Up to date US Hydrogen Technique Is Higher, However Nonetheless Principally Good For The Fossil Gasoline Business


Again in November, I assessed the primary draft of the US hydrogen technique, launched in September 2022. The title summarized the issue with that iteration properly, I believe: New US Hydrogen Technique: Fallacious Division, Fallacious Authors.

What had been the issues that resulted from this? Properly, the primary was that the analysis was unsuitable, and it was based mostly on hydrogen being important for the vitality transition, versus the commercial transition. Because of this, it was scattered throughout transportation and industrial heating. The technique even included the exceptional assertion that it will be required for temperatures above 300° Celsius when there are electrical resistance, induction, radiative, and arc furnace options working in industrial heating at temperatures as much as 3,000° Celsius as we speak.

It even had business and residential heating as a goal for hydrogen, which is a reasonably ludicrous proposition on condition that even in November of 2022 there have been dozens of research globally that made it clear that it was a horrible thought from a security and economics perspective, and that warmth pumps had been utterly match for objective at a a lot decrease price and threat profile.

And, in fact, the technique had a number of hydrogen manufacturing from fossil fuels with carbon seize and storage (CCS) bolted on, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of CCS, particularly within the USA, is used for enhanced oil restoration (EOR), a non-starter as a local weather answer.

Why did that technique go so unsuitable? Properly, it was authored virtually totally by the US Division of Power (DOE), with little obvious enter from the precise finish use case sectors for hydrogen as we speak. The fossil gas foyer definitely had their say, as whereas the vast majority of the DOE’s finances is for business nuclear vitality regulation and security, the subsequent greatest chunk is for fossil fuels, with renewables preventing for the scraps. Oil refineries use about 33% of hydrogen as we speak to desulphurize gas, with Houston’s heavy, bitter oil refineries that take care of Venezuela’s and Alberta’s merchandise being main customers, though different smaller refineries use quite a bit too within the USA.

Clearly, that’s going to go away as peak oil hits and the standard low cost towards Brent crude will increase with the elevated price of hydrogen, and the journey reductions stay or enhance. Venezuela’s and Alberta’s merchandise are going to be first off the market.

However did the ammonia trade get a number of consideration? Globally, about 25% of hydrogen is used to fabricate ammonia, principally for fertilizer. It received a nod, certain, however not the lion’s share of consideration it ought to have in any affordable technique.

What about direct discount of iron (DRI) for metal? About 100 million tons of metal is manufactured with artificial gases that are a giant chunk of present hydrogen demand. Cleansing up that? Not a very large precedence in comparison with increasing the marketplace for hydrogen, together with a number of fossil-fuel derived molecules, the one hope the fossil gas trade has for continued existence at its present scale and profitability.

Hydrogen as we speak is a worldwide warming downside about the identical measurement as all of aviation globally. Job one is to decarbonize its industrial use instances, not invent new markets it’s badly suited to, however the first draft of the US hydrogen technique was principally targeted on inventing new markets.

So is the up to date model 9 months later higher? Let’s discover out.

Logos of US agencies and departments involved in the US hydrogen strategy

Logos of US companies and departments concerned within the US hydrogen technique

Properly, it’s nonetheless being led and written by the DOE, as a substitute of the Division of Commerce which I assumed could be a more sensible choice. Nonetheless, they’re making it clear that consultations, nonetheless deep or shallow, did and can contain a number of organizations that are present and future main hydrogen stakeholders. It’s considerably odd that the US Division of Agriculture is listed final, as fertilizer is probably going the most important demand space for hydrogen derivates present as we speak within the USA that isn’t going away. However that’s simply poor optics, not essentially indicative of something.

Be aware that this model of the technique, just like the final one, is trailing the Inflation Discount Act’s huge subsidies for lower-carbon hydrogen, not previous it. It’s a bit prepared, hearth, intention, however on condition that the earlier US administration was deeply hostile to local weather motion of any kind, that is significantly better than nothing.

