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Question

Lessons learnt from Carbon energy economy that can be applied to Hydrogen energy economy?

Michael Khachiki's picture
Co-founder Atlantic Power Exchange

Michael is Co-founder of www.AtlanticX.co developing a platform for P2P energy trading in distributed energy resources sector. To find out more go to: www.AtlanticX.co

  • Member since 2019
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  • Jun 22, 2020
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There are a lot of discussions about Hydrogen powered economy and the positive impacts it promises for the environment. Energy economy has a global influence in multiple areas including:

  • Environmental impact;
  • Technology development and positive advancement;
  • Societal equity and benefit;
  • Economic viability and value proposition; and
  • Geopolitical influence and conflict reduction.

Energy economy is sophisticated, vast, fast, and dynamic. With globalization and technological advancements, energy interplay between nations translates to the individual quickly. Considering the current global energy economy dynamics, there are a lot of questions we can ask about what we can learn from our past.

To build a sustainable energy future, the following questions come to mind.

  1. What can we learn from today’s carbon energy economy?
  2.  How can we design an energy ecosystem and markets of the future to allow a more sustainable operation?
  3. To make the energy ecosystem more sustainable, what is the role of technology vs human behavior?
  4. How can peer to peer (P2P) energy mark influence the Hydrogen economy?

I invite the community’s thoughts, and insight to answer these questions.

 

      

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    One issue the hydrogen supply chain should learn is the requirement for H2 production and storage to be able to provide variable supply for seasonal demands.   Gas pipelines provide transportation from gas fields that operate relatively steady state to charge local underground storage.  As and alternate or supplement, LNG imports stations can take shipments and be ramped up or down to feed natural gas into pipelines.  Green H2 production (unless from hydro or geothermal) relies on wind and solar, which is highly variable and also has seasonal variations.  Variable seasonal production will increase the requirement for hydrogen storage versus natural gas.  The storage issue is further complicated by the fact that for equivalent gas storage volume, hydrogen has only 1/3 the energy density and will require significantly more storage volume.   

    1. What can we learn from today’s carbon energy economy?

    Kyoto Protocol perhaps has been the earliest effort towards low carbon economy. The term “Low Carbon Economy” was first published in a white paper for the British Department for Trade and Industry, “Our energy future - creating a low carbon economy,” in 2003.

    LCE integrates all aspects - manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, and power generation, etc. around technologies that produce energy and materials with little GHG emission.  Buildings, machines, and devices that use those energies and materials efficiently; dispose of or recycle its wastes have a minimal output of GHGs.

    An interim report prepared by the expert group set up by Planning Commission highlights policies needed for the low carbon growth, in India.  The main sectors examined in this report are power, transport, industry, buildings and forestry.

    Many countries have adopted Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS) to seek social, economic and developmental goals.  Nepal leads the way with 100% hydro followed by Paraguay, Ethiopia.  Iceland has a combination of hydro and nuclear; similarly, Costa Rica has hydro and other renewables

    Having made no impact of climate change discussions over the years, it is unfortunate that we had to wait for the pandemic to direct us to the advantages of clean air.  Not that we had no opportunity to correct ourselves BUT, we simply did not want to.   We had many options in wind power, solar power, hydro and nuclear.  Although many argue against the last option, this was also one of the options against fossil fuels.  Even biofuels was also an additional option.

    It is time that we pay a greater attention to this aspect and be sincere in implementation.

     

     

    2. How can we design an energy ecosystem and markets of the future to allow a more sustainable operation?

     

    Low Carbon Economy (LCE) presents multiple benefits

    a. Ecosystem resilience

    Bhutan for example, is a carbon neutral country not because of LCE but, because of the vegetation as a major sink for carbon dioxide. This is just not low carbon but also bio-diversity which is very important in safeguarding local livelihood to reduce poverty. Biodiversity of this kind prevents plausible recurrence of pandemics of the kind we have seen recently, as well.

    b. Job creation

    The above initiative further brings a shift in volume, composition and quality of employment - agriculture, forestry, fishing, energy, resource intensive manufacturing, recycling, buildings, and transport are a few benefits to name.

