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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The Life Story Of A Dedicated Hydrogen-For-Vitality Employee Unfolds

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It’s trivially straightforward to be snared by hydrogen for power. Then it’s straightforward to begin fixing the issues of hydrogen for power. Then it’s straightforward to wave away an issue set of hydrogen for power as not your concern. After which clear up extra of the issues for power. And wave away one other group of issues as one thing another person will clear up. After which clear up one more drawback with hydrogen for power.

After which you’re on the backside of considered one of many slippery slopes within the area of hydrogen as an power provider and do not know how you bought there or easy methods to get out. Your coronary heart continues to be in the suitable place, working towards an answer for local weather change, however your thoughts and sure cash, profession, agency and fairly in all probability inventory worth are caught down a rabbit gap of your individual devising which is at the moment hindering local weather motion.

Let’s begin this journey in a sixth or seventh grade classroom. Proto-men and -women are gathered round lab benches in faculties. They’ve water and electrical energy. They usually make hydrogen. They show that they do by burning it. That is an experiment that may be performed with a cup of water and a 9V battery. It’s trivially straightforward. Making power from water! What a rush!

And you then discover out it’s clear burning! Water vapor and nothing else. You discover out that it’s extremely power dense, with each kilogram having as a lot power as a gallon or virtually 4 liters of gasoline.

You hear about international warming and fossil fuels. You join dots. You turn out to be satisfied, as so many have earlier than you, that hydrogen is an answer to the worldwide warming drawback of power from fossil fuels. It appears really easy?

You discover books like The Hydrogen Economic system and articles and discover gushing press releases about gas cell automobiles. You turn out to be satisfied that that is the place you need to make your mark, the place you need to contribute.

So that you go on in your schooling after which profession, working towards the clearly superior hydrogen economic system. You create a hydrogen power product or a agency or turn out to be a senior chief in a agency that’s working within the area. After which the issues actually begin.

Mercedes-Benz Group is filled with individuals intent on exploring each engineering choice at nice expense, from the board of administrators to technicians. Metropolitan Vancouver, the place I stay, is filled with individuals doing this type of work for Ballard Energy, HTEC, Teralta, and plenty of different corporations. Nikola is filled with individuals working to discover each failure situation regardless of years of ache. That is their story.

Don’t let it’s your story. Whether it is already your story, begin working in your exit technique should you haven’t already.

So, what’s the first drawback?

Quadrant view of hydrogen storage expense and density by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Quadrant view of hydrogen storage expense and density by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

Hydrogen is certainly power dense by mass, however not by quantity. It’s an extremely diffuse gasoline. That kilogram takes up 12 cubic meters or so at room temperature and strain. In contrast, a gallon of gasoline takes up 0.004 cubic meters, about 3,000 instances much less room.

So the primary drawback you run into is that hydrogen is way too diffuse to be helpful in its regular state. It’s a lot lighter than air as effectively, so should you let it escape, it would merely disappear upward at an amazing fee. That’s why it was utilized in zeppelins and blimps.

It’s a tiny little molecule as effectively, which implies that it’s an escape artist. Hermetic containers aren’t hydrogen-tight. It treats balloons and screw-on lids as minor inconveniences, pace bumps at greatest. Hydrogen molecules are even smaller in comparison with gasoline or diesel molecules.

And that room temperature and strain factor is an issue too. Gasoline and diesel, along with being such massive molecules which you can virtually carry them in a sieve, are liquid at room temperature and strain, and on very giant ranges on both facet as effectively. That implies that they’re extremely handy to deal with and retailer. Dense, liquid, and massive molecules that simply sit there are very nice to work with.

And so, job one for you is to construct all the pieces with vastly tighter tolerances than is used for the fuels we use at present. That’s okay, you’re working in a well-equipped lab and there are tanks of hydrogen sitting round and flasks designed for them. Not your drawback. However definitely an issue outdoors of the lab, the place each part concerned within the motion and storage of hydrogen needs to be designed, constructed, and maintained to these very exact tolerances.

So, you have got a flask that’s hydrogen tight, but it surely comprises nearly no hydrogen when full. Job two is to determine easy methods to make hydrogen lots much less diffuse.

And so that you construct or purchase a hydrogen compressor. Should you construct one, it’s important to construct one thing able to very excessive pressures and really tight tolerances. Should you purchase one, you get sticker shock. This isn’t a $40 air compressor for automobile tires you will get on Amazon. No, an affordable hydrogen compressor that may obtain 300 atmospheres of strain, the equal of being 3 kilometers below the floor of the ocean, will set you again near $10,000, should you order 50 of them at a time from Alibaba.

That can assist you to put 20 kilograms of hydrogen in a cubic meter of area. That’s higher! Till you notice which you can put about 290 gallons of gasoline in the identical area. You possibly can put 25 gasoline tanks price of gasoline right into a cubic meter.

That’s simply not going to get you down the highway, or assist you to preserve a whole lot of hydrogen round.

At this level, a bunch of individuals simply hand over. However not you!

You say, no drawback, let’s simply improve the strain! Again to Alibaba you go, the place you will get a 700 ambiance hydrogen compressor for $25,000. That’s the equal of being 7 kilometers underwater and you may put it in a storage — when you have an enormous storage and nothing else you need to put in it.

Then, in fact, it’s important to rework each single part as a result of tolerances and engineering that labored at 300 atmospheres don’t work at 700 atmospheres. Larger high quality metal and gaskets. Even tighter machining. Much more expense.

Sooner or later in there you discover out the exhausting method that compressors fail usually. You is likely to be feeling this simply within the $25,000 chunks of change leaving your capital account. Otherwise you is likely to be proven the statistics that in California and all over the place else, compressors at hydrogen refueling stations are the one greatest explanation for failures and the stations are sometimes out of service.

Extra individuals simply throw up their fingers, however not you.

You say there needs to be a greater method. And so that you begin taking a look at options to this very costly, very difficult-to-build, very expensive-to-maintain compression and storage gear.

You ask your self, perhaps we will simply flip it right into a liquid? Then we will deal with it similar to we deal with gasoline or diesel. You understand that gases flip into liquids whenever you chill them. You might need labored with liquid carbon dioxide, oxygen, or nitrogen earlier than. You understand that these gases turn out to be liquids at -57°, -183°, and -196° Celsius respectively. They’re fairly frequent. How exhausting can it’s to show hydrogen into an simply dealt with liquid?

You then take a look at it. -253° Celsius. A lot colder than the opposite gases. Solely 20° above absolute zero. Solely 17° hotter than outer area between the celebs. Oh, and there’s one other catch. While you make liquid hydrogen, about 25% of it’s secure, however 75% of it has its electrons aligned in an unstable method that finally collapses to be secure. Nevertheless it releases warmth when it does that, which turns the hydrogen again right into a gasoline. So it’s important to do extra chilling to beat that as effectively.

Extra individuals say sufficient, however not you!

Finally, you have got secure liquid hydrogen! Wonderful. So what if it takes a full third of the power within the hydrogen to relax it all the way down to this absurd temperature. That’s a small worth to pay for a liquid you possibly can pump across the place.

You flip off the lights and head residence, glad and searching ahead to a celebratory dinner. However whenever you come again within the morning, there’s no liquid hydrogen.

Oh, proper, stuff that’s 20° above absolute zero is a large vacuum for warmth, sucking it in as quickly as potential and with each bit of warmth, a bit extra hydrogen turns again right into a gasoline and escapes. Fortunately, nothing sparked otherwise you wouldn’t have a lab left.

Again to the engineering workshop, the place you design and construct globular, closely insulated, mirror completed tanks. That’s what’s required to merely restrict the speed at which hydrogen turns again right into a gasoline to a considerably manageable fee. In truth, the larger the tank, the higher, as you discover out quickly.

Actually quickly. In truth, small mirror ball tanks unnoticed in room temperature below LED lights nonetheless lose a whole lot of hydrogen. So, you construct greater tanks once more. And you then construct a set of elements that seize the venting hydrogen and recompress it, bringing you to the purpose the place you now have all of the challenges of liquid hydrogen and compressed hydrogen on the identical time.

Extra individuals depart the constructing, however not you. You’ve bought what it takes!

You go searching extra broadly. The fundamentals of temperature and strain have been exhausted. However perhaps a wholly new department of science?

You return to highschool and get a PhD in natural chemistry. You understand hydrogen binds with natural molecules and that compounds of hydrogen could be liquids at room temperature. In any case, water is a compound of oxygen and hydrogen and it’s a liquid at lots of the ranges of temperatures people stay in.

Positive sufficient, you discover that natural compounds like toluene, dibenzyltoluene, n-ethyl carbazole, and different polysyllabic phrases you have got come to think about as regular can have hydrogen added to them by placing them below what you’ve come to think about as very affordable pressures of 30 to 50 atmospheres within the presence of unique catalysts. And out come substances just like the equally mellifluous methylcyclohexane, which is a secure liquid. You don’t actually discover the individuals edging away from you at social occasions, however you’re actually seduced by natural chemistry, so why fear about different seductions?

