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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 22, 2021

The big question I always come away with when looking at the excitement and potential for hydrogen is timing. Do you think hydrogen will be able to scale up and have the demand for it in the timeframe needed to really influence the wider grid? What sort of timing do you think we're looking out before it will really hit the commercial market forces? 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 22, 2021

"Although hydrogen is the most common element in the universe, and its potential as a fuel source has been well understood for decades..."

Nicole, it's disappointing, in 2021, to read marketing sponsored by oil/gas consultancy Enverus distributed as impartial, factual reporting - especially coming from Idaho National Laboratory.

The "Hydrogen Express" author Magill and his company would like us to believe our entire country is ready to jump aboard is burning steam-reformed methane, and leading us over a cliff of dependence on methane for decades to come.

• No energy expert is "looking to hydrogen as a significant part of America’s low-carbon future", or has ever considered it a viable source of clean energy.
• Though hydrogen is indeed the most common element in the universe, pure hydrogen from natural sources is second only to plutonium as the rarest element on Earth. For all practical purposes, it doesn't exist.
• 95% of hydrogen is made from methane. It's fossil fuel, on which a fake green smiley-face has been painted.

Stephen  Roloff's picture
Stephen Roloff on Feb 26, 2021

Bob's exactly right. Hydrogen is the latest energy storage panacea fad, now that Lithium Ion is showing its downside.

At a high level, there seem to be two general approaches toward decarbonization in the energy transition, 1) the electrification of everything through scaling mostly existing technologies, as advocated by folks like Mark Jacobson and Saul Griffith, and 2) look to hydrogen as a cure-all.

The Europeans missed out on the first energy innovation wave, so they're all in on attempting to lead on hydrogen. While green hydrogen sounds great in theory, it is decades away from economic viability, and its tiny molecules mean that natural gas infrastructure can't be repurposed.  Beyond all that, hydrogen is just too lossy, with efficiency declining at every step in the value chain. In one example, automotive, overall efficiency is 25-35% vs 70-90% for electric vehicles. http://ehcar.net/news/news2020-04-062.htm

Hydrogen is a critical chemical feedstock; over half of global production goes to making ammonia, and half of global agriculture is dependent on ammonia-based fertilizers. And as Bob points out, almost all of it currently comes from SMR with no carbon capture.

Hydrogen will have applications in the energy transition, mostly those that can't easily be electrified. If produced locally, there will be a few industrial applications to explore (e.g. blast furnaces) but the efficiency losses make it an ineffective source of heat. There would also be value in long-term strategic storage for grid backup.




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