    ​​​​​​​c. Business competitiveness

    Natural resources of this kind and their efficiency offer many opportunities towards increasing competitive economy.

    ​​​​​​​d. Improved trade policy

    Goods trade brings in clean energy and efficiency technologies – wind turbine comprising 8000 components for example and minor tariff cuts would benefit the overall scheme. This will augment well in promoting such renewable energy options.

    Natural resources (sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal) contribution is gradually increasing ever since their adoption with the initial 15% moving up to almost 60%.  There are many options of replacing the fossil fuel energy and thus accounting for low carbon emission – solar heating for example. This will indirectly reduce the import of many commodities that are otherwise carbon intensive.

    Biofuels in this regard provided many options specially for the transport sector thereby accounting for lower emissions into the air..

    ​​​​​​​e. Nuclear power

    France has been cited as an example of accounting to almost 75% of power generation by nuclear   and thereby accounting for low carbon emission.  A lot of reservation has also been expressed on spent nuclear storage and security – Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) has been suggested as a solution.

    ​​​​​​​f. Methane cycle

    Although hydrogen converted methane (SNG) is proposed as intermittent renewable source, there are other methane emissions from organic matter fermentation (Garbage for example after separation) although insignificant could be a player of LCE (whatever little percentage)

    Carbon capture and storage, combined heat and power and livestock are other LCE options which may deserve consideration where limited options for other renewables exist. There are innumerable areas (mining, high efficiency electric motors etc,) which are still unexplored that could contribute to LCE.

    It is high time that we revisit the above options and strategize our future plans in such a way that we have a commitment towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions over the next 2-5 years and present a better image of ourselves to the younger generation.  There are many examples in the world where countries have either transformed into complete solar or wind.  The easiest thing one can do is to look at the prospect of each of them and identify a suitable mix for each country depending upon the geographical/locational advantages.   Such a beginning will certainly yield excellent results over the next five years.

    Pandemic, in addition has provided many alternates in reducing the vehicular emissions which has been considered to be one of the major polluting sources.

    It is very important that efforts for appropriate policy changes be announced depending upon the stage of development in the energy sector.  It is further necessary to integrate energy security and climate change into both domestic and international policy making.  Incentives to promote low carbon technology will certainly motivate many to embrace low carbon alternatives.

     

    3. To make the energy ecosystem more sustainable, what is the role of technology vs human behaviour?

    Technological improvements over the years have currently rendered Solar and Wind energy affordable.  In addition, many have been attempting storage options as well.   I hear about solar films for the window panes which would further change the scenario when individual residential units can generate their own (more even) power.  Many are even contemplating on the ‘International Grid’ to tap the geographical variations in solar/wind availability.

    It is just not enough to implement public financial commitment but also devote resources for improved infrastructure, energy efficiency and clean energy jobs.  International response to climate change and energy sector concerns need be far more serious than so far if we wish to achieve the targets sincerely.

    More importantly, carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) has caught the attention and rightly so because it prevents carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

    Reduction in carbon dioxide emission has become inevitable owing to growing concerns on climate change.   Negative emissions; include Direct Air Capture (DAC) or Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and Carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS). The extensive research on carbon dioxide has yielded pretty encouraging results in creating products ranging from cement to synthetic fuels

    CCUS is particularly useful in cement and steel production where reduction potential is negligible. However, this has limitations in costs, incentive from regulatory frameworks and technological improvements to make carbon dioxide valuable for new products.

    It is now possible to lock up carbon dioxide permanently – storing it in buildings, sidewalks and wherever concrete is used – may subsequently lead to zero carbon cement e.g precast structural concrete slabs / blocks.  Baking limestone (calcination) for Portland cement releases 7% of industrial carbon dioxide.  Second option involves combining aggregates with cement to make concrete which is 44% carbon dioxide by weight thus may account for 150 Mtpa of carbon dioxide.

