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Seb Kennedy's picture
Founding Editor Energy Flux newsletter

I am professional energy journalist, writer and editor who has been chronicling the renewables and fossil fuel energy sectors since 2008.  I am passionate about the energy transition, so much so...

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  • Apr 1, 2021
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In the hydrogen debate, detractors decry hydrogen’s huge inefficiencies and practical challenges, while supporters see it as nothing short of vital for achieving ‘net zero’. The E3G report seeks to cut through those binary positions to identify realistic use cases while warning against pursuing dead-end options being pushed by vested interests.

The pro-hydrogen narrative is heavily influenced by the natural gas industry. Pipeline owners and regulated gas network operators are keen to maintain utilisation rates and avoid writing down the value of their assets. Regulators almost certainly won’t let them jack up per-unit rates to compensate for fewer volumes flowing through their assets if net zero squeezed demand — so hydrogen ‘blending’ is a great way to shield gas industry incumbents from the economic threat posed by decarbonisation.

Similarly, the blue-versus-green debate is becoming a flashpoint in the fossil-versus-renewables cold war. Upstream operators need to convince capital markets that their prized 2P resources will not be stranded by the net zero push, and subsidised blue hydrogen provides the perfect cover.

North Sea oil and gas lobbyists want to convince government that ‘blue is cheaper than green’ in a bid to secure subsidies for steam methane reformation (SMR) with carbon capture, to convert CH4 into ‘low carbon’ H2. That phrase has caught on, with the UK government conflating blue and green under the misleading umbrella of ‘clean’ hydrogen.

Read more in today's edition of Energy Flux: www.energyflux.news

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 1, 2021

The hope vs. hype is a common theme in hydrogen, where it's being pushed as either silver bullet or complete scam. I think it'll end up fulfilling a role similar to geothermal or hydrogen: key asset where and when it's viable, but not necessarily scalable everywhere for a number of reasons. 

The real challenge is the timing, since the benefits that would likely come from hydrogen are needed now and waiting a decade or two is simply too long for clean energy action. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 1, 2021

"The pro-hydrogen narrative is heavily influenced by the natural gas industry. Pipeline owners and regulated gas network operators are keen to maintain utilisation rates and avoid writing down the value of their assets. Regulators almost certainly won’t let them jack up per-unit rates to compensate for fewer volumes flowing through their assets if net zero squeezed demand — so hydrogen ‘blending’ is a great way to shield gas industry incumbents from the economic threat posed by decarbonisation."

Seb, I've never seen it summed up so well. Your description cuts to the core of why we're even considering this volatile, low-density element, one that in its pure form is non-existent in nature, as a viable source of energy.

Hydrogen is all about selling more natural gas - 100% hype.

Shell Aims to Be the World's Biggest Electric Producer, Using Natural Gas?

Seb Kennedy's picture
Seb Kennedy on Apr 2, 2021

High praise, thank you Bob!

I disagree that it is 100% hype (maybe 80-90%!). As mentioned in the article, green hydrogen clusters near offshore wind farms are perhaps the best - or even only - feasible way of decarbonising heavy industry (steel, cement among others). No other application of hydrogen appears convincing. Nor is CCUS - an investment with a tail risk that is longer than even that of nuclear, with its spent fuel liabilities.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 2, 2021

Seb, the "green hydrogen clusters" near offshore wind platforms are more likely gas drilling platforms, where gas is extracted then converted to fake "green" hydrogen. As somewhat of an expert in poking holes in deceptions of the oil and natural gas industries, I'm quite certain that is what's going on here.

In California we have massive solar farms (Eland I & 2 are two), erected next to massive battery installations, to create the impression clean solar electricity is being stored then added to the grid mix. The batteries are not being charged by the solar farm, however - they're being charged overnight, from a grid mix of primarily gas-fired electricity. Storing it is a two-step process that wastes 20-30% of the energy as heat, resulting in electricity coming from the batteries that is 20-30% "dirtier" than generating gas-fired energy straight to the grid - even though the batteries are sitting right next to a solar farm.

Creative though these swindles may be, swindles they remain.

The "tail risk" of spent nuclear fuel has been wildly exaggerated by those who stand to benefit from closing nuclear plants. Both its quantity and dangers are next-to-nothing compared to every other form of dispatchable energy (there is no record of anyone being harmed by nuclear waste).

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Apr 5, 2021

The scam is the product of the green energy movement, not the natural gas industry. Green energy is unreliable and intermittent  while not particularly suitable for grid reliability. In order to get around that defect, the green scammers are pushing batteries and hydrogen to store their product for use by the grid when the energy is needed. Both of those options further drive up the cost of green energy. 
 

From a thermodynamic standpoint, creating energy from hydrogen is not efficient and makes little economic sense. Clearly, this scam is being aided and abetted by politicians who get a lot of re-election money from the green energy mafia. Industry and utilities are complacent in the scam because they can sell equipment and products by going along. I rather doubt the gas pipeline folks are that involved as they already do quite well, particularly with US liquefied natural gas being sold in huge amounts overseas.

In my view, the article is pretty shallow and more consistent with the deliberate mis-direction frequently used by the green energy mafia to deflect shinning the light of truth away from their widespread corruption.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 5, 2021

"The scam is the product of the green energy movement."

Hydrogen from natural gas is a product of oil company marketing, Michael. The duplicitous green energy movement recognized their role in selling the scam to consumers - and the profit potential therefrom.

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