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Charley Rattan's picture
World Hydrogen Leader Charley Rattan Associates

UK based offshore wind & hydrogen corporate advisor and trainer; Faculty member World Hydrogen Leaders. Delivering global hydrogen and offshore wind corporate investment advice, business...

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  • Oct 16, 2020
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Green hydrogen suppply chain encouragement  The first electrolyzer gigafactories are being built as the sector races to keep pace with the green hydrogen project pipeline.Interested? Join me and over 800 companies and individuals at the Business Opportunities for the Hydrogen Economy  https://bit.ly/2DwrpHP Professional Group

 

 

 

 

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 18, 2020

Charley - why do you think tiny wind farms, which will supposedly be producing "green" hydrogen, are located adjacent to the largest LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) ports in the world?

Above: Shell's Eemshaven facility in the Netherlands. Note natural gas storage tanks, lower right.

Does importing natural gas in the shadow of Eemshaven's six wind turbines necessarily mean Shell's hydrogen from Eemshaven won't be "green"? From 2018:

"Equinor Energy AS has awarded Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. a feasibility study contract to evaluate building a hydrogen production plant, including carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and export facilities, in Eemshaven, the Netherlands, Jacobs reported Wednesday.

'Getting the opportunity to work with Equinor to study the possibilities of gas-to-hydrogen conversion and contribute to a significant CO2 reduction is meaningful to Jacobs in many ways,' David Zelinski, Jacobs senior vice president and general manager EMEA, said in a written statement. 'This award enables us to leverage our expertise in gas processing and aligns perfectly with our vision to deliver innovative and sustainable solutions to our clients.'”

https://www.rigzone.com/news/equinor_taps_jacobs_for_gastohydrogen_conve...

Yes, it does.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Oct 18, 2020

It pains me to see this presented as if it were good news for clean energy and the environment. It's the opposite. A swing in favor of green hydrogen is bad news, driven mainly by the influence of electrolysis equipment manufactures. Their concern is for their financial bottom lines rather than what makes sense for mitigating climate change. 

Not that I expect they'd see it that way. It's easy to rationalize whatever is in one's own interests. Convincing yourself that you're on the side of the angels is tremendously valuable for convincing others. The issues are complicated. Enough so that it doesn't even take much willful blindness to see a swing toward green hydrogen as good. Nonetheless, there's no question that large scale production of green hydrogen in this decade will lead to higher carbon emissions and higher environmental impact.

For anyone not so put off by that last statement that they've stopped reading, I strongly recommend Oxford Energy's white paper, Blue hydrogen as an enabler of green hydrogen: the case of Germany. It's key point is that until Europe's power grid is fully decarbonized, any renewable energy that is generated is best used to offset fossil-fueled generation, not production of green hydrogen. Hydrogen is great for low-carbon backing generation when production from renewables can't meet demand, but it should initially be blue hydrogen (generated from fossil fuels with CCS), not electrolytic hydrogen. Until the grid is fully decarbonized, "green" hydrogen isn't green. The extra energy demand for its production raises carbon emissions substantially, relative to blue hydrogen.

I won't try to reprise a 54 page whitepaper in a few lines here, but the point I wanted to make is that the Oxford Energy report is neither anti renewables nor anti green hydrogen. It's just saying that a big push for green hydrogen before the grid is fully (or almost fully) decarbonized is premature. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 19, 2020

It's key point is that until Europe's power grid is fully decarbonized, any renewable energy that is generated is best used to offset fossil-fueled generation, not production of green hydrogen.

Is this still the case if the end use of the hydrogen is theoretically going primarily towards a sector that can't readily be decarbonized in another manner, say aviation or shipping? 

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Oct 22, 2020

Yes, it's still the case. The issue is simply what it takes to produce a given amount of hydrogen, irrespective of what that hydrogen is to be used for. Oxford isn't saying that hydrogen isn't useful for decarbonizing things like aviation or shipping. It's just saying that until the grid has been fully decarbonized, it's better if the hydroben is blue rather than green.

To produce blue hydrogen with an energy content of one kWh, it takes methane with an energy content of about 1.2 kWh; it takes only a minor amount of electricity. Nearly all of the carbon from the methane is captured.

To produce electrolytic hydrogen with an energy content of one kWh, it takes about 1.75 kWh of electricity from the grid. If 60% of that electricity is from renewables, then 0.7 kWh will be from natural gas-fired backing generators. To produce 0.7kWh of electricity from a gas-fired generator operating in backing mode (i.e., widely varying output, as dictated by time-varying output of renewables), methane with an energy content of about 1.5 kWh is required. All of the carbon from that methane will be vented to the atmosphere.

There's room to quibble about those numbers. If the baseline for production of blue hydrogen is the standard process used most widely today with CCS tacked on, then the amount of methane used would be more like 1.8 kWh, and the electricity requirement would no longer by "minor". Also, only about 80% of the carbon would be captured. But that would be a stupid approach. There are more efficient process designs possible when large-scale hydrogen production with CCS is the goal. The 1.2 kWh of methane with a "minor" requirement for electricity is what I think would be realistically achievable in that case.

More problematic is the assertion by green hydrogen advocates that it's unfair to use the average fossil-fueled generation on the grid to calculate methane and carbon costs for green hydrogen. The claim would be that green hydrogen is produced entirely from zero-carbon renewable energy. But that's an accounting sleight-of-hand. Electrolytic hydrogen production requires power generation that wouldn't otherwise be needed. The renewable energy resources powering the electrolyzers are resources not displacing fossil fueled generation. So the "opportunity cost" of using renewables to produce green hydrogen rather than displacing fossil fueled generation falls to green hydrogen. That's why Oxford Energy concluded that large scale production of green hydrogen only makes sense after the grid has been fully decarbonized.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 19, 2020

"Nonetheless, there's no question that large scale production of green hydrogen in this decade will lead to higher carbon emissions and higher environmental impact.

For anyone not so put off by that last statement that they've stopped reading..."

Quite the contrary, Roger...like a breath of fresh air.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 19, 2020

The first electrolyzer gigafactories are being built

Can you share more about the gigafactories, Charley? I'm only familiar with the term in the context of Tesla's Gigafactory for energy storage-- what's the size for these electrolyzer factories for them to be considered 'giga' and what's the expected time table before they may be up and running? 

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