents, a substantial number of which have been licensed and are at the core of several catalyst products.

Currently Atanassov is engaged in several major DOE initiatives participating in the team to build California’s hydrogen hub by serving on the executive team for Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) and interfacing with hydrogen technology demonstration and research efforts regionally and Nation-wide. Atanassov was inducted in the National Academy of Inventors (2018), and he is a Fellow of both: The Electrochemical Society (2018) and the International Society of Electrochemistry (2020). In 2022 he was elected president of the International Society of Electrochemistry (for the 2023-28 term).