You then attempt to get the hydrogen again out. That requires warmth. Lots of warmth. A lot warmth in actual fact that you’re again to throwing away a full third of the power within the hydrogen to run the method. And the hydrogen is contaminated, so it’s important to purify it once more. However you may make the method extra environment friendly by storing the warmth from making the stuff to make use of whenever you need the hydrogen again. Extra designing, extra constructing, extra elements, extra price.

Oh, the thought is to make use of the liquid to ship the hydrogen some other place and the warmth is left behind. Huh. A lot for warmth restoration.

Extra individuals depart the constructing at this level, however not you! You will have grit, you have got dedication. And so that you solid your eyes across the periodic desk. You do not forget that hydrogen reacts with metals as effectively.

Again to highschool you go, to get a PhD in metallurgy. Not the place you anticipated to finish up whenever you began, however you hadn’t been anticipating to cope with absurd pressures and temperatures both.

You uncover metallic hydrides, the metallic equal of the natural oxides out of your deep, deep foray into natural chemistry. Phrases like lithium hydride, lithium aluminum hydride, sodium borohydride, and ammine borane now circulation out of your lips. You may certainly mix metals like lithium and sodium with hydrogen, and similar to with the natural compounds, issues get scorching. Uh oh, you suppose. I’ve been right here earlier than.

Sure, to get the hydrogen again out, it’s important to add in all of that warmth. And it’s important to cope with the strain drawback too, as a result of hydrogen is popping again right into a gasoline in a container filled with metallic. After all, the warmth that got here out whenever you put the hydrogen in is lengthy gone should you really need to transfer the metallic hydride wherever too.

And you’re solely seeing hydrogen representing 1% to 2% of the mass of the metallic being taken up.

Extra individuals depart the constructing. Sometimes it’s hours earlier than you see one other individual. However you persist with it, inventing increasingly arcane compound hydrides, making an attempt to nudge the storage larger, and also you handle it.

So now you possibly can retailer affordable quantities of hydrogen in plenty of very costly and heavy metals. Huh. The purpose was to create a cheap distribution and storage mechanism for a lightweight gasoline, and now, after you’re employed out the mathematics, you have got a really heavy and costly one which isn’t any higher in the actual world than liquid hydrogen or closely compressed hydrogen.

And it takes a very long time to “fill the tank” too, hours in actual fact.

Oh effectively, you have got a toolkit of various hydrogen storage strategies, all unhealthy, however perhaps they’ll be okay for various purposes. Now it’s time to begin making a lot of hydrogen to place in them! How exhausting may it’s? You probably did it in seventh grade, in any case.

Quadrant chart of expense vs cleanliness of different hydrogen types by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Quadrant chart of expense vs cleanliness of various hydrogen sorts by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

The very first thing you discover out is that every one the hydrogen you’ve been taking part in with within the lab as you tried and failed to determine easy methods to retailer sufficient of the stuff cheaply is absolutely fairly filthy. It’s all comprised of pure gasoline utilizing steam reformation.

What’s that, you ask. Principally a bunch of water and pure gasoline are piped to wherever the hydrogen is required. A bunch of the pure gasoline is utilizing to boil the water to make steam. Then extra of the pure gasoline is combined with the steam. That breaks the bonds of the methane within the pure gasoline, which is a extremely startlingly easy carbon and 4 hydrogen atoms molecule, a minimum of after your foray into natural chemistry. The hydrogen will get captured and the carbon makes use of all that beautiful warmth to bind with oxygen from the air to make carbon dioxide. Oops.

A lot for clear burning, solely water out the tailpipe. The pure gasoline, you discover, has upstream methane leakage and methane is a extremely potent greenhouse gasoline, about 89 instances worse over 20 years than carbon dioxide. And the steam reformation course of between burning the pure gasoline and the chemical processes themselves pump out a bunch of carbon dioxide too. The mixture implies that each kilogram of hydrogen comes with 10 to 12 kilograms of carbon dioxide or equal.

That makes you a bit queasy, as you’ve simply spent a decade fritzing round with the stuff and casually venting it to the ambiance whenever you’re performed. Oh, wait. You get a information replace that hydrogen itself is a greenhouse gasoline, albeit not directly. It prevents that potent methane from breaking down as quick so it’s about 11-12 instances worse than carbon dioxide. You’re actually glad you needed to spend all that point engaged on extremely tight tolerance — and extremely costly — tanks, hoses and couplings.

Manufacturing hydrogen at present is a worldwide warming drawback on the dimensions of all of aviation. That’s actually not what you anticipated whenever you began this journey. You thought it was all being made the identical method you probably did in Grade 7. Fairly annoying to seek out out that approaching 0% of the hydrogen used at present is definitely made that method and that there’s a 100-120 million tons of hydrogen local weather drawback to wash up.

Okay, it’s important to make hydrogen in a cleaner method. Let’s simply seize the entire carbon dioxide from the pure gasoline and water course of. Oh, that’s two totally different units of gases, as a result of it’s important to stick one assortment system on the burner for the pure gasoline and one other assortment system on the highly regarded water vapor and carbon dioxide combined with different stuff popping out of the chemical course of.

No drawback, individuals have been capturing carbon dioxide for 150 years in industrial processes as feedstocks to subsequent steps. ExxonMobil has been tooting its personal horn for all of the thousands and thousands of tons of carbon dioxide it pumps underground in Texas every year. This gained’t require a PhD, you suppose, I’ll simply have to purchase some elements off the shelf and slap them collectively.

So that you do this. Huh. That takes much more power to run all of that. In truth, the most important drawback is getting the carbon dioxide out of no matter you captured it in. You need to make much more steam to unclog the pores of the Corning sorbent or to interrupt the carbonate bonds, which you understand requires a whole lot of power out of your natural chemistry PhD.

And that power has to return from someplace, so you’re burning much more pure gasoline and capturing much more carbon dioxide. That’s a little bit of vicious circle.

However a minimum of it’s capturing the entire greenhouse gases, you suppose. Hmmm, perhaps it’s best to measure that. Oh, you discover, the carbon seize answer is simply capturing about 85% of the carbon dioxide, a minimum of when it’s working, as generally it will get switched off when nobody is wanting. No drawback, you suppose, I’ll simply bolt a 3rd carbon seize answer on and push the remaining gases by way of that! As much as 98% or 99% now, which is sweet sufficient for getting on with.

Oh wait, extra power, burning extra pure gasoline. However a minimum of you have got all of the carbon dioxide. Wait, what are you going to do with it? Texas is a great distance away and also you notice that ExxonMobile’s claims are literally about pulling carbon dioxide out of the bottom in a single place and placing it again underground in one other place to get extra oil out, in order that’s not an answer.

No drawback, again to highschool to get a geology PhD. Okay, now you understand the place you possibly can put that completely huge quantity of carbon dioxide, which as a result of it’s filled with oxygen from the ambiance, is far heavier than the pure gasoline that powers the method. And there’s much more of it quantity sensible as effectively. Huh. There are lots fewer locations to place it than you thought, so you’ll have to drill much more holes and do much more engineering. No drawback! Somebody will do this. You simply should get the carbon dioxide to the websites.

Time to construct a pipeline. Numerous pipelines it seems, as a result of locations the place hydrogen is manufactured and used are often nowhere close to locations the place it’s remotely handy and low cost to retailer carbon dioxide underground. What number of kilometers of pipelines does the EU suppose are going to be required? 19,000! That’s fairly near the size of all the massive highways in Europe, you suppose. And much more than the high-speed rail on the continent. Appears a bit iffy.

However a minimum of it’s simply carbon dioxide. That stuff isn’t poisonous, so if a pipeline bursts, nobody will likely be in danger. Then your natural chemistry PhD kicks you within the head with the reminiscence that carbon dioxide is heavier than the combination of oxygen and nitrogen we breathe and that it sinks to the bottom till it diffuses. And that the pipelines must be filled with liquid carbon dioxide as a result of that’s virtually 600 instances as dense as gaseous carbon dioxide so it’s cheaper to ship.

And similar to liquid hydrogen, liquid carbon dioxide loves to show again right into a gasoline. You do an idle Google search and begin studying about Satartia, Mississippi, the place a type of pipelines used to assist in getting extra oil out of the bottom burst in 2020. Dozens unconscious or on the verge of it from asphyxiation, some thrashing on the bottom. Tons of evacuated. Inner combustion engines in automobiles didn’t work both. Yikes, the pipeline burst 1.6 kilometers from the middle of the tiny city, inhabitants 41 and concentrations of carbon dioxide hours after the occasion have been nonetheless within the tens of 1000’s of components per million. Well being considerations begin at 5,000 components per million and it seems that individuals begin getting silly lengthy earlier than that degree.

