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North Las Vegas considers liquid hydrogen plant near Nellis

An industrial gas supplier wants to build a liquid hydrogen production plant near an area used by the military to make emergency bomb drops.

The North Las Vegas Planning Commission will consider Wednesday whether to let Air Liquide have 475,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen on the site, which is located next to an area known as Jettison Hill, north of Nellis Air Force Base. The company did not provide comment.

“The proximity of the two uses is a concern, however, with proper safeguards the uses can be compatible,” a North Las Vegas document stated. The document said the project location would be within the Jettison Hill area’s 8,000-foot buffer.

North Las Vegas spokesman Patrick Walker said the city is working to determine what percentage of the site, if any, would be located within the buffer.

Walker said in an email that Air Liquide would be required to comply with fire, life and safety code requirements. It would also have to undergo peer and third-party reviews for fire protection and building code compliance.

“We will enlist third party help because this is a specialized facility with specialized needs that will be identified through the planning and permitting process,” Walker wrote in an email.

Walker said the city notified Nellis of the permit application about five weeks ago but has not received comments on the proposal.

Nellis spokeswoman Rebekah Mattes said experts from the base met with Air Liquide officials about the project and alerted representatives from the company of the Air Force’s operations.

“The Air Force recognizes and supports the development across the Las Vegas Valley and works continuously with area officials to protect the Nellis Air Force Base and Nevada Test and Training Range missions while supporting sustainable, compatible development near the installation,” Mattes said in a statement.

She also said that, as a federal government entity, Nellis refrains from “making subjective statements on private pursuits.”

In 2011, a pilot dropped two 500-pound bombs within the Jettison Hill safe zone after an engine malfunctioned. At least one of the bombs exploded, rattling the nearby Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Later that year, the U.S. Air Force voiced concerns about plans by NV Energy to build a substation not far from Jettison Hill.

The city announced Air Liquide’s plans to come to Apex Industrial Park last month. The company plans to use liquid hydrogen from the roughly 15-acre site to power the western United States’ fuel cell electric vehicle market.

Air Liquide’s goal is to produce its first hydrogen at the facility in 2021.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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