Pathway 2045 (5)

Here are links to Part 1Part 2,   Part 3, and Part 4~ctm

This is the fifth of 6 parts of a discussion of SoCalEd’s plan to decarbonize California by 2045. This fourth ‘building block’ in SoCalEd’s Roadmap 2045 is a move to low carbon fuels.

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The details below this graphic explain it better:

–50% reduction in natural gas consumption

–40% of rest is biomethane or hydrogen

–20% of heavy trucks are powered by hydrogen

Lets tackle those three ‘low carbon fuel’ points in reverse order.

Heavy delivery hydrogen powered trucks

20% of heavy trucks powered by hydrogen is technical nonsense contrary to SoCalEd’s own point two. See my essay Hydrogen Hype in ebook Blowing Smoke for details of hydrogen’s many problems.

In sum, hydrogen is very difficult to store, and is only an energy intermediary (because it is made from water or methane, as any free hydrogen escaped the atmosphere billions of years ago).

Most commercial hydrogen is produced by steam reformation of methane. On net energy grounds we are better off from a CO2 perspective ‘burning’ natural gas rather than converting it to hydrogen.

Hydrogen from water electrolysis has a theoretical efficiency of 88%, but practical efficiency is about 75%. Four percent of commercial hydrogen is produced by electrolysis today. Using electricity from renewables to produce hydrogen and then using the hydrogen in fuel cells at about 60% efficiency is theoretically possible for electrified heavy trucks, but the net useful energy is only (0.75*0.6) 45% of the starting renewable electricity.

The BIG (pun intended) problem with hydrogen powered heavy trucks is its fuel cell. The big physical difficulty is size and weight, never mind cost. A typical class 8 OTR ’18 wheeler’ truck tractor is about 600Hp (needed to get over the Rockies and Appalachians), or about 450 Kw. A Ballard 100Kw PEM fuel cell for city buses (SOFC cannot be thermally cycled on/off because of heat stress cracking) has the rough dimensions 1.2m x 0.9m x 0.5m and weighs 285Kg. Its cooling system is 0.7m x 0.5m x 0.4m and weighs 44Kg. Ballard’s 60Kw PEM is 1.1m x 0.9m x 0.5m. A class 8 tractor would need four 100Kw plus one 60Kw PEMs. Ignoring cooling, that is a minimum fuel cell space requirement of 5.9m x 4.5m x 2.5m! Is all cell, no truck—doesn’t fit. And the thing would also weigh at least 1.4 metric tons

Lest this seem a bit unfair to SoCalEd’s vision, perhaps they meant the typical integrated class 7 ‘box van’ delivery truck, usually a cab over diesel design at about 250Hp, or about 185Kw. Two of the Ballard 100kw PEMs would suffice. Minimum space required (again ignoring cooling) is ‘only’ 2.4m x 1.8m x 1m. Still doesn’t fit.

In sum hydrogen powered trucks are apparently not possible.

40% of natural gas is replaced by biomethane or hydrogen

This second part has two separate claims.

The hydrogen claim was already refuted above. Replacing natural gas with hydrogen from steam reformation makes the CO2 ‘problem’ worse. Replacing natural gas with renewable electrolysis hydrogen wastes 25% of the electricity; we are better off without conversion.

That leaves biomethane.

Methanogen bacteria ingest hydrocarbons and excrete methane. True in ruminant stomachs and in landfills. So the basic SoCalEd question becomes how to usefully capture meaningful quantities of biomethane? Obviously not from cow farts.

There are hundreds of landfill methane extraction facilities that use the methane from garbage decomposition to produce electricity using spark ignited diesel engines. There is a large one near my Chicagoland townhome, located along Willow Road west of the Lake. Google Earth will take you there. The top of the big old landfill is now Willow Hill Golf Course. Methane collection wells dot the sloped sides; two Caterpillar spark ignited diesel generators are housed in the structure at the entrance off Willow Road.

But biomethane from garbage and sewage decomposition is limited in quantity both by source material and by production time perspectives, as digestion is a fairly slow process. It is possible to range the supply magnitude problem. SoCalGas is the largest natural gas utility in California. It has 20.9 million customers. Seventy percent on 40% biomethane is ‘only’ 5.85 million customers supplied with biomethane. Nope.