    Carbon dioxide’s potential to create virtually any type of fuel seems encouraging – carbon dixode with hydrogen for synthetic gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.  Jet fuel is more promising as aviation sector could benefit greatly.

    Biomass fuel combustion becomes carbon negative IF carbon dioxide emissions are stored underground / input for industrial products (Concrete/synthetic fuel) 

    Carbon capture is also possible in carbon fibre, plastics and agricultural ‘biochar’.  Biochar is result of burning biomass in oxygen poor environment (charcoal like) which captures 50% of carbon dioxide retaining it for more than 100 years.  Green polyurethane, CO2 based plastics is gaining attention for usage in textiles, flooring for sports centre and even mattresses.

     

    4. How can peer to peer (P2P) energy mark influence the Hydrogen economy?

    Similar to computing/networking, this partitions tasks or workloads between peers and they are equally privileged, equipotent partners in the effort on energy.  Initially, this was arranged between two or more grid connected parties – excess solar energy to be transferred and sold to other users through secure platform.  This presents an advantage to the consumers in the choice to decide to choose.  Although it looked encouraging initially, it has become obsolete due to preferential flexibility and control.

    ​​​​​​​Blockchain is the platform for database technology processes and storage of transactional assets (renewable energy credits) which can be traded mutually.

    P2P has undoubtedly certain advantages – Those without solar panels can access renewable energy at a reasonable price; the power need not be from centrally located power plants as there would be losses; it is a direct deal between buyer and seller.  The first such transaction occurred in Booklyn in 2016 – resident with solar panels sold kWh to his neighbour.  Since then there have been number of examples in this regard - LO3 is revolutionising the way energy is shared and distributed;  SonnenCommunity is an exclusive group made up of sonnenBatterie customers; Power Ledger is an Australian technology company that has developed a blockchain; Grid+, Suncontract,  Eemnes Energie  are a few others.

    This has a wider perspective now in view of the international grid discussions.  It will be an ideal situation for even countries to deal with P2P option.

    Hydrogen to replace gasoline as transport fuel looks attractive but, we don’t have natural resources – currently the world’s 70 million tons of hydrogen used in industrial processing is produced by steam methane forming although small amounts are accounted by water.

    However, this option may have to wait for some more time as there are a few issues that deserve serious attention – As of now, expensive; difficult to store; difficult to replace the existing infrastructure; highly flammable.

    ​​​​​​​The alternate is to tap abundant hydrogen from renewables and as I said earlier, this may take some more time before we embark on this option.

    I would say two things in response. One is that I don’t really like the term hydrogen economy. It suggests too much that hydrogen is a silver bullet, whereas we see it as the missing link in the energy transition for ‘greening the molecules’. Its role is mainly complementary to other important contributors like green electricity and energy efficiency. 

    Second, in Europe there is a lot of attention for the regional dimension of hydrogen ecosystems. They call it ‘hydrogen valley’ where ecosystems are built around regional supply/demand/infrastructure value chains. 

    We believe that the keys to a significant hydrogen role in decarbonizing the economy are similar to those relevant to other sectors – e.g., electric vehicles and home heating and cooling.  Policymakers must address the chicken and egg situation, and recognize that all aspects of the supply chain must be improved (cost, efficiency, reliability, safety, etc…) to make a measureable impact.  Moreover, the financial incentives must be implemented at both the federal and state levels using declining models to bring the industry to maturity.

    What could the following questions come to mind what can we learn from today's carbon energy economy?

    Well, we must let people know that it is safe. Stakeholders will need assurance and beyond that we've got incumbents with supply chains with contracts with systems in place with assets and locations as some of it works extremely efficiently costs have been driven out the things in place to make things happen quickly, thinking about the oil and gas networks pipelines storage facilities. transport fleets.