No method that’s going to work in the actual world the place the pipelines must undergo closely populated areas. The general public well being threat is just too nice. You surprise why anybody is contemplating this insanity as you return to the drafting board, after a fast and lonely lunch within the cafeteria.

Okay, Grade 7 time. Let’s make us some hydrogen from water and electrical energy, you suppose! Clearly a nine-volt battery gained’t do. To get actual portions of hydrogen, we’re going to want multi-megawatt energy feeds. And we’re going to want an electrolyzer. And a few gear to take away water vapor from the hydrogen. And pumps for the water. And energy administration gear for the electrical energy.

And we’d like all these compressors and tanks we spent a lot time constructing what looks as if a long time in the past. Huh. That is beginning to look costly.

You pull out a serviette and a Bic pen. You begin scribbling. About 55 MWh for a ton of hydrogen. That’s lots and prices an terrible lot at industrial electrical energy costs. After which it’s important to pay for all that costly gear. You notice that the electrolyzer is simply 1 / 4 of the whole capital price whenever you add within the stability of plant. No drawback, should you run the gear 24/7/365 you suppose.

Nonetheless, that’s actually costly hydrogen, effectively over $10 per kilogram at grid retail costs, simply to make it, by no means thoughts do something with it. You suppose it’s best to examine the carbon debt of the electrical energy too. Oops. At 200 grams of carbon dioxide per kWh, a reasonably good degree in most components of the world, that’s 11 tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of hydrogen. The European common is round 250 grams, ignoring Poland’s coal crops, so it’s really 14 tons. That’s worse than simply utilizing the pure gasoline and water methodology!

Okay, we will clear up this, you suppose. What we’ll do is construct massive wind and photo voltaic farms and dedicate their output to creating hydrogen. Oh, extra capital price. And the wind and photo voltaic farms nonetheless solely overlap to create sufficient electrical energy perhaps 60% of the time on a great day. Oh, my low cost alkaline electrolyzer doesn’t work besides with 24/7/365 electrical energy? Oh effectively, you guess you’ll should spring for the PEM electrolyzers at double the capital price.

You do some extra scribbling. That basically didn’t change the equation lots.

You wander by way of the empty halls of the constructing as you consider it, waving to the janitor and the handful of different researchers by way of the doorways of their echoing labs.

Aha, you suppose. The world goes to overbuild renewables so there’s going to be free electrical energy a bunch of the time. You’ll simply use that! So that you go and take a look at it. You then discover that utilities nonetheless count on to receives a commission for delivering electrical energy wherever, in order that they will afford transmission, distribution and administration prices. Even should you can persuade the utility to solely cost you these prices and solely make hydrogen when there’s an extra of wind and photo voltaic on the grid, you solely get electrical energy 15% of the time, so your capital prices will make the hydrogen much more costly. However a minimum of it could be inexperienced!

I do know, you suppose, we’ll take these wind and photo voltaic farms to locations with wonderful wind and photo voltaic sources in Africa and South America the place there are large swaths of empty land. We’ll use low cost labor and cope with the native baksheesh. We’ll construct huge inexperienced hydrogen crops there and make hydrogen as cheaply because it’s potential to do it. We’ll have to construct transmission and storage to agency the era in fact and that is all in locations with typically no roads, so we’ll should construct these too. Hmmm… seems like we’ll should construct desalination crops and energy them as effectively, however the energy for these is tiny in comparison with how a lot juice hydrogen sucks down.

You hear a door slam within the distance, however you’re employed on.

Perhaps, you suppose, there’s a distinct strategy to get the hydrogen out of methane? In any case it’s simply carbon and hydrogen. How exhausting may it’s? And so that you uncover pyrolysis. That is it, you suppose. The Holy Grail! Warmth up methane in an oven with none oxygen round and the bonds break. You find yourself with hydrogen and a bunch of pure black carbon.

Wait, that carbon is effective too! Individuals put it in rubber for tires and the like. You suppose, that is it, you have got two income streams, one for hydrogen and one for carbon.

After which your chemistry PhD kicks you within the head once more. How a lot hydrogen and the way a lot carbon? Huh. 12 tons of carbon for each 4 tons of hydrogen. That’s a whole lot of carbon. In truth, this pyrolysis factor appears to be actually good at making carbon and has hydrogen as a byproduct, not the opposite method round. You suppose, this appears awfully acquainted. Oh, yeah, steam reformation makes much more carbon dioxide than hydrogen too and electrolysis from grid electrical energy makes an terrible lot extra carbon dioxide than hydrogen as effectively, even should you keep away from Poland.

How massive is the worldwide marketplace for carbon? Solely 14.5 million metric tons? So should you made 3 million tons of hydrogen, 2% or 3% of the present international hydrogen demand, you’d fully swamp the worldwide carbon black market? So actually, pyrolysis for hydrogen simply makes extra waste. However a minimum of it’s not carbon dioxide!

We may bury it for carbon credit, you suppose. You then notice it was already buried within the methane and begin to notice that there’s an issue in all of this. Why unbury it to be able to bury it?

Perhaps we may use a few of the methane that seeps out of landfills and dairy barns, you suppose? You then take a look at some numbers and notice that whereas there’s an terrible lot of it, it’s extremely diffuse, with any given supply emitting little or no methane, potent as it’s.

And also you notice that it’s in all probability higher used immediately for biomethanol, one other massive local weather change drawback.

Then, a glimmer of hope in a darkish room of despair. You notice that night time has fallen and nobody has mentioned goodbye to you as they left, nonetheless many individuals nonetheless stay within the constructing. You’ve final observe, however you suppose George and Sharon and Aafia have been nonetheless round final time you checked.

However the glimmer. A information alert has are available in your cellphone. Somebody struck hydrogen! They’re calling it white hydrogen and it’s naturally occurring. Nobody bothered to examine earlier than as a result of it was so handy to simply get pure gasoline and use it to blast water into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. But when we will simply pump it out of the bottom, you suppose, that’s the win!

Nature can have made it at no cost similar to coal, oil and gasoline. By definition it is going to be low cost as a result of all we’re doing is catching it. And it is going to be low carbon as a result of as soon as once more all we now have to do is catch it.

So that you begin Googling for particulars. You discover that there’s a tiny village in Mali the place it’s popping out and used to generate electrical energy for his or her lights. Little or no hydrogen. And there’s an enormous discover in a mine in Albania! Large? 200 tons a yr, however lots much less within the one a part of the mine the place it’s effervescent out of a spring. That’s … not a lot. The spot in France has probably 46 million tons of the stuff they usually aren’t certain how a lot of it they will extract, however that’s nonetheless solely half of a single yr’s international demand for stuff we already use hydrogen for. Actually nothing left over for transportation and heating.

Your a number of PhDs make it clear to you that it is a faint hope useful resource with a whole lot of unanswered questions. Your geology PhD particularly has you fascinated with the comparability between recoverable reserves and the tiny quantities you’re listening to about.

Oh effectively, again to creating it in sparsely populated locations on Earth in order that it’s low cost and delivery it to the place it’s wanted. How costly may that presumably be?

Quadrant chart of expense vs density for hydrogen transportation by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Quadrant chart of expense vs density for hydrogen transportation by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

You’re getting smarter as you become old. You suppose, hey, perhaps another person has already considered this. You do not forget that man, Bogdan, on the pickup soccer sport 5 years in the past. He mentioned he was engaged on shifting hydrogen round. You head off to his lab, which you vaguely bear in mind was up three flooring within the northwest nook.

You discover it, after getting misplaced, then going to the entrance desk the place a safety guard appeared stunned to see you. He allows you to in as effectively, as Bogdan deserted ship not lengthy after that sunny afternoon. It’s dusty, however the lights work and there may be nonetheless a whole lot of stuff on the white boards and pinned to the partitions.

Huh. 85% of hydrogen used at present is manufactured the place it’s used as a result of it’s so costly to ship? Who knew?

The following massive class is pipelines, customized constructed ones in Germany and Texas, about 3,400 kilometers between them. They lead from massive pure gasoline and water hydrogen manufacturing crops largely to grease refineries and fertilizer crops. Wait, the most important single client of hydrogen is oil refineries?

Your natural chemistry PhD kicks you within the head and reminds you that crude oil is commonly actually thick, particularly if it’s from Alberta, Argentina or Mexico, tends to be filled with sulfur and has a bunch of different impurities. All that oil we use requires a full third of the hydrogen we use simply to wash it up and separate it into diesel, gasoline and asphalt. That’s a silver lining, you suppose. All that crude oil goes to go away when you crack this hydrogen for transportation, heating and power factor!

And we will reuse pure gasoline pipelines! Perhaps mix hydrogen in some share first! Let’s begin with that. Is there something on Bogdan’s whiteboards about that?

