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Release the Crackers

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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant, Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

  • Member since 2013
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  • Sep 22, 2020

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This paper will investigate why ammonia is probably the best carrier for hydrogen, possibly can be used directly as a fuel, and the latest developments in ammonia technology including crackers.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 22, 2020

Thank you for the amazing thought you inspired of this guy moonlighting at an Ammonia production plant-- I love it!

And thanks, more importantly, for the really informative post

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Sep 22, 2020

Thanks for your comment.

The  kraken certainly has enough arms for it, but he may have trouble getting a grip on the ammonia molecules, not to mention the hydrogen atoms.




Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 22, 2020

"Hydrogen and ammonia will probably play important roles in our future evolution to a GHG-free economy."

"The Haber–Bosch process is a reaction between hydrogen and nitrogen at an elevated temperature (840 °F) and high pressure (1,500 psi)."

"In gaseous form compressed hydrogen is transported in bundles of long cylindrical tanks, installed on trailers."

"According to the release, the worlds’ largest green hydrogen project will supply 650 tons of carbon-free hydrogen for transportation globally..."

" uncommon waste-to-fuel process is planned and one that can convert that material into biogas"

"...It will be gasified at temperatures of 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit before getting transformed into hydrogen"

I'm anxious to hear about the GHG-free Haber-Bosch process, GHG-free trailers, GHG-free hydrogen compression, GHG-free waste-to-fuel process, GHG-free global transport, and GHG-free gasification at temperatures of 7,000°F that will be used to make the hydrogen to power your GHG-free economy, John. Can you provide details?

Below: a tanker carrying hydrogen. One day, we are assured, it will be a GHG-free fuel.

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Sep 23, 2020

Hi Bob:

Right now nothing is "greenhouse gas free" and will not be for several decades. This is why I try to avoid using this term, preferring "very low GHG" when describing processes or products (although I occasionally might slip, and I'm sure the occasional quote might use it). By very low GHG I mean the process or product is implemented/produced with as low a GHG as is currently reasonably achievable.

I'm a stickler for what it means to be GHG-free - it means that no energy or materials used for a product or process created any GHG in their creation, and this includes transportation and lower tier components. I am OK with some small amount of GHG so used being balanced out via properly certified offsets.


Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 24, 2020

John, at this moment Diablo Canyon (nuclear) Power Plant is generating 2.2 billion watts of electricity that is, indeed, GHG-free. It's been doing that for 35 years. Nothing else comes close.

With hydrogen we're way, way ahead of ourselves in assuming it isn't dirtier than burning gasoline, or even coal. When the energy requirements needed to electrolyze, pump, ship, refrigerate, and compress hydrogen to be useful for public consumption are included, there's little to support the excitement about hydrogen other than excitement itself. It really does not make sense.

The first step should be to perform a full well-to-wheels (W2W) energy pathway analysis for hydrogen from wind. Currently, according to Argonne National Laboratory's GREET (Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Technologies) model, a modern high-compression, internal-combustion engine fueled by a 90/10 mix of gasoline/ethanol generates fewer W2W emissions than a similar vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell! The devil is in the details, and the fact no one has performed such an analysis leads me to believe it's 100% hype, designed to appeal to green sensibilities, to sell fake solutions to naïve customers. Snake oil.

Honestly, I wouldn't care if it wasn't the world my kids will have to inhabit - buyer beware, and all - but it is.

John Benson's picture
John Benson on Sep 24, 2020

Hi Bob:

And how much GHG did it take to build Diablo? Plenty, More to the point, how much will take to build NuScale's first reactor? Ditto.

Also what provides Diablo's emergency backup and black-start power? Diesels. I would guess that NuScale would also use diesels. for the same function. I would assuming it's built before 2030. Although they might fuel them using biodiesel (ditto Diablo, if the NRC is OK with this). If you will remember, I am a former BWR engineer, and I can think of many processes where the NuScale reactor will need to generate GHG.

As I said, we are decades away from net zero, and we have many small steps to take before that.

Read the post below:



Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 24, 2020

John - where does this "net zero" creature live? Like a unicorn, a jabberwocky, or any other mythical animal, it doesn't exist. No one, nowhere, has successfully sequestered more CO2 than that emitted by the sequestration facility itself - much less, the 37 billion tons of carbon humans expel into the atmosphere each year.

"Net zero" makes even less sense than trying to power a grid with windmills and solar panels - and that's a pretty low bar.

"I am a former BWR engineer, and I can think of many processes where the NuScale reactor will need to generate GHG."

Admittedly, I'm not that familiar with the nuts and bolts of a NuScale Reactor Module (below), so as a former BWR engineer: please explain to me where the GHGs come out. I've looked and looked, but I can't find the exhaust pipe!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 25, 2020

It seems like John's point is you're asking for the well-to-wheel analysis on hydrogen and build in the emissions associated with equipment, transportation, manufacturing, etc. and that's more than fair, but does it not mean you should also look at the well-to-wheel analysis of any NuScale reactor as well-- any concrete needed, any manufacturing processes, etc.? If we're comparing apples-to-apples then embedded emissions should be counted for both. It may very well be that NuScale still wins out in a landslide, but to make that point the comparison should be consistent. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Sep 25, 2020

Matt, if I need to prove the NuScale reactor will never "need to generate GHG", or even "can generate GHG", I'm wasting my time. Really. And it's par for the course for renewables advocacy - bury the discussion in an avalanche of obfuscation and redirection in order to support an ideological, non-science-based point of view.

"But who is 'Bob Meinetz' anyway?" they might say. "Though he painstakingly reference his facts, who's to say his references are accurate?"

Fair enough, I say. Let's defer to the experts - top climate scientists, like the director of the Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions program at Columbia University's Earth Institute, Dr. James Hansen. Or Kerry Emanuel of MIT, or Ken Caldiera of Carnegie-Mellon. What do they say?

"Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change."

Translation: whatever the environmental impact of a NuScale reactor (or any reactor) might be, nuclear energy wins out in a landslide.

John Benson's picture
Thank John for the Post!
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