50% reduction in building natural gas consumption

Utility natural gas is mostly for CCGT. SoCalEd likes lots of renewables, but will need natural gas for backup generation. With enough renewables and backup this aspiration might be possible.

Residential natural gas is mostly for heating and hot water. Those functions could be electrified, but at great cost to the building owners and no cost to SoCalEd, same problem as with electrified vehicles (see previous parts 3 and 4). The grid would have an even larger ‘decarbonized electricity’ set of virtually insurmountable renewables problems.

So even though the low carbon fuels figure is big, pretty and green, it is comprised of newly found elements from SoCal’s periodic table: impossibilium and hopium.

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43 thoughts on “Pathway 2045 (5)

  1. So even though the low carbon fuels figure is big, pretty and green, it is comprised of newly found elements from SoCal’s periodic table: impossibilium and hopium.

    “Now that right there, that’s funny.”….or at least it would be if I wasn’t a California rate payer.

    • SoCal also assumes efficiencies from renewables that could only be achieved by using the element, unobtainium.

  2. So even though the low carbon fuels figure is big, pretty and green, it is comprised of newly found elements from SoCal’s periodic table: impossibilium and hopium.

    “Now that right there, that’s funny.”….or at least it would be if I wasn’t a California rate payer.

  3. Ammonia is receiving a lot of attention as a fuel for large ships. link It can be produced using electricity so, using green arithmetic, it doesn’t have to involve fossil fuels. Large ocean vessels use two stroke diesel engines which can burn ammonia and that probably explains the shipping industry’s interest. For sure, they aren’t interested in fuel cells.

    • Synthetic Ammonia suffers from the same losses as electrolytic H2 because that’s where it starts, so more so. Probably a biocrude with limited upgrading is the best option, potentially competitive with other low Sulphur options.

  4. a 100 kw unit occupies 1.2m x 0.9m x 0.5m so 4 x100 kw unit occupy 1.2m x 0.9m x 1m
    something upwith youtr mathematics

  5. Thanks Rud!
    Further evidence the engineers and cost analysis experts were thrown out of the room when the utopian Pathway 2045 was ‘visualized’ and inscribed in the holey Green Book.

  6. Seems that “green energy” is the hopium of the masses.

    I wonder whether the fuel cell in this post includes the storage of the Hydrogen? If not then hydrogen powered vehicles become even less feasible.

    • No. This comparison was strictly the current commercial PeM fuel cells. No cooling (although I gave a size) and no hydrogen storage volume. Those issues were covered at length in my referenced ebook essay. Once you have proved something is impossible, proving it three times over does not strengthen the proof. Regards.

      • Rud,
        Double check the math.
        A 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.5 fuel cell for 100kW if doubled would only double one dimension
        Doubling up on the single unit would be 2.4m x 0.9m x 0.5m or 1.2m x 1.8m x 0.5m
        Redoubling would either double two of the dimensions or quadruple one of them

        • Ok lets just rack em and stack em, still ignoring cooling and hydrogen storage. 1.2*4+1.1 still equals 5.9 x 0.9 x 0.5. Slice and dice that volume any way you wish, still does not fit a heavy truck tractor diesel compartment. And, the ddirionally noted weight problem is simply additive.

          • But 1.2m x 4.1m x 0.5m (3’11” x 13’5″ x 1’7″) would fit under the trailer or even under a typical 22′ Semi Tractor. Although I can’t speak for the weight though or cooling requirements.
            Teslas ModelS comes in 85 kWh and 100 kWh variations.
            The 85 kWh battery pack weighs 1,200 lb (540 kg) and contains 7,104 lithium-ion battery cells while the 100kWh battery has 8256 cells and weighs about 8.6% more.
            The 85kWh pack would require 5 units and would weigh 6000 pounds.
            I still wouldn’t necessarily trust one to not explode like the other Teslas do

          • Slightly reconfigured, 2-100kWh cells fit in the current engine compartment and weigh the same as a Cummings diesel engine and 2-100kWh fit in the same area as the dual 38″ x 24″d round fuel tanks leaving the smaller one placed in the frame behind the cab near the 5th wheel hitch.