The manager abstract is all concerning the alternatives, not the local weather change downside of hydrogen’s present emissions. The massive alternative areas it identifies are:

“… the commercial sector (e.g., chemical substances, metal and refining), heavy-duty transportation, and long-duration vitality storage to allow a clear grid.”

The primary one is nice and it’s good that it’s the primary one. Heavy-duty transportation has no pathways for hydrogen in a rational world. Heavy responsibility trucking will all electrify, with in-hand battery vitality densities permitting 500 mile ranges as we speak, 1,000 mile ranges in a 12 months or two, and over double present long-haul diesel rigs within the 2030s.

Exterior of the USA, each different main geography is simply getting on with electrifying rail with grid connections and field vehicles stuffed with batteries for tunnels and bridges, with India at 85% electrified and aiming for 100% earlier than 2025, China at 72% and rising quickly, and Europe at 60% and rising. The USA is a severely outlier in rail decarbonization and the DOE and Division of Transportation (DOT) clearly don’t perceive what the precise technique is for that transportation mode, or is cowed into submission by the American Affiliation of Railroads (AAR), which is belligerently against electrification for nonsensical causes. For maritime delivery, it’s going to be batteries and biofuels, not hydrogen derivatives. Even the most important non-biodiesel or renewable diesel maritime gas various the place there are literally contracts is biologically-derived methanol, not a hydrogen by-product.

The US transportation blueprint is considerably higher than the primary hydrogen technique, however nonetheless misses the boat (and rail and vans) on this level, so it’s unsurprising that the hydrogen technique nonetheless will get it unsuitable.

Lengthy-duration vitality storage is a captivating one too. It’s going to be too costly as a result of inefficiencies and capital prices to compete in day-ahead reserves or two-day markets, so it’s going to be constrained, if ever constructed, to very lengthy length storage the place there’s a nationwide scarcity of wind and sunshine for per week. Given the scale of the USA, the continued motion to HVDC interconnectors, the huge land and water space for broadly unfold renewables, it is a once-a-century answer. It’s not an island just like the UK, the place modeling suggests it will be mandatory each ten years on common.

Even then, simply diverting as a lot biomethane from present anthropogenic sources as attainable into pure gasoline storage services is much more wise than manufacturing hydrogen for the aim.

The reply for truly economically wise lengthy length storage is pumped hydro and the rising redox circulate battery house, not an costly molecule that likes to leak.

So I’m not impressed with the brand new technique, and nonetheless haven’t made it previous the manager abstract. Let’s preserve going.

“The Hydrogen Power Earthshot (Hydrogen Shot) launched in 2021 will catalyze each innovation and scale, stimulating personal sector investments, spurring growth throughout the hydrogen provide chain, and dramatically lowering the price of clear hydrogen.”

Properly, no. This isn’t an area that’s topic to huge reductions in value. The legal guidelines of thermodynamics don’t give technique to wishful considering, so the price of inexperienced hydrogen through electrolysis will nonetheless require 50 MWh+ per ton of hydrogen. Solely the electrolyzer isn’t a commoditized element as we speak, and it’s certainly one of maybe 28 parts in an industrial scale electrolysis plant, with out compression, storage, distribution, or chilling to twenty° Kelvin. Because of this, capital expenditure (capex) will drive the inexperienced hydrogen value per ton upward until they are often amortized throughout much more tons. That requires a lot larger utilization than a wind or photo voltaic farm can ship by itself, properly over 60%. And which means firmed electrical energy at grid costs.

The common industrial fee for electrical energy within the USA was $72.60 per MWh in 2021, so these 50 MWh drive a value per ton of $3,630 or $3.63 per kg simply by themselves. The capex will add two or three {dollars} to that simply. The $3 most subsidy per kg for truly low carbon hydrogen will deliver the worth level all the way down to double or triple hydrogen made out of low-cost pure gasoline utilizing steam reformation with no carbon seize.