Disenchanted, you learn that mixing even 20% of hydrogen in with pure gasoline isn’t an answer that makes the slightest sense. Your chemistry background begins filling within the blanks even earlier than you learn them. Hydrogen is far much less dense than pure gasoline, in fact, therefore your issues with simply storing sufficient of it. And it requires extra power to compress. And it’s more durable on electronics. Out the opposite finish, you may save 7% of carbon dioxide emissions with a 20% mix of pure gasoline, however you’ll additionally get much less warmth out of it. And as you’ve found, hydrogen isn’t low cost except you make it in a windy, sunny desert beside an enormous freshwater lake.

However certainly we will purge the pure gasoline and simply pipe pure hydrogen. Wouldn’t that clear up the issue? Bogdan’s left-hand slant handwriting solutions that as effectively. You learn with rising dismay about hydrogen embrittlement which your metallurgy background properly fills in a lot of particulars about, strain surges in gasoline traces inflicting microfractures, sensor substitute with hydrogen-hardened sensors, new compressors which can be triple the facility — compressors once more! You might be beginning to curse the existence of the issues —, in all probability inner coatings and even then, you might need to run much less hydrogen by way of the pipeline than pure gasoline so far as models of power go. That looks as if a whole lot of costly work to reuse a metal tube and certain sufficient Bogdan is unenthusiastic about it.

Perhaps a minimum of the utility gasoline distribution grid that goes to properties and buildings? Nope. Even worse. Not an opportunity of reusing any of that. It will all should be ripped up and changed in a lot of the world. There’s some hope for some locations that have been utilizing city gasoline, as that was 40% or 50% hydrogen, together with a really nasty quantity of carbon monoxide, however even there the leakage fee of the escape artist molecule that’s 11 instances stronger a greenhouse gasoline than carbon dioxide offers you a twinge in your intestine. That’s why the one remaining hydrogen village within the UK, Fife, is seeing all of the pipes resulting in properties constructed anew at nice expense. Tens of millions for 300 properties, you learn. Appears costly.

Okay, so largely new and costlier pipelines constructed from scratch for hydrogen transmission. And you continue to have to resolve getting the hydrogen from the mouth of the pipeline to the place it’s going for use. If it’s the one alternative for heating and cooking, then clearly we’ll spend the cash to tear up and change the pure gasoline distribution grids, you suppose to your self. An issue for one more day.

Whereas we await the pipelines, you suppose, what different choices do we now have? Oh, compressed hydrogen tube vans per one other whiteboard. Not even 300 atmospheres, extra like 180 atmospheres. That’s not even two kilometers below the floor of the ocean, you suppose, remembering your days of making an attempt to compress hydrogen to depths that will enable bathyscaphes to discover the Mariana Trench.

Wait, you understand this one. You spend 10 seconds fascinated with it and notice that at 180 atmospheres, there simply isn’t that a lot hydrogen in a semi-trailer load. That you simply’d want 14 or 20 of them to maneuver the identical power as a tanker of diesel. Effectively, that’s not viable. Did Bogdan agree? Definitively.

Had been there any solutions? Sure, the identical ones you discovered whenever you have been making an attempt to retailer hydrogen. A lot larger pressures, rather more unique tanks, a lot tighter tolerances, a lot better expense. And whilst you have been very cautious round what would have changed into an enormous explosive if it had burst, you have been working below very secure circumstances and taking each security precautions in labs constructed for the aim at nice expense.

You will have a sinking feeling. Individuals are really pondering of driving these strain bombs on highways and metropolis roads? Whereas different automobiles, vans and buses are on the identical roads? With human beings behind the wheel placing on make-up, checking sports activities scores or texting family members? You word that they’re an extended, great distance from getting approval for any of this and breathe a sigh of aid. You bear in mind the instances varied extremely pressurized tanks gave method throughout your time constructing them and the way the constructing rang. 700 ambiance strain tanks and freeway visitors are a horrible thought.

Certainly there’s one thing else! Oh, wait. They need to put liquid hydrogen in vans and drive that across the place? They already do, but it surely’s fairly uncommon and used solely when hydrogen is the one substance for the job. Actually, if there may be any various to driving liquid hydrogen vans round, it’s taken. Bogdan notes that vans of the stuff symbolize a homeopathic quantity of the tonnage of hydrogen used yearly after which solely on rigorously vetted routes.

You consider a collision that bursts the liquid hydrogen tank for a minute. You consider 20° above absolute zero liquid hydrogen spilling out over a college bus of youngsters, then flashing to 850 instances the quantity and igniting in an air gas blast. You blanch on the thought.

Fortunately, you suppose, we’ll have hydrogen pipelines all over the place, regardless of the associated fee, as a result of we’ll want them for furnaces and stoves. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

You proceed round Bogdan’s dusty, deserted room. Oh, wait, persons are critically fascinated with placing liquid natural hydrogen carriers in tankers and delivery them around the globe? Which may make sense, you suppose, if hydrogen may presumably be low cost, however even in the absolute best circumstances it’s much more costly than pure gasoline for a unit of power. And you then throw away much more of it to make the carriers and get the hydrogen again out ultimately. That multiplies the associated fee relatively considerably.

Huh, some persons are speaking about doing that with ammonia. Your natural chemistry PhD kicks you at the back of the top once more, one thing you’re beginning to resent. It reminds you that whereas ammonia fertilizer is the bee’s knees, enabling the world to be fed, it’s handled as an especially harmful substance and dealt with very rigorously by protecting gear clad professionals wherever it’s used. You seize your cellphone and examine the common price of a ton of ammonia at present, suppose by way of the price of the hydrogen, add the Haber Bosch course of capital and working prices to it and are available out with principally double the associated fee per ton.

Then liquification as a result of it’s not a liquid at room temperature once more. Then steaming throughout oceans, which Bogdan’s white board helpfully reminds you is completed for fertilizer at present. Then getting the hydrogen out or burning the ammonia immediately. Bogdan’s notes once more helpfully let you understand that this may be roughly 10 instances the price of burning coal and multiples of the price of pure gasoline. Effectively, that’s a non-starter. There should be one other method.

Uh oh. The following white board has extra liquid hydrogen, however huge ships of the stuff. That’s nutty you suppose. Liquid pure gasoline tankers are already huge bombs saved moored a great distance from ports. They usually include much more power in the identical quantity. They usually take lots much less power to show right into a liquid. And they’re nonetheless the most costly power any nation makes use of and so used solely because the power of final resort. Liquid hydrogen ships will price 5 to 10 instances as a lot to ship the identical models of power. That’s simply nuts.

Effectively, fortunately we’ll be constructing huge pipelines 1000’s of kilometers from northern Africa or the like. We’ll pay the large premium for liquid hydrogen delivery for only some a long time. In any case, it’s not like there’s any strategy to generate much more power a lot nearer to residence or one other method of delivery power lengthy distances. We’ll have to import a lot of hydrogen, you suppose and construct huge worldwide pipelines to maneuver it.

In any case, we now have to make use of the stuff. At the very least that’s low cost, isn’t it? Time to roll up your sleeves and take a look at use circumstances, you suppose.

Quadrant chart of hydrogen energy usage by expense and efficiency by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc
Quadrant chart of hydrogen power utilization by expense and effectivity by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc

Wait, electrochemistry? You do not forget that stuff out of your natural chemistry PhD. It makes the Krebs Cycle appear affordable and that’s so advanced that nobody who studied it may presumably consider in an clever designer. Gas cells are all concerning the electrochemistry. However hey, you don’t should be taught the stuff, you simply have to determine easy methods to use it in an finish to finish answer.

In any case, you now know easy methods to retailer hydrogen and that it’s costly. And you understand how to make hydrogen and you understand that it’s costly. And you understand how to move hydrogen and know that it’s costly. You will have a sinking feeling as you begin to put the lengthy record of issues earlier than utilizing hydrogen for warmth or movement can occur.

You bear in mind questioning why hydrogen refueling station costs within the EU and California have been charging US$15 to $36 per kilogram when the pure gasoline and water course of you constructed price solely $1 to $2 per kilogram to make the stuff. Maybe all these hydrogen stations have been utilizing solely very costly inexperienced hydrogen? There’s nobody round to ask, so that you Google a number of nations and websites. No, it’s virtually solely hydrogen comprised of pure gasoline with none try and seize the carbon dioxide. Huh.

Weaker individuals than you have got lengthy fled the constructing, virtually everybody in actual fact, however you gained’t let this sinking feeling of dismay preserve you from making the hydrogen economic system a actuality. You’re going to have a look at all of the methods to make use of hydrogen for power and discover the very best one.

You begin with the gas cell. You remind your self that you just way back determined you weren’t sensible sufficient to do a level in that black alchemical artwork, so resolve to deal with it as a part, failure situation and price train. Not how the bits labored collectively, however that they did. At first it was reassuring. There was an extended historical past of utilizing gas cells. In truth, the primary one was invented in 1838. A warning gentle goes off behind your eyes, however with an effort of will you push it away.