          • Bryan –> Not sure you’ll get enough space in the engine compartment. You’re going to need electric motor(s) to drive compressors for air, air conditioning, hydraulics for wheel motors, etc. There are a lot of things hanging off the actual engine that will still need to be there.

          • The electric motors would reside in the rear portion next to or directly attached to the rear drive wheels, eliminating the need for the added 1000lb transmission. Adding additional battery packs in the bed of the trailers would actually provide in greased range. If 4 fits in a 13′-7″ run then the typical 50’+ trailer could fit 15 or 16 100kWh packs.
            I wouldn’t recommend stacking the packs though as the cooling mechanics might not function as intended if they’re stacked without some space.

    • Rud re Truck Fuel Cells.
      Hyundai indicates a similar 1.5 tons for fuel cells vs 8 tons for batteries for a Class 8 truck with 311 mile range.
      Hyundai, Nikola and Toyota Start to Build the Hydrogen Highway
      https://www.trucks.com/2019/11/12/hyundai-nikola-toyota-build-hydrogen-highway/

      HEAVY BATTERIES
      A truck in the heaviest Class 8 truck weight segment requires about 8 tons of batteries to have a 311-mile range, Kim said. A hydrogen system – including the fuel cell stack and tanks – weighs about 1.5 tons.
      “It will have less weight so you can put more cargo on the truck,” he said. That translates into higher profits.
      Since refueling takes about the same amount of time as filling a diesel truck – much shorter than charging batteries – savings can be seen with faster delivery times.

      • Most large over-the-road trucks are limited in weight and length by state regulations.

        So 8 tons of batteries is 8 tons of cargo that can’t be carried. Same for the fuel cells plus hydrogen storage.

    • Tony, I was involved in the design of a hybrid city transit bus called the ATTB. It ran on CNG with electric wheel motors. I was tasked with looking at fuel cell technology to replace the GNG electrical generation system. It was laughable. It filled about 2/3 of the bus. The sizes seems to have come down somewhat, but still not enough to be practical.
      And BTW you still need to carry around fuel to make the H2, because any long term storage and transportation of H2 is very impractical for even large scale city programs. Currently I might put the TRL (technology readiness level) at 7 or 8. TRL 1 is common usage in the field. TRL 10 is wishful thinking.
      TRL 7 is when they’ve made some laboratory prototype system which will take years of development before its able to be economical or safely set free into public.

  7. Does SoCal Edison include any engineers at all in preparing its design plans for the future?

    It seems that even the most basic evaluations destroy their scenarios.

  8. @Rub Istvan, much as I admire the breadth and depth of your knowledge on a wide variety of subjects, it really grates to see a technical discussion where the writer does not know how to write units correctly. It really undermines the credibility of the article.

    kilogram = kg
    kilowatt = kW

    Please consider correcting, it would make the article look a lot better.

  9. How can we encourage California to secede from the USA? I’m not sure Mexico would take them and as an independent country our idiot politicians would probably give them foreign aid. And how to save some of northern California?

    • I live in CA, JimG1. Up until about 1980, CA alternated between Dem and Rep governors and governments. During the Reagan presidency, the first large tranche of illegal migrants were given green cards. Nearly half of them settled in CA.

      A similar thing happened after group 2. And now we have group 3 clamoring for green cards. The Central Valley has been transformed to accommodate them.

      Of the 40 million people living in CA, about 10 million derive from people who originally came illegally across the border. A large majority of them vote Dem. That’s given the Dems a lock on state elections and on most of the cities. The rest is history. Now, because the Dems have gone insane, so has CA politics.

      It’s not that CA is demented, then. It’s that CA has been subverted by large-scale inclusion of people who vote the party that gives them services. If we survive that, the people who’ve come to CA will eventually absorb American civic culture and become more independent in their thinking and voting. But that will take at least 3 generations. That means a slow return to sanity by about 2050 or so.

      But it also requires no more illegal immigration and no more green card hand-outs to massive groups of people who have forced their way into the US.

    • JimG1, It’s mostly the middle of CA that has gone bonkers and needs a time out. In SoCal, where I live, we aren’t so kooky.
      More power shut downs in the Bay area ought to wake them up some.

  10. The post is generous in its attribution of losses to the H2 supply chain. There are also losses in compression for distribution and storage, dispensing, the on-board electricity system etc. Usually it quoted as the low 20%s getting from generator to road. Probably worse than refinery to road for mineral fuels. All electric is around 60%.

