Oz Is Simply As Barmy About Hydrogen: Good Vitality Council Presentation Q&A

Not way back, I had the chance to speak with over 300 largely Australian contributors in a Good Vitality Council webinar. It was organized to use my uncommon timezone alignment with Oz as I spend a number of weeks in New Zealand as a digital nomad. Over 600 signed up, many from different time zones to get entry to the recording out there from the hyperlink.

The organizer Steve Blume, former President of the Council, and I assumed it will be helpful to reply many of the dozens of questions in articles and share with the registrants as nicely. That is the third of some articles with responses, which can be aggregated and shared by the Council as nicely for contributors. The primary article was on aviation and maritime delivery questions and the second lined biofuels and HVDC.

The framing of my ready remarks was the Radical Electrification of Transportation. I’ve revealed rather a lot on the topic as I’ve dug by way of most modes over the previous 15 years.

Intro slide to Michael Barnard presentation to Australian Smart Energy Council webinar

Intro slide to Michael Barnard presentation to Australian Good Vitality Council webinar

To summarize my presentation, all floor transportation will electrify. That’s vehicles, vans, buses, utility autos, trains and mining autos. All inland delivery and two-thirds of brief sea delivery will electrify, with solely the longest routes requiring biofuels. Delivery and rail can even drop in tonnage attributable to removing of bulk fossil fuels from hundreds. Aviation can be disrupted by electrical regional air mobility, autonomous flight, and digital air site visitors management, and solely trans-oceanic flights would require biofuels in 50 years.

Which means the billions of tons of fossil fuels per yr requirement for extraction, processing, refinement, and distribution are going away and being changed by tens of tens of millions of tons of expertise metals similar to lithium and cobalt, in addition to a number of hundred million tons of biofuels for aviation and maritime delivery. That’s all very doable.

The ready remarks skimmed over all of that in half-hour or so, leaving far too little time for questions, and so I’ve chosen to answer most of them in writing.


What’s the marketplace for inexperienced fertilizer? WA just lately sanctioned a big fossil gas / SMR fertilizer plant concentrating on the Indian market indicating there’s a restricted market.

About 30 million tons of hydrogen is used immediately to fabricate about 170 million tons of ammonia for nitrogen fertilizers. That’s all coming from pure gasoline and coal hydrogen immediately.

That’s an enormous international market, however the query is what insurance policies are driving uptake of inexperienced ammonia? When Europe’s carbon border adjustment mechanism kicks in, that can be a driver. 

Lack of inexperienced fertilizer markets is a brief time period drawback associated to the dearth of a market sign requiring them, not the dearth of an actual market.

After all, when utilized, ammonia additionally creates NOx, a potent greenhouse gasoline, so the market has to decrease regardless, nevertheless it’s going to stay massive in my view.

If there isn’t a massive future marketplace for inexperienced hydrogen, how will all of the renewable (photo voltaic, wind) power generated at occasions of low demand be saved (or will or not it’s wasted)?

There’s an electrical energy ecosystem that can characteristic some overbuild of wind and photo voltaic, loads of transmission, an inexpensive quantity of grid storage within the type of pumped hydro, redox move batteries and cell-based batteries, and a few demand administration. That can account for about 95% of circumstances. The rest can be competed for by varied low capex options which is able to favor low cost power for greatest income. There isn’t a ton of room in that world for inexperienced hydrogen to develop.

However there’s a massive marketplace for inexperienced hydrogen nonetheless. The 120 million tons we manufacture from fossil fuels and use — the largest market is oil refining — is a local weather change drawback on the identical scale as all of aviation globally. The hydrogen demand that isn’t going away as we radically scale back refining oil, particularly excessive sulfur crude like Alberta’s and Venezuala’s, must be changed with inexperienced hydrogen.

To choose on 2019, that yr’s whole renewable electrical era globally was simply adequate to make all the hydrogen we manufacture immediately. We’re not going to be constructing multiples of that to show hydrogen into an inefficient and ineffective retailer of power.

What do you see because the function of inexperienced hydrogen from remoted large geothermal potential areas?

If I perceive the query, it’s not about white or pure hydrogen, however utilizing geothermal warmth and electrical era to drive manufacturing of inexperienced hydrogen. 

And in that case, I level to a really clear sign from our international financial system about hydrogen immediately: 85% of hydrogen is manufactured at level of use.

Why? As a result of distributing hydrogen as a molecule is absurdly costly. As a gasoline it’s extremely vulnerable to leaking, embrittling metal and messing with electronics, in addition to being very low in density by quantity. Individuals claiming we’ll be placing it in pipelines and ships are blowing smoke. Individuals claiming we’ll reuse present pure gasoline or oil pipelines for hydrogen are blowing opium smoke. 

Reuse of present pipelines would require radically decrease volumes of hydrogen than pure gasoline. The power delivered can be a fraction of pure gasoline power as a result of physics of the molecules. And retrofitting present pipelines is a bit expense, as not solely the inside wants coating usually, however new compressors, electronics and sensors are required alongside the size of the pipeline for that decrease power supply. Constructing new pipelines is even worse.