As for blue hydrogen with carbon seize, properly, the one manner it qualifies for the $3.00 subsidy is with two separate carbon seize applied sciences, 35% plus vitality consumption for the method and critical sequestration scales past something which exists globally, exterior presumably China. Bear in mind, eight tons of extremely diffuse carbon dioxide for each ton of hydrogen from the steam reformation course of, and add a ton or three extra for the additional vitality required for the method, which the fossil gas trade will insist comes from pure gasoline. For these doubting this, I checked out Carbon Engineering’s direct air seize answer again in 2019, and a full 50% of the carbon dioxide it ‘captured’ was from burning pure gasoline to energy the method.

As soon as once more, heaps extra prices, and given the monitor file of bolting CCS onto options globally, a really low chance of precise emissions reductions. At that, whereas it’s going to nonetheless doubtless be cheaper than inexperienced hydrogen, even with the utmost subsidy, it’s prone to be dearer than black or grey hydrogen as we speak.

And to say it once more, that’s the price of manufacturing lower-carbon hydrogen. Compression, storage, distribution, and pumping prices for hydrogen are sky excessive, and received’t be happening a lot. Black or grey hydrogen that prices beneath $1 to fabricate as we speak prices $15-$20 in hydrogen fueling stations, and $8-10 delivered in bulk in giant tube vans. The regional hydrogen hubs make some sense for industrial customers like ammonia vegetation and inexperienced metal vegetation, however little sense for the rest. Even then, as 85% of hydrogen consumed as we speak is manufactured on the level of consumption and on the volumes and fee required for the processes, it’s more likely that it will likely be extra price environment friendly to deploy electrolyzers on the level of consumption to interchange steam reformation vegetation for pure gasoline.

And guess what? We don’t use hydrogen for vitality exterior of tiny niches which are higher served by electrification anyway. Hydrogen is as low-cost because it’s ever going to get, even with the IRA’s huge subsidy per kg (equal to US$3.00 per gallon of gasoline, or 83% of the retail value proper now). We don’t use it or its derivatives for vitality regardless of it being as low-cost as it’s ever going to get as a result of it’s vastly dearer than fossil fuels, and we received’t use it for vitality sooner or later until we’re financial idiots as a result of electrification and biofuels are cheaper.

Let’s be very clear. The perfect blue or inexperienced hydrogen may get down to simply dearer than present black or grey hydrogen, however solely with the $3.00 IRA subsidy. As soon as that subsidy goes away in 2034, lower-carbon hydrogen’s value will soar. Anybody who locks themselves into lower-carbon hydrogen for vitality is locking themselves into huge operational expense will increase in a decade. Once I speak with my funding fund and transportation purchasers globally, I make this clear and be sure that they carry their heads up from the subsequent 5 years to contemplate 2035 and past. Electrification and biofuels received’t have this downside.

Okay, nonetheless going. Let’s take a look at the legislative language part. It begins to make clear why that is nonetheless a damaged technique.

(b)(i) clear hydrogen manufacturing and use from pure gasoline, coal, renewable vitality sources, nuclear vitality, and biomass;
(c)(i) financial alternatives for the manufacturing, processing, transport, storage, and use of unpolluted hydrogen that exist within the main shale pure gas-producing areas of the USA;
(e) figuring out alternatives to make use of, and limitations to utilizing, present infrastructure, together with all parts of the pure gasoline infrastructure system, the carbon dioxide pipeline infrastructure system, end-use native distribution networks, enduse energy mills, LNG terminals, and different customers of pure gasoline, for clear hydrogen deployment;

Sure, the main target is first on clear hydrogen from pure gasoline and coal and on giving a second life to out of date infrastructure. Then different stuff comes after that. Is that order prone to be precisely how the framers of the laws and trade lobbyists positioned it? Sure, for my part. Is it an applicable order? No. Blue hydrogen goes to be a continued local weather change downside, not an precise answer. Solely best-of-breed, low leakage, high-carbon seize options want apply for truly affordable carbon hydrogen, and people don’t exist within the USA. Its upstream methane emissions downside from its shale oil, fracking, and thousands and thousands of miles of pipes is healthier than Russia’s or Uzbekistan’s, however that’s like saying that getting hit within the head with a softball bat is healthier than getting hit within the head with a lead pipe.