They have been used within the Gemini rockets beginning in 1962. That’s wonderful, you thought, no matter is sweet sufficient for area journey should be adequate for roads and houses. But when it’s utilized in area, it’s in all probability costly. Certainly they should have made them cheaper?

Huh. Probably not. They want platinum. And people membranes. How a lot per sq. meter! Oh. Ions should transit them, not get caught they usually should final a very long time. Wait, how lengthy do gas cells final? Huh, typically solely three years? Wait, some don’t final in any respect? You discover out concerning the buses delivered 18 months in the past to Mallorca in Spain, the place some refrigerant bought into the gas cells and destroyed the stack. That wasn’t reassuring. It’s like unintentionally placing diesel in a gasoline tank, however a lot simpler to do and it destroys the gas cell.

Nevertheless it makes you surprise. How pure does the hydrogen and air coming into the gas cell have to be? Ooops. Very. The stuff that makes pure gasoline odor like rotten eggs would destroy a gas cell. In truth, virtually something that isn’t hydrogen and dry, filtered air will destroy a gas cell. So, solely very pure hydrogen, which prices much more. And a lot for reusing pure gasoline pipelines, as a result of the left over stuff in them would poison gas cells as effectively. Actually, it’s all model new pipelines it appears, or redundant hydrogen purification crops all over.

The oxygen and hydrogen mix to kind water, which you knew from Grade 7. However now it’s important to take into consideration what to do with the water. Effectively, in a bus, simply shove it out the tailpipe, in fact. Oh wait, you suppose. You’ve taken buses within the winter time. You surprise if the water ever freezes. Positive sufficient, your cellphone gives you an article a few 2010 to 2014 bus trial in Whistler, BC, in time for the Winter Olympics held there. The buses saved freezing up by the facet of the highway.

Okay, along with fairly exhausting core air filtration and dehumidification, filters adequate to eradicate 99.99% of pollution within the air in cities, together with the prices of standard substitute of HIPAA-quality filters each few weeks or months, add dehumidification of hydrogen, high quality sensors for the hydrogen, high quality sensors for the air and thermal administration of the water.

Oh wait, thermal administration. Wow. The hydrogen in a car tank is likely to be 350 or 700 atmospheres. And hydrogen is a bizarre gasoline. In contrast to nearly each different gasoline, hydrogen will get scorching when it expands in temperatures the place we’d need to use it. Lots. Okay, add one thing to dump that warmth. That is getting actually advanced. Fortunately you have got the very excessive tolerance, exactly engineered elements out of your storage efforts. What? They in all probability gained’t work?

Oh no. Autos working in a wide range of temperature ranges over tough roads have a lot larger vibration and exterior thermal enlargement hundreds. Again to the drafting board on an entire suite of elements you thought you’d completed with.

At the very least gas cells are environment friendly when they’re working, 60% or so. Wait, you suppose and begin including up the power alongside the trail from water and electrical energy by way of storage by way of transmission and storage once more and thru distribution. That’s 60% of lots lower than you began with.

Wait, what’s the facility output of a gas cell that matches in a bus or truck? Huh, that low? That gained’t get a totally loaded bus up a hill. Higher add a bunch of batteries and make the system a hybrid. At the very least batteries are easy. Electrochemistry, certain, however all on the within, with nothing coming out and in besides electrical energy.

Good little black field part, come to think about it. Recharge it from hydrogen when the bus or truck is shifting on degree floor or parked. Get electrical energy out whenever you want it. Pity we couldn’t simply use them with an electrical motor. That will be extremely simple, easy and low upkeep. However that will by no means work, clearly, you suppose, ignoring a pointy ache behind your proper eye.

Oh effectively, you suppose. on high of the advanced air and water administration system, the advanced, costly and extremely failure susceptible gas cell it’s important to add an enormous battery too. Perhaps there’s one other method.

Someplace within the constructing, a door creaks in a draft.

What about should you simply burn it instead of gasoline or diesel in an inner combustion engine, you suppose? They already vaporize the gas earlier than placing it into cylinders and hydrogen is already a gasoline. Straightforward peasy. It’s the Carnot or Diesel cycle, however burning stuff is lots much less advanced than gas cells. We may in all probability return to plain automobile air filters! We’d nonetheless should handle the water out the tailpipe, however we’d have heaps and plenty of waste warmth from the engine.

Oh, wait. That waste warmth. Effectivity. Crap. Solely 30% environment friendly on common at turning burning gases into ahead movement. 70% waste warmth.

That’s half the effectivity of a gas cell. And hydrogen is dear. You notice that no matter you make up in avoiding one set of complexity, you lose in operational prices. Wait, aren’t fashionable inner combustion engines absurdly advanced beasts, with huge quantities of computerized monitoring and controls? You do not forget that one co-worker, Gelila, grumbling about the way you couldn’t wrench an engine anymore with no diploma in computer systems and a really costly diagnostics rig.

Are inner combustion engines really less complicated? Or are we simply used to them?

Then your natural chemistry PhD kicks you at the back of the top once more. You might be actually starting to remorse that diploma. Nitrous oxides. N2O and NO2. Laughing gasoline and the one with no enjoyable identify. One that’s about 273 instances worse than carbon dioxide as a worldwide warming gasoline and one which causes smog that offers children bronchial asthma. While you burn hydrogen or something actually, the nitrogen and oxygen within the air mix to make nitrous oxides.

Effectively, that sucks. Any strategy to cope with it? Oh, push twice the air in for full combustion. That works. Any unintended effects? Half the facility? So to get the identical energy from a hydrogen combustion engine we’d should make it lots greater or bolt on superchargers, turbochargers or each?

Inner combustion hydrogen engines are clearly a whole useless finish and solely corporations that make them would suppose that they made any sense in any respect. When you consider it, you notice that a whole lot of truck and engine producers don’t have any mental capital to talk of out of doors of inner combustion engines, management techniques for inner combustion engines and management techniques for the extremely variable energy that comes out of them. With out the engines, the businesses are going to vanish. Huh, you suppose to your self, that’s bought to result in some irrational habits.

There needs to be one other method. Gas cells are clearly not one thing you need to expose to metropolis air and inner combustion hydrogen engines are so inefficient it’s painful to consider them. Hey, perhaps we will return to that concept of liquid natural hydrogen carriers and ammonia, you suppose to your self.

Not at that we might use ammonia or the carriers. The primary is so absurdly harmful that we aren’t going to be utilizing that in transportation and the second doesn’t burn. But when we will make ammonia, we will make gasoline, diesel or kerosene!

Fortunately, you have already got an natural chemistry diploma, so this one is a cake stroll. You already know the way a lot all the pieces prices to make hydrogen, you’ve already checked out Haber Bosch capital prices, you’ve already seemed on the distant areas with excellent circumstances of sunshine, wind and contemporary water. You will have all the pieces you want!

Oh, wait. The place’s the carbon coming from? All alongside, it’s been an issue with making hydrogen from pure gasoline, however now you need to make gasoline or diesel, you possibly can’t discover any. Effectively, a minimum of not cheaply, as you found whenever you tried to seize it from the pure gasoline and water course of.

Effectively, it’s a waste product, in order that they should be giving it away. What? US$100 per ton delivered, if you’re fortunate? Perhaps you possibly can seize it from the air? What? $400 minimal per ton, extra possible $1,000? You do the essential chemical mass balancing in your head earlier than your PhD kicks you once more and whistle. That’s going to be some costly gasoline!

You return and dirt off a few of your price workups for all the ins and outs. You consider sources of carbon dioxide and notice that fermentation for biofuels could be a great supply of the stuff. So you then do a tough design of a bespoke built-in chemical processing plant in the midst of nowhere the place there may be nice sunshine, wind and contemporary water, together with the entire biomass feedstocks for a biofuels plant built-in in with the remaining. One thing is making your eye twitch, however you possibly can’t determine what it’s and the corporate nurse stopped coming to work a yr in the past, so that you ignore it.

You add up all of the capital and working prices, one thing you’re actually far too good at now and take a look at the top consequence. In the very best case state of affairs, you can make gasoline or diesel for less than 4-6 instances the price of present diesel, However a minimum of you’ll be making a bunch of cheaper biofuels on the identical time. You need to work exhausting to disregard the twitching now, however you’ve turn out to be oddly good at ignoring issues.

Effectively, it seems like gas cells are it then, exhausting as that’s to consider after seeing how advanced, costly and failure susceptible they’re. We’ll simply should stay with it. With a way of dread you do some Googling for upkeep information on gas cell fleets. Ugh. California’s hydrogen buses are costing 50% extra in upkeep than their diesel buses and double what the rather more quite a few battery electrical buses are seeing. Fortunately, battery electrical buses clearly can’t work they usually’ll all fail, so full pace forward.

