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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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  • Dec 19, 2020
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Protos plastic to hydrogen site progresses

Powerhouse Energy Group yesterday (17th Dec) said that Peel L&P Environmental has started the initial ground works at its first commercial DMG® plant at Protos,...

 

 

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

“I am looking forward to the next year as the opportunity for Powerhouse continues to grow and our clean energy technology can become part of the solution to air pollution and waste plastic”.

Charley, below is a schematic of DMG's "clean energy technology":

See the light gray arrow, labeled "Cleaned Exhaust Gases" coming up from the green box? Those exhaust gases are carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) - all potent greenhouse gases. They are the ultimate byproducts of recovery of  hydrogen from any hydrocarbon-based material, including waste plastics (polystyrene, polypropylene, low-density polyethylene).

Even though most consider plastic bottles pollution, in a landfill they can last for hundreds or thousands of years, and actually serve to sequester fossil fuel carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. They're one of the few uses of extracted oil without a significant impact on climate.

Emitting those exhaust gases using the DMG process does have a significant effect on climate, however, making it hardly a "clean energy technology" - it's worse than burning coal to make electricity.

Bottom line: any hydrogen from hydrocarbons is Just. Another. Fossil. Fuel. In the case, a particularly pernicious one.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 21, 2020

Even though most consider plastic bottles pollution, in a landfill they can last for hundreds or thousands of years, and actually serve to sequester fossil fuel carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. They're one of the few uses of extracted oil without a significant impact on climate.

Not sure we want to advocate for keeping plastic production going to landfills as any sort of sequestration solution. From Columbia University:

Plastic not only poses an immense pollution problem—it also exacerbates climate change. The CIEL report warns that the greenhouse gas emissions from plastic jeopardize our ability to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5˚C. If plastic production stays on its current trajectory, by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach 1.34 billion tons per year, equivalent to the emissions produced by 300 new 500MW coal-fired power plants. This is because more than 99 percent of plastics are made from fossil fuels, both natural gas and crude oil—and because plastic results in greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle.

And specific to end of life, landfill and incineration are both climate issues:

After it’s used, plastic is incinerated, recycled or ends up in a landfill.

Carbon from the fossil fuel feedstock is locked into plastic products and emitted when plastic is incinerated or decomposes. In 2015, 25 percent of global plastic waste was incinerated; in the U.S., emissions from plastic incineration were equivalent to 5.9 million metric tons of CO2, equivalent to the emissions from heating 681,000 homes for a year.

Only about 8.4 percent of plastic is recycled. But, according to scientists from UC Santa Barbara, even recycling plastic produces greenhouse gas emissions, as fossil fuels are combusted to run the machines that shred plastic waste and heat it up to make other products.

Plastics in the environment, such as those that persist in landfills and litter coastlines all over the world, have been found by University of Hawaii researchers to release the greenhouse gases methane and ethylene when sunlight hits them; moreover, emissions from plastic on the ocean surface increase as the plastic breaks down

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 21, 2020

Matt, you present a false dichotomy. We can both limit new plastic production, and avoid digging up sequestered plastic and burning it (analogous to digging up other sequestered hydrocarbons - coal and oil - and burning them).

"...have been found by University of Hawaii researchers to release the greenhouse gases methane and ethylene when sunlight hits them..."

Another good reason to leave buried plastics underground.

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