🦉 10x curiosity - The Hydrogen Hopium





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🦉 10x curiosity

January 29 · Issue #242 · View online

🦉 A weekly sample of links that made me think 🤔

Also published in 10x Curiosity
For my own edification I have been compiling a list of interesting sources to wade through the noise of hydrogen politics. Sometimes it is very difficult to differentiate fact from hope. This post summarises some of the relevant observations and links I have found of use.

Michael Liebreich
Michael Liebreich
  • Hydrogen is neither efficient or effective
  • Hydrogen is first a massive climate problem, not a climate solution. Focus should be on greening hydrogen for high value chemical uses. Currently there is virtually zero green hydrogen being produced, and it would take twice the volume of currently installed wind and solar resources to generate the hydrogen currently produced for industrial applications. Solving this problem first needs to be the priority for any green hydrogen production.
  • Hydrogen comes in different colours to describe the fuel source used to make it — anything but green hydrogen is likely to have a more significant environmental impact than the original fuel used to generate it!
  • Incumbent oil and gas majors are driving the hydrogen agenda, both to try to continue their existing business model and to delay the transition (away from their model!)
  • Every time energy is converted from one form to another, losses inevitably occur. Use the energy in its highest exergy state wherever possible — Ie electrify everything!
  • Absolute best case is that using electricity to make hydrogen to then make power is 37% efficient => 70% (electrolyser) x 90%(compression) x 60% (engine or fuel cell efficiency LHV base) = 37% of the energy you started with.
  • If you add in a liquification and transport step instead of the compression this becomes even worse — 33% instead of 10%! Multiply this out —70% x 67%x 60%= 28% of the starting energy.
  • Substitution into natural gas pipelines — max blend up to 20% (any higher will cause embrittlement to typical transport pipes). Sounds not too bad, but 20% by value represents only 6% of energy — Very ineffective from a decarbonisation point of view (6/86 reduction in CO2 or 7% reduction); AND Customers are getting ripped off if paying by volume actually need to buy 16% more gas (one local project proudly (disingenuously?!) claimed that they were adding the hydrogen for “no extra charge…”!).
Rosemary Barnes — Youtube
Rosemary Barnes — Youtube
  • It requires three times as much energy to move a jule of hydrogen as it does a jule of natural gas!
  • Shipping is even worse — hydrogen is energy-dense by mass, but not energy-dense by volume. The same sized ship of hydrogen would deliver only 27% of the energy of an LNG ship. Even this reduced energy density requires hydrogen to be compressed as a liquid and stored at only a few degrees above absolute zero -minus 253°C! Unless using very specialised (and high cost) storage tanks, hydrogen losses during transport are high.
Energy density — Wikipedia
Energy density — Wikipedia
  • BEV vs Fuel cell / Hydrogen engine sales — market has voted and battery vehicles have won; See below chart comparing Electric vehicle vs fuel cell sales; also French cancel hydrogen bus contract in favour of electric buses once they realised the operating cost difference
  • Path to scale for hydrogen fuel cells does not exist like it did for lithium iron batteries — People happy to pay a premium for a quality early battery in a phone. Through learning curves this develops the technology and drives massive cost reductions. There are no useful small scale hydrogen fuels cells to drive this learning curve. By implication then, unless someone with deep pockets will drive the learning curve on larger expensive fuels cells there will never be enough units produced to bring down the cost.
  • You need a very high capacity factor on the significant electrolyser capital expenditure to make economic hydrogen — even free intermittent power cannot change this. Having an expensive plant the sits around only to be used less than 20% when the power is free is not going to be a thing.
The Clean Hydrogen Saga: Part II — The Cost of Clean Hydrogen
The Clean Hydrogen Saga: Part II — The Cost of Clean Hydrogen
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More like this from 10x Curiosity
Links that made me think...
Science Isn’t Broken | FiveThirtyEight
Sony pivots into cars with Sony Mobility and a Vision-S SUV prototype at CES 2022
UBC’s Strategic Design Method (SDM) | by Juan Fernando Pacheco | Juan Fernando Pacheco | Medium
The environmental case for buying a coal mine - BBC Future
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