You suppose, a minimum of warmth is a certain factor. Hydrogen burners are fairly straightforward to make and burning hydrogen turns the power into warmth with actually excessive effectivity. We are able to make hydrogen furnaces, stoves and industrial warmth elements. That’s a slam dunk.

Wait, you suppose. Didn’t you simply cope with burning hydrogen in an inner combustion engine? Doesn’t it make nitrous oxides? You look it up and certain sufficient, open hydrogen flames produce a whole lot of nitrous oxides. Certainly there’s an answer? Positive, a lot larger velocity hydrogen, it seems. Meaning a lot smaller hydrogen tubes with a lot larger pressures and really totally different flame and warmth traits.

Meaning changing a bunch extra elements inside furnaces, range and industrial heating elements. And for the economic warmth, sometimes that’s dialed in for the temperatures and traits of pure gasoline, so your complete course of will in all probability want fixing.

However a minimum of we’ll be heat within the winter,and know that African sunshine through the miracle molecule of hydrogen is holding us that method. You suppose, certain, it is going to be actually costly, but it surely’s not like there’s any various. It’s not like we will transfer warmth from inside our properties to outdoors the identical method that fridges do. Positive there are electrical stoves, you suppose, but it surely’s not like we will create immediate warmth in pans with magnetic induction or something.

You’re feeling a migraine approaching as you allow for the day, questioning when the safety guard on the entrance desk stopped exhibiting up.

However one thing was forcing itself out of the again of your thoughts into the entrance of your thoughts, one thing about ammonia. That’s proper end-to-end system security. You resolve to determine that out for a wide range of use circumstances within the morning.

Quadrant chart of safety and viability of selected hydrogen use cases by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Quadrant chart of security and viability of chosen hydrogen use circumstances by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

You’d already glad your self that nobody might be pondering of extremely poisonous ammonia as a transportation or heating gas. It was simply too costly to interchange coal and simply too harmful to be put in gasoline stations. So that you have been a bit bewildered whenever you realized that the maritime trade was really contemplating this.

You knew that you just needed to chill it to -33° Celsius to show it into a comparatively secure liquid, which appeared like a foul factor to require of a gas. What if the ship was becalmed and the engine died? The ammonia would boil off as a gasoline and kill everybody on board fairly rapidly. That will be exhausting to regulate for.

And placing it in ports outdoors of the hazardous supplies zone? Pumping it from barges to ships tanks whereas waves have been hitting each vessels? That simply appeared a bit odd.

Your chemistry PhD kicked you once more. There was one thing you have been forgetting. Oh, wait ammonia reacts with water to create a really corrosive gasoline that rots lungs. After which it transforms yet another time into one thing that’s simply actually unhealthy for human well being and aquatic life.

An enormous ammonia spill in a port would probably kill 1000’s or tens of 1000’s of individuals, you realized. What are they pondering?

While you observe again a bit, you discover that it’s the shortage of a necessity for carbon within the ammonia, which is simply nitrogen and hydrogen. They will save a bit of cash on the gas so in the absolute best case state of affairs it’s solely 4-5 instances as pricey as present maritime gas, which is best than artificial methanol which might be 5-6 instances as costly.

Effectively, that is smart, you suppose. Clearly somebody has labored out that killing a whole lot of sailors and the occasional portful of individuals is cheaper than paying for methanol. Uh, you suppose, methanol is definitely a liquid at room temperature and also you do not forget that it may be comprised of current human-caused biomethane, a minimum of till you drive the thought out of your head earlier than your eyeballs explode with cognitive dissonance.

Inform me, you suppose to your self, that nobody is critically fascinated with placing liquid hydrogen in airplanes with human passengers! You had nightmares for per week fascinated with liquid hydrogen on roads, however in a pressurized tube at 38,000 ft with 300 individuals aboard? Wait, the required globular, closely insulated, mirror-finished tanks must be behind the air craft! You understand you possibly can’t put liquid hydrogen within the wings and admittedly in something besides globular, closely insulated, mirror-finished tanks and have a lot hydrogen left whenever you want it.

So the entire weight of the gas must be contained in the fuselage. That’s bought to screw with what number of passengers or how a lot cargo you can carry, you suppose. The present gas is supported by the wings, but when it’s contained in the fuselage that’s tons of individuals or cargo that may’t fly. And it takes up a bunch of area.

Wait, all that boil off needs to be handled in addition to any leaks alongside the gas traces to the engines. If it begins leaking into the fuselage with the passengers, it could construct up and be ignited by a spark within the espresso machine within the galley. Yikes, you suppose, that will flip a passenger jet full of individuals right into a quickly dissolving cloud fairly rapidly. What’s the ratio that hydrogen can explode at, 4% to 75% of the air? That’s a whole lot of power in an enclosed tube, which is sort of the definition of an explosive. That’s a horrible thought.

And also you bear in mind a number of transient years whenever you took flying classes, again whenever you weren’t working huge quantities of extra time to efficiently remodel the world into the glowing way forward for the hydrogen economic system. It was actually essential to ensure that the middle of gravity of the aircraft was over the wings. These massive tanks on the again are fantastic as a result of you possibly can stability for them, however not for the hydrogen in them. When it will get consumed, a whole lot of weight will get eliminated.

You discover a typical narrow-body jet plane, take a look at what number of tons of gas it requires, then do the easy math to determine how a lot the equal liquid hydrogen could be. And also you notice that over a traditional distance flight, an African elephant’s price of weight would evaporate from the again of the aircraft and it could nostril down and crash.

You then replay the liquid hydrogen tanks cracking, spilling cryogenic liquids over what passengers survive within the burning wreckage, flashing to gasoline and exploding.

But individuals have been engaged on this. What have been they pondering? A few of them had spent 20 or 30 years engaged on this and have been pretending none of this was actual. Why, you’d simply began taking a look at aviation and also you’d seen this. Perhaps the Boeing 737 Max failures for comparable causes tipped you off, however actually, it was useless apparent.

You then do not forget that episode of 60 Minutes you watched whenever you nonetheless had time to do something however repair the subsequent drawback with hydrogen for power, the one the place they talked with civil aviation consultants about how rigorously plane should be examined and confirmed secure earlier than they’re allowed to hold clients. You loosen up. Nobody will be capable of certify a liquid hydrogen plane that can carry passengers. There’s no path to that finish level, so you possibly can relax. Nevertheless it does make you suppose that some individuals engaged on hydrogen for power are much less clever than others.

Fortunately, you handle to keep away from fascinated with the final 20 years of your profession, however a stabbing ache in your decrease again reminds you to take your muscle relaxants.

Effectively, a minimum of hydrogen furnaces and stoves must be fantastic, you suppose. Then your chemistry PhD kicks you at the back of the top once more. Tiny, tiny molecule that’s an escape artist. A a lot larger vary of ratios to air the place it’s explosive. Numerous sparks inside a home. That’s not good. You examine it to pure gasoline, as a result of a lot of individuals have pure gasoline and discover that even now after a long time of security and certification efforts with that a lot safer gasoline, 4,000 buildings a yr within the USA alone blow up or burn as a result of pure gasoline leaks. Oh, that drawback with gas cells and the like means it in all probability gained’t odor like something, by no means thoughts rotten eggs, in order that’s an added threat issue.

You then discover the security examine which finds that dangers of hydrogen are 4 instances better. That definitely gibes along with your expertise. You’re employed with hydrogen professionally and have purchased extra multi-hundred greenback hydrogen detectors than you possibly can shake a stick at. And put in very vital venting. And had costly inspections usually. And are a bit phobic about hydrogen explosion dangers because of this.

By no means thoughts, multi-hundred greenback hydrogen detectors in each residence. And possibly massive venting holes close to the ceiling in each wall resulting in the surface. That can wreak havoc with the insulation, however that’s why you burn gasoline, to make issues hotter. Too unhealthy it’s going to be rather more costly gasoline.

That makes you ask your self, how rather more costly? Effectively, a gigajoule of hydrogen is just below eight kilograms. You’ve performed the mathematics and even through the model spanking new hydrogen utility pipelines to properties, the most cost effective it’s presumably going to be is $10 per kilogram and that’s with a stiff favoring breeze. In order that’s $77 per gigajoule. How a lot does pure gasoline price? You don’t know since you stay in a constructing with electrical warmth, so that you look it up.

Wait, pure gasoline is about US$2 per gigajoule in western Canada? What? Perhaps it’s much more costly in Europe? How about Germany? About $43 per gigajoule there. Nonetheless, $77 per gigajoule. Oh, wait, Europe simply went by way of an power disaster and continues to be shopping for actually costly pure gasoline. What have been they paying earlier than that?

About half that? So they’re used to about $21 per gigajoule and the most cost effective worth that hydrogen heating will handle is over 3.5 instances that?