Each pipeline for hydrogen research I’ve checked out retains making the identical errors of drawing the system boundaries actually poorly, or making fully unsupportable assumptions in favor of hydrogen and towards HVDC.

Delivery hydrogen in ocean tankers as we do LNG can be at minimal 5 occasions the fee per unit of power as LNG giving hydrogen delivery each advantage of the doubt. And as a reminder, LNG imports are already the costliest type of power any nation has, and are used solely as a final resort to maintain the lights on.

If there’s a giant geothermal plant in the course of nowhere, in different phrases, manufacturing hydrogen with it in all probability doesn’t make sense in comparison with transmitting the electrical energy to demand facilities which embrace locations which make hydrogen at level of use.

There could be some circumstances the place manufacturing ammonia fertilizers at a geothermal location is sensible, and if there’s a geothermal location close to an iron mine, then manufacturing inexperienced iron with the hydrogen might make sense.

What would you say to a trucking firm about to put money into hydrogen infrastructure?

Don’t do it.

Hydrogen for trucking is a lifeless finish. Battery power densities which are commercially out there immediately and at excessive expertise readiness ranges will present hundreds of kilometers of absolutely loaded vary. Electrical energy to battery to motor to wheels is at the least thrice as environment friendly as electrical energy to hydrogen to motor to wheels in the very best case state of affairs for hydrogen, so operational prices will all the time be thrice as excessive. And hydrogen gas cell vans are rather more costly than battery-electric vans, however get no financial system of scale benefits from mild autos, so won’t ever have decrease capex prices.

Pay extra for vans. Pay extra for power infrastructure. Pay extra for power. What rational trucking firm would need to do this?

I all the time like to take a look at examples from around the globe the place the experiment has already run its course to see what the outcomes are. China has 1.1 million battery-electric buses and vans on its roads, and underneath 10,000 gas cell autos. Mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP, and FMG have all come out just lately and stated that each one mining autos can be battery-electric.

There’s no future in hydrogen for trucking, so any cash a agency places into it’s wasted.

What’s your opinion on the UMich machine which purports to be a synthetic photosynthesis machine 10 occasions extra environment friendly and one hundredth the dimensions of earlier units of its form?

Principally that it’s a so-what.

The effectivity claims are for direct use of daylight to transform water to hydrogen on the level of daylight hitting the cell. That signifies that to supply any helpful quantity of hydrogen, you would need to pump an terrible lot of water into tiny cells, then seize the hydrogen that bubbles out of it throughout a really massive space.

As a mind-set about this, we will take a mud low cost photo voltaic farm and join it with primary wiring. The electrical energy throughout that space might be concentrated into an industrial scale electrolysis facility with massive pumps, massive pipes and massive electrolyzers working very effectively.

Or we will assemble the identical scale of photo voltaic farm, as a result of this stays an power equation, and unfold pumps for water and tiny tubes throughout your complete expense, have tiny hydrogen seize pumps at every cell, then unfold a parallel however fully separate community of hydrogen tubes that accumulate all that hydrogen. We’d have nearly the identical electrical wiring to watch, management and function the system, however it will be paralleled by two separate gasoline and liquid distribution programs.

And whereas the cell could be low cost in its class of expertise, it received’t be almost as low cost as photovoltaic cells.

This could be helpful in outer area. It’s not notably related on earth.

What’s your perspective on CSIRO, Australia’s nationwide science company, and GHD Advisory calling for Australia to concentrate on hydrogen-powered transport — alongside electrical autos — or danger being left behind our worldwide counterparts?

That CSIRO was once a stable group that obtained issues proper, and that it was overwhelmed up rather a lot by the earlier federal administration. 

I used to quote CSIRO analysis often. Not a lot for the previous decade. Now it’s a bit iffy as to the standard of issues that come out of it.

It is a living proof. That CSIRO got here to this conclusion makes it clear that it has fallen removed from its earlier pinnacle of excellence. You’ll be able to’t take a look at the worldwide information on hydrogen for transportation, the thermodynamics, or the economics significantly, examine it on a degree taking part in subject with actual world alternate options and discover that it needs to be taken significantly.

That fossil gas majors are pushing arduous to make hydrogen a retailer of power doesn’t make it make sense.

In any case, this was a report for rent from GHD. If you purchase a consulting agency’s providers, you get the outcomes you need. Who paid for the report and who set the phrases is an inexpensive query with nonsense like this.

What about Rolls Royce’s plans to make some EVs into electrical vehicles?

That solely Bond villains can have house hydrogen refueling, and Rolls Royces are favored by Bond villains, so there’s a fantastic demographic match, even when solely in a cinematic fantasy world.

And so, one other set of questions requested and answered. Nonetheless to return, fossil fuels, politics and extra.


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