Renewable electrical energy will get talked about precisely as soon as within the laws. The legal guidelines are principally about getting hydrogen out of fossil fuels, with extra deal with nuclear hydrogen than renewable hydrogen.

Does this imply that what is going to truly occur can be a number of fossil-derived hydrogen within the USA? Almost definitely.

The foreword continues on this vein, however at the very least leans into electrolysis.

“… if over 90 % of hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, in 2030, this manufacturing might require as much as 200 GW of latest renewables or use of about 50-70 GW of nuclear energy.”

This assumes an enormous enhance in hydrogen demand by 2030 for transportation and storage, and makes it sound as if throwing away two-thirds or extra of low carbon electrical energy that may very well be used instantly at a lot better efficiencies is a good suggestion, versus financial suicide, antithetical to precise local weather motion, and unachievable.

I’ll reiterate. Hydrogen is a local weather change downside, and job one is eliminating that. The USA will see a rise in low-carbon metal manufacturing, the one actual progress marketplace for hydrogen, however already will get 70% of its annual demand from scrap, not brand-new metal, and has huge quantities of rusting metal mendacity concerning the nation on or simply beneath the floor, in order that’s prone to edge as much as 75% within the coming years. Getting renewables and nuclear vitality powered electrolyzers into that downside house makes a substantial amount of sense. That stated, there’s been just one good use case for nuclear-powered electrolysis that I’ve discovered, and that’s to siphon a tiny proportion of a reactor’s technology to make hydrogen on-site as a turbine lubricant as a substitute of trucking a whole bunch of kilograms of black or grey hydrogen to the reactor day by day.

However diverting present clear electrical energy to unhealthy makes use of instances is mindless, and the USA’s nuclear fleet goes to be principally sundown by 2035, not expanded by 50-70 new reactors at a value approaching a trillion {dollars}.

Transferring on. Nonetheless not out of the preambles, imagine it or not.

Grants and loans for auto manufacturing services to fabricate clear automobiles, together with gas cell electrical automobiles (FCEVs);
Aggressive tax credit for services that manufacture hydrogen and gas cell applied sciences, together with gas cell automobiles and fueling infrastructure
Grants for clear heavy-duty automobiles, together with FCEVs;

Yup, let’s given cash to home producers to make gas cells and gas cell vehicles nobody will purchase or drive. That’s pure pork. And it’s not like hydrogen vans can be a factor. As David Cebon of the Centre for Sustainable Highway Transportation at Cambridge factors out, hydrogen vans from main distributors are nonetheless far more costly than their battery-powered options, and the gas prices could be thrice dearer than simply utilizing electrical energy. Increased capex and opex means no fleet purchaser will contemplate them as options. Wright’s Legislation will apply vastly extra to electrical vans as a consequence of having the ability to exploit batteries, motors, and energy management methods from gentle automobiles, whereas hydrogen vans will get few advantages of scaling by numbers.

As a reminder, there’s a rustic which has already gone far down the trail to decarbonizing transportation, and the USA ought to take note of the teachings from it. That nation has 1.1 million electrical buses and vans on its roads, buys 60% of the electrical gentle automobiles offered yearly, builds the vast majority of them as properly, constructed 25,000 miles of high-speed electrified freight and passenger rail up to now 16 years, is constructing 6,000 miles extra, and has fewer than 10,000 gas cell automobiles on its roads. That the nation is China shouldn’t make the readability of the pure experiment and empirical actuality any much less compelling, in truth it ought to make it extra compelling. If the USA desires to compete within the twenty first century with China, it has to take action with pragmatic decisions that make sense, not financial useless ends that fulfill solely the fossil gas trade.