If solely there have been another, you suppose, as your migraine will get worse.

You’d already anxious sufficient about a lot of liquid hydrogen trunks crashing into college buses, so you allow that one apart, aside from a quick concern that Division of Transportation truck certification won’t be as rigorous as aviation certification.

As you suppose by way of finish to finish system security, you notice that the least dangerous use of hydrogen is to fabricate it in an industrial facility within the volumes required as an industrial feedstock for one thing like ammonia. That’s the place the place consultants in its use will likely be working with rigorously monitored and maintained tools, have the budgets for security tools and processes and be absolutely conscious of the dangers they’re coping with.

If solely there have been options for transportation and warmth, you suppose, earlier than you collapse from the ache in your head.

While you recuperate, you say to your self, lets go look. All the things else should certainly be lots worse, in any other case what have you ever performed along with your life? Let’s beginning with floor transportation. You perceive that gas cell automobiles gained’t be a factor, however certainly that’s all that batteries and charging will be capable of do.

Quadrant charge of expense and efficiency for ground transportation by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Quadrant cost of expense and effectivity for floor transportation by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

Oh, electrical trains have been round for over 100 years and each nation on this planet that doesn’t share a border with the USA is simply placing up overhead wires? And they’re placing batteries on trains to get them previous the bridges and tunnels which can be too costly to wire up?

India goes to be performed electrifying this yr? India? They’re forward of China which is simply at 72% however constructing extra electrified rail on a regular basis and a lot of the new stuff is excessive pace.

The German state of Baden-Würtemberg did a complete price of possession examine and located that hydrogen could be thrice as costly as wires and batteries? Positive simply the effectivity and upkeep prices alone make that apparent, you suppose, as your proper temple throbs painfully. And Decrease Saxony tried it at nice expense, discovered the identical prices and are giving up?

What’s the USA pondering, holding out for hydrogen on trains?

However certainly massive vans want hydrogen. The Nikola is one horny beast and clearly extra competent than that weak Tesla Semi. Oh wait, What’s Run on Much less? NACFE? The North American Council on Freight Effectivity. Okay, appears legit, you suppose. Certainly the hydrogen semis rocked that and the electrical ones failed. Ummm. The Tesla Semis ran for over 1,600 km in a single day of full service with hundreds as much as the complete 82,000 most weight loaded with flats of Pepsi?

Positive, each different electrical semi solely managed extra vary than the common for 60% of all truck work days. Wait, you suppose.

Okay, so the Tesla Semi is fairly good, however certainly the Nikola FCEV kicked its butt. Huh. Nikola had their battery electrical truck operating within the examine and managed 800 kilometers someday? Solely half of Tesla, however nonetheless. 800 kilometers in a single day for a truck.

However certainly that’s the restrict. Batteries are at finish of their improvement you suppose. Oh, the world’s greatest EV battery producer, CATL, introduced a battery with twice the power density of those within the Run on Much less vans in 2023 and is delivering it in 2024? So the Tesla Semi will be capable of run one thing like 3,200 kilometers in a single day and the opposite vans may see 1,600 simply by placing new batteries in? Or they might be lighter with the identical vary.

However certainly hydrogen vans are going to get cheaper to function, you suppose. You then slap your self within the brow. You already know {that a} hydrogen electrical truck is only a battery electrical truck with a whole lot of advanced, failure susceptible tools added, together with tanks of extremely compressed hydrogen that you just actually don’t need to take into consideration within the occasion of a collision. You’ve seemed on the statistics.

However a minimum of the hydrogen will likely be comparatively low cost to ship, you suppose, as a result of there’ll be an enormous community of gasoline pipelines operating into each constructing. One thing about that assertion makes you shrink back in terror, however you’ve discovered to stare into the abyss.

Tomorrow, you’ll do this tomorrow. Tonight you want a beer. You go in search of somebody to pull out to the closest watering gap, however after wandering the empty constructing for an hour you notice, you’re the just one nonetheless working there.

Quadrant chart of heating solutions by expense and temperature by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Quadrant chart of heating options by expense and temperature by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

Effectively, that’s a humiliation of riches for heating with electrical options. They’re all extra environment friendly and cheaper than hydrogen for heating. And no nitrous oxides!

Why did you suppose burning gases have been required for high-temperature warmth once more, you ask your self? You will have three PhDs and know the deep science of electromagnetics, electrical arcs and thermal warmth administration. Why have been properties, buildings and industrial warmth by some means sacrosanct areas for burning gases?

Warmth pumps and district heating alone kill heating gasoline pipeline networks. Warmth pumps are vastly extra environment friendly than burning issues for warmth, utilizing one unit of electrical energy to maneuver three models of warmth round. Similar to fridges. Massive warmth pumps operating off floor or waters sources and district heating and cooling are like peanut higher and jelly, Abbot and Costello or different well-known pairs, they’re simply higher collectively.

All of the glory of the electromagnetic spectrum is accessible with electrical heating options, with absurd quantities of management. Burning gases is so crude and exhausting to regulate by comparability.

Infrared, resistance, electrical plasma and even warmth storage make it clear that should you have been constructing one thing from scratch to be a decarbonized constructing or industrial facility, you wouldn’t trouble with pipelines operating hydrogen into it in any respect. After which the opposite penny drops for you.

The one tiny shred of aid comes from discovering that some chemical processes, a minimum of ones we use at present, do require the chemical and thermal traits of open flames to work and that hydrogen may play that function. You then bear in mind biomethane.

No use for hydrogen for warmth in residences, industrial buildings and most industrial services means no huge networks for hydrogen pipelines which can be as straightforward to connect with as pure gasoline distribution networks at present. And there’s no huge community of distribution pipelines for hydrogen, finish makes use of for hydrogen simply bought much more costly.

Vans stops must obtain much more tanker a great deal of liquid or extremely compressed hydrogen than the diesel tanker vans that they obtain at present. That multiplies the prices and security dangers much more.

Certainly nobody is critically contemplating this, you suppose? Little or no Googling finds that Mercedes Benz Group and hydrogen-supplier Linde have trucked liquid hydrogen to a refueling station that shops it as liquid hydrogen after which they pump liquid hydrogen in liquid hydrogen storage tanks on a Mercedes truck. You learn that once more, as you have been having hassle believing your eyes.

They’re placing liquid hydrogen tanks right into a semi tractor, then bringing that liquid hydrogen to room temperature with that huge strain and temperature change after which placing that right into a gas cell. And they’re doing that in a truck with a human driver that’s touring on public roads with texting idiots?

That requires a full top-down dedication to idiocy, you suppose. And certain sufficient, a Board government is out in public selling and defending it on social media, the manager head for this system is closely engaged and varied members of the crew are actively celebrating this. At the very least that constructing continues to be full of individuals, you suppose, though you at the moment are fairly certain it gained’t final.

Why is Mercedes Benz constructing gas cell vans when the Tesla Semi and megawatt charging have made it clear that minor operational modifications are all that’s required for the large good points in operational and upkeep prices? Perhaps they didn’t specifically construct a truck for battery electrical and try to shove totally different drive trains into the identical body.

You vaguely bear in mind one thing about Tesla and the Roadster on that time, however you have been effectively into the hydrogen journey then, so tended to dismiss Tesla. Pity, as your retirement portfolio could be much more strong. You misplaced some huge cash in 2000 on Plug Energy, Ballard and FuelCell Vitality and held onto these shares, certain they’d bounce again.

Okay, so no hydrogen for heating and none for floor transportation. However certainly maritime delivery will use it?

Quadrant chart of expense vs viability for maritime shipping by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Quadrant chart of expense vs viability for maritime delivery by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

There’s some excellent news for you in maritime delivery! The world’s now second largest container delivery firm and a pacesetter within the area, is shopping for methanol twin gas ships and contracting for low-carbon methanol! You want methanol. It’s clear burning, a liquid at room temperature and solely about as poisonous as diesel. You don’t need to gargle with the stuff, but it surely doesn’t make you run screaming from the room like ammonia.

Clearly they’re shopping for artificial methanol comprised of inexperienced hydrogen, by no means thoughts the value, proper? You take a look, luxuriating within the uncommon feeling of being certain of one thing and that hydrogen for power was a winner. And you then notice that each contract you could find an article about signifies that they’re shopping for biomethanol. In truth, the primary ship that sailed out of South Korea for northern Europe was powered by methanol that got here out of landfill.

Methanol isn’t a hydrogen delivery story in any respect! Additionally, as you poke at it you surprise why they’re bothering. It’s clearly going to be much more costly than biodiesel which is being bunkered in ports globally already.

However a minimum of batteries aren’t powering ships. That will be including insult to harm, you suppose. You then see {that a} pair of 700 unit container ships have been launched in China and are operating common 1,000 km routes on the river. 1,000 km! How are they doing that? Oh, in fact. Containers filled with batteries that they change with charged ones with ports alongside the route. Huh.

