A company with a mission to enable carbon-free fuel and reduce the climate impact of air travel will build a manufacturing and distribution center in New Mexico with a goal of hiring hundreds of employees in Albuquerque.
Universal Hydrogen has chosen a 50-acre parcel of property northeast of the passenger terminal at the Albuquerque International Sunport to manufacture and distribute its hydrogen storage modules, assemble airplane retrofit kits, perform aftermarket maintenance services, and manage administrative activities. The location includes access to a runway and the potential future reclamation of a rail spur south of the Sunport.
New Mexico will be at the heart of the company’s mission to decarbonize hard-to-abate greenhouse gas emissions in aviation, ground transportation, and heavy industry to help the United States meet the Paris Agreement goals. The company also has facilities in California, Washington State, and Toulouse, France.
“This project puts New Mexico and Universal Hydrogen at the center of the global effort to decarbonize transportation and aviation in particular," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. "Hydrogen, solar, wind, and alternative energy are job-rich industries and New Mexico’s partnerships with these companies are part of a forward-thinking model to create a robust and diversified economy, while being a part of the solution when it comes to a changing climate.”
“Aviation is going to be one of the most difficult sectors of our economy to decarbonize. The clean hydrogen capsules that Universal Hydrogen plans to manufacture in Albuquerque will be central to reducing carbon pollution in air transportation — a major contributor to our climate crisis. I’m proud to welcome all of the jobs and investment that Universal Hydrogen is bringing to New Mexico,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said.
Universal Hydrogen will spend one to two years on the planning and construction of its New Mexico facilities, with a goal of commencing full-scale manufacturing by 2024. It anticipates investing over $254 million into New Mexico and aims to hire 500 employees over the next seven years. These jobs will include highly skilled engineers and composite technicians with attractive salaries and benefits. The construction project alone is expected to generate over 1,200 jobs, and the manufacturing and distribution center is expected to have an economic impact of over $700 million over the next 10 years.
“With two federal Department of Energy research labs and a skilled workforce, the future for new, innovative energy technology is here in New Mexico,” Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said. “Gov. Lujan Grisham gets it and she thinks big — New Mexico is now competing for sophisticated companies with highly paid jobs, and winning.”
Universal Hydrogen is uniquely positioned to address the hydrogen value chain for aviation, both for hydrogen fuel distribution and hydrogen-powered airplanes. The company utilizes proprietary capsules that safely store hydrogen during transit and serve as modular tanks that are loaded directly onto aircraft. The technology will underpin a logistics network that can move hydrogen from production facilities to airports over existing freight infrastructure, eliminating the need for costly new pipelines, tankers, and hydrogen storage facilities.
The company is also developing powertrain conversion kits to retrofit existing regional turboprop aircraft, including the Dash 8-300 and ATR 72, to enable these aircraft to fly on hydrogen. It thus far has agreements with 11 air carriers to retrofit nearly 100 regional airplanes with a goal of being FAA-certified and in commercial service by 2025.
After demonstrating success with regional aircraft, Universal Hydrogen plans to apply its modular fueling solution to larger commercial airplanes as well as drones, industrial equipment, and ground transportation, all domains with high-carbon footprints that will require hydrogen to meet pollution-reduction goals.
“Hydrogen is the best and only scalable solution to truly decarbonize aviation, and we want to bring it to market decades sooner than anyone thought possible — by 2025,” Jon Gordon, co-founder and general counsel for Universal Hydrogen, said.
Gordon said the company chose Albuquerque for manufacturing and distribution because of its strategic location that allows the company to leverage air, rail, and the interstate highway system as well as robust partnerships in governments, industry, and research institutions. “I can’t imagine a better place to be. We need a highly skilled workforce, and we need it immediately,” Gordon said. “We see New Mexico as a place that will give our employees an affordable, high quality of life with access to culture and the outdoors. It’s really a dream location.”
He added that both Heinrich and Grisham are rare among elected officials in fully appreciating the transformative economic effect of sustainable hydrogen, including its ability to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
“New Mexico has some of the most forward-looking political figures in the country right now as far as seeing the potential of hydrogen to transform our economy and eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels,” Gordon added. “New Mexico’s leadership will attract other companies to the region as well. That’s important to us. We want to be a significant catalyst to build this sustainability-focused ecosystem in New Mexico.”
The Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance, the area’s non-profit, private-sector economic development organization, provided technical assistance for Universal Hydrogen’s expansion. AREA first began providing site-selection services to Universal Hydrogen in early September 2021. “This investment affirms the state’s profile in aviation, manufacturing and energy, all of which are target industries of AREA’s strategic plan. We are actively working on projects in all these areas, and we expect that, with Universal Hydrogen’s announcement, we’ll only see more inquiries,” Danielle Casey, president and CEO of Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance, said.
Universal Hydrogen has been featured in Bloomberg, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times, among many others, as one of the innovative startups working to decarbonize the transportation sector.
New Mexico has taken a bold approach towards clean hydrogen development. In January, the state signed an MOU with Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories that leverages their respective areas of expertise with hydrogen to deliver timely and efficient transformation of energy systems. In February, Grisham signed an MOU with the governors of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming in announcing that they will compete jointly for a portion of the $8 billion allocated in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for the development of regional clean hydrogen hubs.