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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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  • May 30, 2020

The world’s first integrated power-to-X-to-power hydrogen gas turbine demonstrator.


The implementation of this project, the world’s very first industrial-scale power-to-X-to-power demonstrator with an advanced hydrogen turbine, will be launched at Smurfit Kappa PRF’s site — a company specialized in manufacturing recycled paper — in Saillat-sur-Vienne, France. The purpose of this project is to prove that hydrogen can be produced and stored from renewable electricity and then added with up to 100% to the natural gas currently used with combined heat and power plants. For this an existing Siemens SGT-400 industrial gas turbine will be upgraded to convert stored hydrogen into electricity and thermal energy.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 30, 2020

Charley, your inclusion of an article from Chemical Engineering - a respected, objective source, is appreciated. A lot of noise in hydrogen blogosphere, most of it from entities which stand to make a lot of money from selling hydrogen, with less regard for whether it is truly "green" throughout the supply / manufacturing / distribution chain.

From the article:

"During two demonstration campaigns, the facility will be powered by a mix of natural gas and hydrogen, ultimately aiming for up to 100% hydrogen operation. In this regard, the overall goal of the HyflexPower project is to test an entirely green hydrogen-based power supply for a completely carbon-free energy mix. This would save up to 65,000 tons of CO2per year for a SGT-400 at baseload operation."

1) "Up to 100% hydrogen operation...ultimately aiming..." are problematic. Will anyone really know whether the mix is 1% or 100%, other than the people who are selling the hydrogen/methane mix? Will hundreds of $millions be spent by electricity customers on machinery that can only save 650 tons of CO2/yr?

2) Let's assume 100% green hydrogen as a fuel source is achievable - the best possible scenario - and the SGT-400 can save up to 65,000 tons of CO2.

65,000 tons is nothing. In a world emitting 37,000,000,000 metric tonsCO2e/yr, it would require 569,230 of these systems, working at 100% capacity factor, to end global fossil fuel consumption. It would require an investment of $5.7 trillion just for SGT-400s - not including wind turbines, maintenance, or transmission sufficient to guarantee grids relying on hydrogen as a source of power will *never* run out of hydrogen. So that hospitals, schools, government could continue to function.

Before a dime of taxpayer / ratepayer money is spent on green hydrogen, someone needs to do a thorough cost accounting of whether it could possibly pay off. And I don't mean for vendors of the equipment or the fuel - they'll make out like bandits, even if it falls flat on its face. I mean for the environment, because making more renewable-things-that-look-green-but aren't is no longer an option.

Why is no one doing that accounting...are they afraid of discovering it's a hopeless fantasy?

Charley Rattan's picture
Charley Rattan on Jun 1, 2020

Thanks Bob,

I'm sure the financial viability of the technolgy will be uppermost in potential investors minds.  Surely promoting innovation is a postitive step forward?

Early support can be most effective for example, for offshore wind, often against incumbant advice, led to a flourishing sector here in the UK - one which many countries are keen to follow.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jun 1, 2020

Charley, I'm not aware of anyone opposed to offshore wind electricity to help offset natural gas/coal generation.. Donald Trump opposed it because he thought the turbines spoiled the view from his golf course, but who cares?

Hydrogen is a different story.

It's important to remember we're assuming the day will come when hydrogen will replace natural gas - not 1%, not 10%, but 100%. So we can start by figuring out the cost of ten times as many wind turbines to generate hydrogen for nighttime / cloudy weather, if electricity from the ones currently installed will be powering the grid (they can't do both).

Why ten times? Converting wind electricity to hydrogen and back again is at best ~10% efficient. And there are no guarantees: if the wind stops blowing and you run out of hydrogen, the grid goes down. Kaput.

A statistical model / cost analysis of how a system might work is not rocket science. Take data for wind power output in England - Wales, and do the math:

That's the first step. Otherwise, consumers will be paying for a system that delivers 99% North Sea methane to their homes, not hydrogen, and it will be too late to do anything about it.

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