    All of these will be decarbonize but it can be a transition, rather than a overnight disruption, using existing kit, certainly for the gas transmission pipelines repurposing offshore oil and gas facilities, and using some of the locations I think some of them would make good locations for future housing hubs for example thinking of the one ones in East Anglia around Bacton perhaps and here in the northwest, we've got text facilities based around Ellesmere Port. The Stanlow refinery.  So the chemical industry so we've got a good base to build upon it will be a transition, and it will leave reuse in a circular manner; Much of it re-using existing kit.

     

    Okay thinking of how we can design an energy ecosystem markets of the future to allow more sustainable operation.

    I think we're going to design in the net zero option it's by 2050 in the UK on the 30 years way so the net zero element will be designed in, but otherwise I'd be wary of designing and everything centrally, I would let design perhaps just the parameters and then say, Look, you're the industry, you're the developer. You go ahead.; Meet our criteria and everything centrally dictated tends to have come a little bit sour. In the past, and it may be best to set the parameters as the current status is done with the leasing rounds and say this is the net zero aspiration you come up with the plans and will ensure that we are supportive when it comes to things like the planning side and permitting sides of things.

     

    What is the key to make the entity ecosystem more sustainable, what is the role of technology versus human behaviour?

    Any cost reduction exercise and certainly with hydrogen tends to be involve automation. This will continue but that might lead the way for more skilled jobs as the robots need controlling and the facility overlooking. The scale up should also provide employment opportunities.

    I imagine there will be new and high value jobs, overseeing remote operations where possible interventions at suitable time, the operations and maintenance will certainly need people to be trained up it's relatively new the hydrogen economy. It's currently a niche and as it quadruples in size, there will be new jobs on pipelines energy storage some of the valve some of the domestic appliances. Some of the fit outs, and also jobs at the nascent hydrogen hubs as well but there will be considerable automation and urge everybody to keep their skills, up to date, because it will be a fluid as it always is a future with constant innovation.

    Many companies are embracing ‘circular economy’ models and these will be integral into many elements of the hydrogen economy with wider societal benefits resulting from designing in such things as re-usability from the outset

     

    How can a peer to peer energy market influence the hydrogen economy?

    It's already with us the oil and gas companies are using it offshore wind companies just trialling it the financial back office are also using it so it's the incumbents are already using it and reducing financial transaction costs as a result.  The hydrogen industry is ramping up industry and we can expect technologies such as blockchain distributed ledgers, 5G networks, machine learning streaming and encryption will be used for the back -office transmission and data transmission will rapidly increase.

    I would urge people to be aware of its potential influence and ensure their skillset is relevant for the future.

    Michael Khachiki's picture
    Michael Khachiki on Jun 25, 2020

    Charley,

    Thank you for providing the great insight into hydrogen and energy business.

    In your experience what is the safety perception about Hydrogen as a fuel and the gap between perception and reality?

    Considering the current model, you have described “set the target” and “Decentralized design”, has resulted in less than optimum situation, do believe we can improve on this approach?

    Charley Rattan's picture
    Charley Rattan on Jun 25, 2020

    Hi Michael,  a pleasure.

    Yes, I think the Hindenburg with its dramatic footage does rather detract from the mesage. Hydrogen is combustable, but so a re many other things that we control and work wuite happily with.  I do think the current work on safety going on at Keele and elsewhere on safety could be publicised to stakeholders. 

    As for a 'set the target' model this is being used pretty effectiely for offshore wind in the UK.  Being overly prescriptive at the outset can stifle innovation and The Crown Estate has learned lessons over the years. 

    There does need to be strategic level co-ordination as we are talking about national and international infrastructure - but once this in place and standards met I would leave the 'how to do it' elements to those charged with delivering it safely and to budget.

     

    What a fantastic question. Now is the time to really start thinking about this kind of thing!

    1. What can we learn from today’s carbon energy economy?

    We have got very good at shipping dangerous liquids and gasses around safely and have also shown that we can scale (just take a look at the incredible take off of shale gas in North America!). Its that ability to scale safely that makes Hydrogen possible.

