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Small NM town at the center of hydrogen debate after plans to convert coal plant to hydrogen

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Joe Smyth
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A $600 million effort could make the coal-fired Escalante Generating Station located near Grants the nation’s first successful coal-to-hydrogen conversion project.

According to a report by the Albuquerque Journal, numerous state officials, including Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham have toured the station, and feel it could elevate New Mexico into a leadership role in hydrogen development in the United States and beyond.

The Texas-based Newport Gas LLC and it’s natural gas pipeline operator Tallgrass Energy plan to buy the station from the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, who shut the plant down in 2020.

The project is funded by the global investment firm Blackstone Group, who currently has $731 billion in assets under management. Blackstone’s goal is to invest in hydrogen projects to gain a dominant role in the emerging “clean hydrogen” industry.

Newport CEO Wiley Rhodes told the Journal that “Blackstone has enormous resources to commit to developing hydrogen, including Escalante, and they have big plans for New Mexico.”

This possible commitment has spurred enthusiasm among the leadership in New Mexico, with Governor Lujan Grisham and her cabinet promoting a slate of new tax incentives in the upcoming legislative session to help jumpstart hydrogen development.