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Published March 22, 2022
Eugene Holubnyak is the latest center of excellence director in the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources (SER), taking the helm in the Hydrogen Energy Research Center (H2ERC).
Holubnyak is charged with managing SER’s efforts to identify and quantify the relative competitive advantages of Wyoming in an emerging low-carbon hydrogen economy.
“I am extremely excited about this opportunity. This is a promising advancement in my career in a new and rapidly growing area of research and development,” Holubnyak says. “I am excited about working in hydrogen, because it is the next area where a lot of great research can be produced with the potential to grow into the next big industry.”
Originally from Lviv, Ukraine, Holubnyak earned his B.S. and M.S. in information systems and technology from Lviv Polytechnic National University, followed by an M.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of North Dakota. He currently is an applied geoscience doctoral candidate at Heriot-Watt University.
Before joining SER, Holubnyak established himself as an expert in carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), with more than 14 years of experience in applied geoscience and energy-related research. He previously served as a CCUS program lead at Kansas Geological Survey and spent substantial time working on the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership, of which Wyoming is a member.
He also has worked at the Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota, where he was involved in a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded CarbonSAFE project, as well as with NASA, where he worked on developments in advanced life support systems for space settlements.
In addition to his substantial involvement with DOE-sponsored projects, Holubnyak has demonstrated a talent for building educational networks in energy-related policy. He served as the lead on the Kansas CCUS Task Force focused on educating state legislators, regulators and other stakeholders on pressing carbon management issues.
Holubnyak’s background and expertise will play a critical role in the mission and ongoing research in H2ERC, says Scott Quillinan, SER’s senior director of research.
“We are excited to have Eugene on board. SER is already collaborating on two different hydrogen projects in the state, both of which explore the use of underground storage for CO2 for the viability of their successes,” Quillinan says. “We are confident that he will seamlessly apply his skills and know-how to those projects, as well as investigate other important aspects of this emerging industry, such as transportation, policy and technology.”
SER’s mission is to promote energy-driven economic development for Wyoming. H2ERC will feature prominently in fulfilling that mission by focusing on all forms of clean hydrogen, including low-cost coal through gasification; massive natural gas resources via methane reforming; relatively high-capacity wind energy through electrolysis; and other energy-related industries such as solar and nuclear.
“I am a huge proponent of all types of hydrogen, but I bring expertise in dealing with storage components,” Holubnyak says. “I am hopeful that some of my aerospace background can help me understand other aspects in hydrogen engineering, as well as my experience working with energy pricing and energy transportation logistics. I am focused on bringing what I know from CCUS and applying it here as it relates to hydrogen.”
His leadership to expand SER’s center and to make strategic partnerships with experts, policymakers and industry partners who are interested in advancing different technologies related to hydrogen will be fundamental.
“Hydrogen is not only a new and exciting area of investigation, but I definitely see a lot of value in it,” Holubnyak adds. “It helps to advance decarbonization; it allows us to use fossil fuels longer but in more sustainable ways; it helps us to store energy; and it provides us with a more prosperous economy while addressing our ever-increasing energy demands. I look forward to exploring opportunities and cross-partnerships here to help make hydrogen a reality.”
The arrival of Holubnyak coincides with Wyoming’s interest in hydrogen. In February, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah signed a memorandum of understanding to potentially develop the Western Inter-State Hydrogen Hub (WISHH). The agreement will position the states to compete for some of the $8 billion in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocated toward four or more regional hydrogen hubs, such as WISHH.
“There is a lot of excitement in this area, and we are really looking forward to being a part of it under Holubnyak’s leadership,” Quillinan says. “SER has already been the recipient of generous funding from Williams, Anschutz and the DOE to get H2ERC up and running. The hiring and arrival of the new director is an important milestone for the center, and it will now be an important focal point in statewide discussions.”