    2.  How can we design an energy ecosystem and markets of the future to allow a more sustainable operation?

    Linking in carbon into the supply chain and final use will really matter with Hydrogen. Its highly likely early on that all Hydrogen won't be green and so finding a way to price in the carbon really matters. 

    3. To make the energy ecosystem more sustainable, what is the role of technology vs human behavior?

    Time of use really matter in a Hydrogen economy. Its harder to store and so peak demand needs to be limited.... technology is so much better at smoothing peaks than human behavior. 

    4. How can peer to peer (P2P) energy mark influence the Hydrogen economy?

    I think block chain has some potential here. Somehow with Green/Blue/Black/Brown Hydrogen were going to need to trace through the carbon content of Hydrogen consumed from point of network injection to point of use. I think certification if going to really matter and some kind of blockchain solution could be ideal for this.

     

    Michael Khachiki's picture
    Michael Khachiki on Jun 25, 2020

    John,

    Thank you for the strong response.

    Regarding the time of use response, have you considered the potential to use the existing gas pipeline infrastructure for hydrogen storage and transportation?

    Furthermore, what is your perspective on using hydrogen to balance the renewable energy production and unpredictability?

    What is your thoughts on the role P2P energy trading can play managing energy transactions?

    John Armstrong's picture
    John Armstrong on Jul 22, 2020

    Regarding the time of use response, have you considered the potential to use the existing gas pipeline infrastructure for hydrogen storage and transportation?

    Aboslutely... I think this is possible. There is some interesting studies being done by DNV GL in the uk testing reas gas assets at a testing site called spadeadam - some more info here. I will watch out for the reports and share them. I do believe there are some challenges as Hydrogen molecules are a lot smaller than Methane. In the UK a lot of the gas Network has been switched to plastic so there is a lot of potential. 

    Furthermore, what is your perspective on using hydrogen to balance the renewable energy production and unpredictability?

    I think for storage there may be better mediums. Hydrogen has poor energy density compared to ammonia or even compressed air. As with any storage technoolgy the winner will be the most cost effective and what that will be is still very unclear.

    What is your thoughts on the role P2P energy trading can play managing energy transactions?

    I think whewre P2P might help is with Carbon. I think whats going to become increasinbgly hard is tracking the carbon intensity of what is being used. At the moment Carbon tends to me managed top down (tax/subsidy etc). With improved P2P trading you could start to run personal carbon accounting - buying your own Hydrogen from the greenest place and then evidencing that through the process end to end.

    I do think we need to be careful of declaring things as exciting just bacuse they use blockchain... its much more important to understand the end problem than to start with a solution and no questions!

     

    Gerard Reid's picture
    Gerard Reid on Jun 25, 2020

    Good answers John!

    My thoughts on your questions.  I will attempt to answer each question in order. My thoughts fall into the more radical realm as you will see, and likely will not find favor with the other experts providing answers.

    What can we learn from today's carbon energy economy?

    First, the carbon energy economy has been the province of huge multi-national companies and countries that only have their own interest at heart. Both groups have sought to generate extreme profit to their own benefit without supporting a broader societal benefit that such weath should support. This is a significant cause of the great economic disparity that we see today across the world. Second, the price for extracting and selling the carbon resources has been set in a way that does not recognize the full societal cost of these activities. By analogy, dump your toxic waste in the public waterways for free, and let someone else cover the cost that you should have borne to avoid contamination.  In the carbon world, the result is out of control climate change, and generations of workers who have died due to unsafe work conditions.  Third, the next quarterly report has driven decision making such that maximum profit and lowest cost are the operational mantra. For example, our national electrical grid built to distribute all of the energy generated by the fossil fuels was built as cheaply as possible.  Now the bill is due. Trillions of dollars will need to be spent to update our tired infrastructure to make it safe and efficient. Ultimately, society will need to pay the price for these bad decisions.

    How can we design an energy ecosystem and markets of the future to allow a more sustainable operation?