Loans to assist retool, repower, repurpose, or substitute vitality infrastructure to keep away from, scale back, make the most of, or sequester air pollution or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases;

A few of these are good, however a number of that can be thrown away on failed carbon seize makes an attempt on fossil gas technology stations, an method that’s been confirmed again and again within the USA and outdoors of it to be a failure. Any cash spent on carbon seize and sequestration would go quite a bit additional by constructing extra renewables.

A tax credit score for producing sustainable aviation fuels and a technology-neutral tax credit score for clear fuels, which may embody hydrogen feedstock within the manufacturing course of;

Good, as sustainable aviation biofuels presently embody some pathways which contain hydrotreating to enhance outputs. Unhealthy in that when the grants go away, sunk prices can be skewed towards pathways that require costly hydrogen. My expectation is that globally, all hydrogen for upgrading biofuels will solely quantity to about 4 million tons a 12 months in 2100, however the USA expects greater than that within the subsequent few years.

Grants to scale back emissions at ports, which might fund deployments of gas cells

Ports are already massively electrified, with a lot of the large cranes electrified, as a key instance. Everyone seems to be operating towards electrical port floor automobiles too, simply as airports are operating quick in that route for floor service tools. There’s no function for a gas cell in a port.

Incentives for the deployment of carbon dioxide seize, utilization, and storage

After all.

Along with its chemical properties, hydrogen can assist decarbonization by displacing pure gasoline in sectors that require high-temperature warmth, an utility that’s tough to impress.
high-temperature warmth (>550°C)

The DOE continues to make this misguided assertion that burnable substances are required for industrial warmth, though they’ve nudged the temperature level up from the frankly embarrassing 300° Celsius assertion in September’s technique to the much less however nonetheless embarrassing 550° Celsius.  It’s unclear why.

There are not any industrial warmth necessities that may’t electrify. The place it’s capital intensive to impress, it will even be capital intensive to shift to hydrogen. For example, the 10-meter-long, 5-meter-wide jet of pure gasoline flames inside a cement clinker drum would require both a shift to electrical plasma with a brand new drum and course of or to hydrogen with a brand new drum and course of and vastly larger operational prices. These use instances the place the capital expenditure and worth of an present asset exist which make alternative within the subsequent 20 years are higher served by capturing much more of the anthropogenic biomethane we presently drive into the ambiance and burning it within the clinker drum as a substitute of pure gasoline. However these use instances are uncommon, and electrification use instances will dominate.

So, what’s the online on this up to date model of the US hydrogen technique? Properly, it’s clearly a doc the fossil gas trade will love. A lot of governmental cash to be used instances for hydrogen and carbon seize that can fail, perpetuating their enterprise mannequin for one more decade or two on the expense of the planet. Transportation, industrial heating, and vitality storage projections are clearly financial suicide. Any organizations which believes guarantees of unsubsidized $1 per kilogram hydrogen and invests a number of capital cash based mostly on it are going to be limping at greatest with a lot larger delivered costs, and are going to be bankrupt when the IRA’s PTC disappears.

Nevertheless it’s an enchancment over the unique. Extra stakeholders are clearly referred to as out, and there’s a transparent all-of-government method that was missing within the authentic. The DOE is the chief of the cost, and whereas I believe it’s nonetheless the unsuitable positioning for the technique and in consequence it’s misguided, it’s considerably mitigated.

There’s extra focus and readability on the precise use instances for lower-carbon hydrogen, ammonia, and metal outstanding amongst them. And all the residential and business heating potential for hydrogen has disappeared. That’s factor. They lastly received that memo.

As a dwelling doc, the technique remains to be deeply flawed, however much less flawed than the primary one. If the DOE updates it each 9 months, and there’s as a lot motion every time, then by 2026 or 2027, it may very well be technique. However that will take hamstringing the fossil gas foyer, wanting on the broader answer set, and searching realistically at main practices globally, one thing that the USA is seemingly detest to do.


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