NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

North Texas leaders bet on hydrogen to help solve region's air pollution woes

A room of people sit at tables facing a stage where a panel of five people are speaking
Pablo Arauz Peña
Industry experts and government officials met at UT Arlington on Tuesday for a forum on hydrogen fuel.

North Texas leaders say hydrogen fuel could help the region reach its clean air goals.

On Tuesday, government officials and industry experts came together to talk about the past, present and future of hydrogen at The University of Texas at Arlington. The forum was organized by the university and the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).

Hydrogen is a potentially cleaner fuel alternative to gas and diesel. When consumed in a fuel cell it produces only water, according to the Department of Energy.

"We've brought together people representing different sectors where we might see hydrogen used as a major fuel in the not too distant future — transportation, power sector and then also major industrial manufacturing," said Lori Clark, senior program manager for the clean fleet and energy program at NCTCOG.

Parts of North Texas have in recent years been in "nonattainment" of air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"One of the things that we worry about is maintaining a high quality of life for our eight-plus million residents, and then making sure that all of the industry and the economic vitality of the region is able to thrive," Clark said. "To address those issues, we need to transition the transportation sector to cleaner burning fuels, to address the air quality from a public health perspective."

Proponents of adopting hydrogen say there’s a growing need for hydrogen infrastructure. NCTCOG received a federal grant earlier this year to build five hydrogen fuel stations throughout North Texas that should be operational by 2029.

“Everybody recognizes hydrogen has a lot of benefits as a fuel to solve a lot of the energy issues that we have [and] environmental issues," said Chris Boyer, associate professor of electrical engineering at UT Arlington who organized the forum. "So what would it take to actually adopt it in this area?"

Boyer said hydrogen as a fuel can benefit heavy polluting industries including energy and freight transportation

“If you're looking at large haul trucks carrying heavy weights, then they're gonna benefit from hydrogen fuel cells or hydrogen combustion engines," Boyer said.

During one of the forum's panels, industry experts spoke about the opportunities and challenges of adopting hydrogen as a fuel.

"DFW [Airport] sees itself as a leader in developing new technology, and takes its community impact very seriously," said Hugo Contreras, operations manager at DFW Airport. "We do want to look at how we can really make sure that we're having the lowest footprint of emissions for our fleets."

Contreras added that hydrogen fuel is one of the airport's tools in achieving that goal.

Still, critics say hydrogen can be made using fossil fuels, which doesn’t make it necessarily cleaner. Currently, about 95% of hydrogen produced is made using natural gas, according to the Department of Energy. Most of that production is in Texas.

Clark at NCTCOG said despite that, hydrogen could be a viable alternative to traditional fuels.

"Hydrogen has the potential to be much cleaner than the norm for hydrogen is right now, diesel and gasoline do not have the potential to be cleaner," Clark said.

Pablo Arauz Peña is KERA’s growth and infrastructure reporter. Got a tip? Email Pablo at You can follow him on X @pabloaarauz.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Pablo Arauz Peña is the Growth and Infrastructure Reporter for KERA News.