    We know the answers. We have the engineering skill and the technology to create an energy ecosytem that fully recoginzes all costs with a completely sustainable outcome. Leaving it in the hands of the private sector alone will not get us to solution that we need to see.  We need to see a broad private/public effort to define that future and begin to nove in that direction with specific actions immediately.  Today, every new building can be built to a net zero or near net zero energystandard thought a mix of energy conservation and a range of renewable energy technologies.  World wide building codes need to be updated to mandate that outcome.  Existing buildings can be retrofitted to minimize their existing energy footprint.  On the vehicle side, we need to move swifty to all electric, or hydrogen fuel cell technology.  We need to stop burning all fossil fuels now.  There are certainly areas of research that need to be accelerated such as electrolytic production of hydrogen that gets us as close as possible to an efficiency ratio of one ot one.

    To make the energy ecosystem more sustainable, what is the role of technology vs human behavior?

    Technology for the energy ecosystem is swiftly advancing now. There are many exciting technological energy solutions in the wings that will hit the market in the next couple of years. Properly applied along with maximum energy conservation technologies, we have the real possibility of radically reversing the causes of climate change.  The challenge is having people understand the need and make the necessary commitments to achieve this outcome.  We did it with hydroflourocarbon products when we learned that we had opened up a deadly hole in the atmosphere.  Alomost overnight, the bad products withdrew from the market and new products and technology came forward such that most hardly recall the issue, and what a collective worldwide response can do. We need leadership that can help move all of this forward.  The United States is looked to for leadership world wide. When the leadership does not occur, it is noticed and the world becomes a less better place.

    How can peer to peer (P2P) energy mark influence the Hydrogen economy?

    Hydrogen has a critical role to play in our energy future.  It is one of the most abundant elements, and is easy to produce.  There have been excellent advancements in how to store hydrogen and how to use hydrogen. The vehicle market place across all segments is moving toward highly workable hydrogen fuel options. With focused fuel cell technology and solid state storage of hydrogen in your future gas tank, the concept of pollutionless transportation is not far away.  Consumer demand for this kind of vehicle will help make it clear that this is desired and necessary.  With a bit more work on efficient hydrogen production technology, every "gas" station could make hydrogen on site with cheaper electricity and its existing water supply, and meet what will be an endless demand for their product.  An interesting fact - a gallon of hydrogen has the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline, and is much safer as the fuel of choice to drive transportation requirements forward.

     

     

    Michael Khachiki's picture
    Michael Khachiki on Jun 25, 2020

    Larry,

    This is another excellent response. Could you please expand on your perspective regarding the role P2P energy trading can play in the Hydrogen economy?

    Do you see any parallels in eBay’s influence in retail sector, and P2P in energy sector in context of hydrogen?

    Larry Eisenberg's picture
    Larry Eisenberg on Jun 26, 2020

    Hi Michael: P2P is a very logical idea, and would facilitate the rapid conversion that we need to move to 100% renewable energy system. If I make more energy than I need on my property, why shouldn't my neighbor be able to benefit and share in my cheap and reliable (with storage) energy.  The reality is that our utility regulatory structure is such that most utilities are granted a monopoly to transmit energy within their geographic territory. In many utility monopolies, they are the only ones who can sell energy as well.   In that situation, I can not sell to my neighbor because I violate the terms of the utilities monopoly.  In many cases, I can not even sell to myself if my two properties are on either side of a public road.  Once I am looking outward from my electric meter, the complexity of doing an energy deal increases radically.  Many of our utility companies today are making a conscious effort to suppress on-site private energy  production by providing a sinfully load purchase price for energy sold to the grid.  In turn they sell this energy purchased for a penny or two to their customers for their standard tariff rates. No wonder private utilities are a good investment unless you run your company into the ground by not maintaining your basic infrastructure and causing great damage.  The other issue is that if you do export electricity to the grid for sale to someone down the street, the utility will add their cost of transportation to the sale price.