You do some math. The power equations are actually easy after natural chemistry and metallurgy. Even with Tesla’s batteries, by no means thoughts CATL’s, a ship can journey a great distance absolutely loaded. 3.9 MWh in a single Tesla Megapack. That’s lots in a delivery container. And ships simply churn by way of the water on the identical pace. And battery electrical to motor drive trains are actually environment friendly.

That’s like half a ton of hydrogen, with out all the large quantities of fuss. However hey, that definitely gained’t get a ship throughout an ocean.

Look, liquid hydrogen. You aren’t as excited as you are feeling you should be. You quickly discover that Equinor and Air Liquide gave up solely on a liquid hydrogen plant in Norway the place there have been about the absolute best circumstances for making inexperienced hydrogen, 24/7/365 electrical energy from absolutely amortized hydro and transmission, together with a lot of water. You know the way a lot the entire equipment prices in and out and the way failure susceptible it’s. Effectively, a minimum of a liquid hydrogen fueled tanker could be pretty secure. Not a lot to run into out at sea. However the associated fee. And the boil off. And placing 20° Kelvin cryogenic hydrogen right into a ship from a barge. That’s not going to be low cost. Perhaps there’s one other various?

Oh, proper, biodiesel. What’s that price? 1.5 to 2 instances maritime diesel? That’s it? When artificial diesel, methanol or ammonia could be 4-6 instances the price of fossil maritime gas in the very best case state of affairs? Who thinks anybody goes to pay that you just suppose. That’s simply silly. You’re keen on your Toyota Mirai, however you wouldn’t be capable of afford it if Toyota didn’t offer you $15,000 price of free hydrogen whenever you leased it. You will have a Tesla Mannequin 3 too, as a result of hydrogen refueling stations are so flakey which you can’t afford to have a Mirai as your solely automobile.

You wouldn’t be capable of get to the lab a whole lot of days to work on fixing the hydrogen for power drawback should you needed to depend on your Mirai. You surprise why your eyes are crossing and you make little grunting noise, however dismiss it.

You permit work early and drink alone, pondering you’ll should get by way of aviation subsequent.

Quadrant chart of expense vs certifiability of aviation fuel alternatives by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Quadrant chart of expense vs certifiability of aviation gas options by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

You stroll in late, hungover. You sit down at your desk and begin Googling. The knowledge is all there. It’s been there all alongside. Why didn’t you ever search for it, you ask your self. What prevented you from evaluating apparent options with actual information. Why did you simply settle for that batteries and biofuels couldn’t presumably energy airplanes?

Liquid hydrogen you already knew wasn’t certifiable. No strategy to sq. that freezing, explosive circle of passenger doom. And also you knew that gaseous hydrogen inside airplanes was loony too. Too little power density in explosively pressurized tanks that will flip into very excessive pace shrapnel if something went mistaken. You surprise why the civil aviation authorities just like the FAA and EASA are bothering to interact with the corporations nonetheless making an attempt to make any of this work.

You then suppose, effectively these corporations should spend some huge cash on certification and a bunch of that should go to the authorities. Not solely that, the joy it should carry them to be taking a look at really harmful new stuff after spending a long time ensuring aviation was the most secure type of transportation per passenger kilometer on Earth should give them an enormous thrill. They realize it’s not potential, however they’re undoubtedly delighting in pondering of all of the methods it may go mistaken and there are such a lot of of them, as you understand.

After which there may be artificial kerosene. Similar story. 4-6 instances the price of present aviation fuels in the absolute best case state of affairs. Whereas thousands and thousands of tons of sustainable aviation biofuels are being put into planes already at a a lot cheaper price level.

Oh effectively, a minimum of there gained’t be any batteries, you suppose paradoxically to your self, certain now that you just had no thought what you have been pondering prior to now. And certain sufficient, you discover startup after startup with batteries, even much less power dense ones than Tesla’s. A hybrid electrical aircraft flew for twelve hours and had gas left over, you see. And you see the latest papers making it clear that 100 passenger battery electrical plane with a biofuel generator for divert and reserve can already cowl 80% of passenger aviation on most continents.

Not adequate for crossing oceans, however biokerosene is sweet sufficient for that. You loosen up and depart for an early lunch and perhaps a spherical of golf, pondering you’ll take your Tesla. In any case, it has much more room within the trunk for golf equipment. You begin questioning what the resale worth of a barely used Mirai is. Your headache threatens to return again, so that you concentrate on visualizing your swing.

Tomorrow, you’ll take a look at grid storage, only for enjoyable. You might be fairly certain what you’ll discover, however you’ve all the time been a completist, which is why you’ve been working alone in an empty constructing for the previous couple of years.

Quadrant chart of expense vs duration for grid storage technologies by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc
Quadrant chart of expense vs length for grid storage applied sciences by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc

You park your Mannequin 3 within the spot closest to the door at 10 and stroll into the constructing, your shoulders and again free after your 19 holes of golf the day prior to this . You sit down at your pc and begin Googling.

No shock. Cell-based batteries, largely lithium-ion for brief length storage. They’re all over the place. In truth, there’s a lot getting into within the UK that it seems like your complete requirement for that length of storage will likely be accomplished by 2030. Oh and plenty of new battery chemistries rising appear like they’ll be much more economically viable for stationary storage.

Redox circulation storage seems promising you suppose. Your metallurgy PhD and hydrogen efforts make you consider the iron redox response and certain sufficient, Kind Vitality is doing that. You surprise idly in the event that they’ve solved the hydrogen buildup drawback, however resolve that there are such a lot of individuals working within the area — all these full buildings! — that even when their answer is useless, others will work.

Huh, you suppose, the carbonates you hung out on are successfully power storage of a sure sort. You possibly can in all probability create a redox response round that too. Aha, Agora Vitality. However ugh, electrochemistry, which you understand is past you.

Anyway, redox makes it straightforward to separate energy and power, similar to a tank of hydrogen and a gas cell, however with out all the issues of hydrogen. That’s going to in all probability be a wedge you suppose.

Pumped hydro continues to be a factor? China has constructed 58 GW of capability, in all probability a TWh or extra of power storage in simply the previous few years and is constructing 365 GW extra by 2030? What’s this? The Australian Nationwide College did a GIS examine a number of years in the past and located 100 instances the useful resource capability in twinned small reservoirs with excessive head heights as the worldwide requirement for power storage?

Hmmm, you suppose. Grade 7 science. Mass instances acceleration as a result of gravity instances top. For enjoyable you scribble it out by hand. A billion liters of water, a gigaliter, with 500 meters of head top is a GWH of storage. Fairly good.

In order that covers peaking, quick response, time shifting photo voltaic to the night, shifting night time time wind to the day time and day forward reserve. Overbuild it a little bit and it’s fairly straightforward to cowl per week, you suppose.

There’s no actual play for hydrogen for storage in any regular length.

However what about dunkleflaute? Perhaps hydrogen has a play there? So, specialised huge salt caverns sluiced out, make heaps and plenty of inexperienced hydrogen when electrical energy is reasonable and pump it underground. It’s a strategic reserve in any case, not a daily use factor. Your certain somebody has studied that and certain sufficient Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith did for the UK with a long time of climate information.

Each ten years you want extremely lengthy length storage. Not yearly. And Smith thinks inexperienced hydrogen is the molecule for the job. You surprise why. In any case, as you’ve found, there’s a lot of extra biomethane human processes are creating each day. A few of that will likely be use to decarbonize methanol, you assume, however why not simply take a bunch of the remaining and shove it into current pure gasoline strategic reserves? Ah effectively, not your drawback. Undoubtedly an finish sport subject.

You lean again in your chair. You suppose for a minute. You surprise should you’ve missed something. After which it involves you. The rationale for all that hydrogen storage and delivery was to make the power we’d like a great distance away and import it, similar to we do oil, gasoline and coal. That appeared so apparent again then.

However you notice that each nation has a lot of room for renewable era and you understand that electrical heating and motors are vastly extra environment friendly than burning stuff. The full power we’ll want will plummet and we’ll make much more of it lots nearer to the place we’d like it. And we gained’t want almost as a lot of it to extract, course of, refine and ship fossil fuels, come to think about it.

How a lot power are we going to want to maneuver throughout lengthy distances? Not almost as a lot, you suppose. And the way will we transfer it? A little bit of Googling turns up extremely excessive capability direct present transmission that’s already operating 1000’s of kilometers from one facet of China to the opposite, connecting Greece to Israel, northern Africa to Europe, Europe to the UK and shortly Georgia to Romania.

You will have a lunch date, so that you don’t trouble to work out the mathematics. And tomorrow will likely be time sufficient to achieve out to your buddy at Yara and see about decarbonizing ammonia fertilizer. You pack up your laptop computer, throw the withered cactus within the rubbish, flip off the lights and depart.

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