    As long as I am on the soapbox, I will also add that the idea of buying renewable electricity from a remote location under a wheeling arrangement so that you can claim that you are oh so green is silly.  You are not buying those electrons.  You are just making sure that the national barrel of energy stays full when you use fossil fuel based energy at your location.

    The solution is community based solar and/or wind, preferably on your rooftop or your nieghbor's rooftop with those systems financed and maintained by the utility company with the electrons sold at a price that looks more like local renewable energy than energy transported from some remote power plant.  In that model, P2P is not really necessary. Blockchain is nice, but it is just a secure ledger. There are plenty of 3rd party energy suppliers today who will gladly sell you energy transmitted by your local utility company if state law and regulation allows you access to the 3rd party market.  That solution can save pennies per kWh, but it still will not beat the price of locally generated renewable energy.

    We need to carefully rethink how we support our country with reliable, renewable energy and the utility companies should be leading the way rather than being led into that future kicking and screaming.

    With regard to part 1 of the question, there are two big takeaways.  The first is that price is very important.  The second is that convenience really matters.  The reason that solar and wind were able to make inroads is that the price was subsidized heavily.  This led to negative pricing in some instances.  If the subsidy given to wind generation was 10 cents/Kwhr and the fuel cost is essentially zero, then the operator can bid into the system at negative 10 cents/Kwhr and still break even.  Europe was the first to experience negative pricing, but the US has seen some of this as well.  The reason that we used to burn so much coal was that coal was relatively inexpensive.  Further, the price was stable.  Typically, until the shale revolution, oil and gas were more than 3 times the price of coal on a BTU basis.  With the advent of shale gas, gas is now at least even with coal and sometimes less than coal.  Hence, we have seen an enormous shift to natural gas.  Oil is still at least 3 times coal on a BTU basis.  Less than 1% of electric generation is based on oil. 

    Convenience is the next big factor.  This impacts both the transportation and storage of fuel.  On land, it is convenient to store large quantities of coal.  Provided that shipping costs are not too high, coal can generally be transported economically to most parts of the country.  Gas is more difficult to transport and store.  Substantial pipelines are needed to move large quantities of gas around.  For sea transport, special LNG tankers are needed.  Additional energy must be expended to liquefy the gas.  Oil can be transported and stored relatively easily.  Hence, oil is used for nearly all types of transportation and in those areas such as islands, where other fuels are not available.  Further, personal use is also based on convenience.  There have been many, many efforts to try to get people out of cars.  These include various types of mass transit, diamond lanes, commuter programs, ride-sharing, etc.  Most have not really worked.  It is very difficult to beat the convenience of using your car when you want or need something.  Likewise, demand-side management has not been popular with homeowners.  Even time of day pricing has not been a roaring success.  Thus, programs that fail to appreciate the power of convenience will generally not succeed in terms of market penetration. 

    In terms of designing a system that allows for more sustainable operation, the two factors above must be considered.  That means pricing has to be appropriate and convenience needs to be considered.  Whatever approach is taken will need to address both.  Thus, telling people to turn off or turn down their air conditioners on a hot day will not work.  That is the day when we need those appliances the most.  Providing sufficient low cost energy from sustainable sources will allow people to continue to have air conditioning when they need it.  That gets to the technology part.  To the extent that technology can drive down cost, which can then be translated into lower prices for the consumers, technology can then influence human behavior.  If costs remain high and people are inconvenienced, programs will be unsuccessful.  One thing we should have learned from the financial crisis and the pandemic is that killing the economy is not the ideal way to reduce emissions.  Although emissions were reduced in both cases, the disruption, misery, and stress imposed by a collapsing economy causes much more damage than the emissions that were reduced.  Further, it causes that damage now, rather than sometime in the future.  Thus, policies that damage the economy will not likely be successful.

    Michael Khachiki's picture
    Michael Khachiki on Jun 25, 2020

    Carl,

    You have provided a very in depth response.

    The energy economics is definitely a big factor influencing the energy trajectory. Do you see subsidies being a necessary part of the equation for Hydrogen to delivery its promised potential?

    What is your thought on using the current natural gas pipelines for hydrogen storage and transportation? Do think this will abridge the convenience gap?

    Carl Bozzuto's picture
    Carl Bozzuto on Jul 5, 2020

    Michael,

    I am not a big fan of hydrogen.  A number of the posts below show some potential for use, but some rightfully point out that it is not a silver bullet.  Hydrogen is not a primary fuel.  It has to be made from something else.  That means that hydrogen is thermodynamically disadvantaged.  Further, hydrogen is a small molecule.  It tends to leak through steel pipe.  Care must be taken in the handling, transportation, and use of hydrogen.  For example, hydrogen is used to cool electric generators.  It has a high heat capacity and is small enought to get into the nooks and crannies of a generator.  However, it has to be purified on some regular basis.  Storage has to be well away from the main plant to minimize fire and explosion hazards.  When maintenance has to be done on the generator, the system has to be purged to avoid the chance of fire and explosion hazards that are routinely encountered in major equipment maintenance (welding, sparks, increased temperature, etc.).  Now this is all done routinely in the power industry.  The question is, "At what cost?".  All of these procedures add cost to the production and use of hydrogen.  Hydrogen is used in refineries all the time.  Hydrocracking has been around since at least World War II.  Thus, the learning curve for hydrogen is already in existence and we are already well down the curve.  Thus, I am not optomistic on the potential for the major cost reductions that would be needed for using hydrogen for fuel cells in vehicles.  While so-called "blue gas" is already be touted for fleet vehicles, the infrastructure needed to replace gasoline filling stations with hydrogen filling stations is pretty fabulous.  With regard to using the existing natural gas pipelines for hydrogen transportation, there are already problems with these pipelines for leaks and explosions.  Putting hydrogen into these existing pipelines will only make that situation worse.  Of course, the existing pipes could be replaced with something that is more resistant to hydrogen leaks than what is currently in existence, but that just adds to the cost.  Thus, I come back to a more fundamental question.  What is so compelling about hydrogen that would make us want to subsidize it to the point where it becomes both low cost and convenient to use?  It just seems to me that there are other technologies and approaches that would help us get to a low carbon economy with less cost and more convenience.  That does not mean that hydrogen can't play a role.  The idea of local hydrogen systems may hold some promise.  The chlor-alkali industry generates hydrogen today as a by product.  Most of that hydrogen is not utilized due to the remote location of these plants.  Hydrogen fuel cells could be used directly to make some of the electricity that is consumed in making such chemicals as chlorine and sodium hydroxide.  In summary, it is not that we can't use hydrogen.  It is that hydrogen is not particularly cost effective of convenient to use.

    Hi Michael:

    I've written several papers on Hydrogen's role, and will send you to one (link below), with links to others therein.

    https://energycentral.com/c/ec/hydrogen%E2%80%99s-role

    I believe hydrogen well may play some important roles in the future, but it has some stiff competition.

    In most economies, least-total-cost will determine which technology wins. By "total cast" I mean costs that include future and societal impacts, like those caused by greenhouse gases. I hope that we will evolve to include carbon taxes (including cap and trade) to capture societal costs. 

    The main competitor for hydrogen in many roles is green (very low greenhouse gas) electricity plus batteries. The latter technology is reducing its cost and increasing its longevity at a frightening rate.

    The specific answer to your questions:

    1. Very little - new technologies are totally disruptive.

    2. See the above.

    3. See the post linked below:

     

    4. I believe that distributed energy generation and storage will have a major impact in the future, but I don't see how this will cross paths with hydrogen. 

    -John

    Michael Khachiki's picture
    Michael Khachiki on Jun 25, 2020

    John,

    You have made very big statements regarding leasens learnt from today which can be taken forward. Can you expand on your perspective regarding the link between disruptive nature of hydrogen and why you beleive Carbon economy has very little to offer regarding the way we shape things in the future?

    Very little - new technologies are totally disruptive.  

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