    • Correct. As commented above, was covered in my referenced ebook essay. But once you have killed something, killing it again and again is a waste of bullets. KISS principle.

  11. I am not familiar with a spark ignited diesel engine. I must have missed something as I have been retired 7 years now as an engine engineer. Can someone bring me up to date on this. Seems to me that the methane and air will be a premixed charge utilizing spark ignition without any diesel characteristics.

    • Look up Mazda’s technology https://www.mazda.com/en/innovation/technology/skyactiv/
      The use variable valve timing to use the Atkinson cycle , diesel compression ratios, a centerfire sparkplug and fuel injection to control the ignition point. It’s essentially a high performance diesel engine with a controlled firing of the ignition point, instead of depending a randomly variable firing point in a classic diesel.
      The result is an engine with diesel efficiency, using cheaper gasoline, and getting very high gas mileage- very close to the best standard diesels. There is no reason this couldn’t be adapted to natural gas. Nat gas might displace too much of the air in the intake though.

      • “The result is an engine with diesel efficiency, using cheaper gasoline, and getting very high gas mileage- very close to the best standard diesels.”

        And a cleaner exhaust.

      • Not much info in that link. The engine described in the link seems to be potential and not actual. Are the engines described by Rud as “Caterpillar spark ignited diesel generators” the type of engine described in the link?
        The auto ignition temp of methane is much higher than diesel so it would autoignite later in the cycle than diesel. If this is a premixed mixture then the combustion would occur rapidly. Not sure how this is advantageous. If diffusion then how do you get any meaningful amount of methane injected in a short time frame to make any useful power? Is the combustion premixed with a traveling flame front or is it diffusion flame?
        I think the engines described by Rud may be diesel engines converted to run on methane.

  12. There is also unobtanium that they might trying to make use of if only they could obtain it. The best way to reduce fossil fuel usage is to replace aging fossil fuel power plants with nuclear fueled power plants. But the reality is that, despite the hype, there is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate and there is plenty of scientific rationale to support the idea that the climate sensitivity of CO2 is zero.

  13. The reason SoCalEd can publish this rubbish is because they figure in 26 years no one will remember such garbage. The same old tactic now the Climate Scam employs — pick a target date far enough out so one today will have to suffer the professional embarrassment of the failures.

  14. Methanol fuel is made from fossils fuels and could be made from renewables.
    California was rapidly developing flex fuel vehicles including methanol. Then greens stopped it. Now China is rapidly increasing use of methanol for fuel. See:
    Methanol Fuel Blending in China

    •Methanol consumption increased to 69.5 MMTs in 2017
    •Total Fuel Application (Direct Fuel, DME, MTBE) accounting for 25% of the total
    consumption in 2017

  15. this is how stupid its getting.
    WABTEC (who bought GE locomotive last year) is sinking 30M $ or so ( over half paid by taxpayers in San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District) for a li-ion powered battery locomotive which must be paired with a diesel.
    will use approx 20,000 batteries, can power the unit (4400hp) for 40 minutes, and takes 4 to 8 hours to recharge.
    http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2019/09/24-wabtec-has-high-hopes-for-battery-electric-road-unit

  16. Landfill methane projects have been failures because of two major issues:

    1. Poor quality gas. Methane is mixed with CO2 and other non-combustible gasses, which makes running generators (usually natural gas fired engines) inefficient. What really kills though is the presence of siloxanes, which is found in common cosmetics. Siloxane destroy engines, requiring rebuilds or a filtration system to remove them from the gas stream.

    2. Bacteria that makes the gas need water. Water in landfills creates leachate (garbage juice) which contaminates the ground water. To stop contamination, the landfill needs to be ‘capped’, which restricts water penetration. Bacteria dies and no more methane production.

    #2 is happening at a landfill near me. The much ballyhooed methane capture system that was installed in the ’90s was abandoned in 2010. The landfill is currently being capped as it is spilling contaminates into an adjacent river.

  17. Two new discoveries could fairly quickly lead to solar electricity at around 1/3rd the current cost of electricity.

    The average efficiency of a commercial solar panel is between 11 and 22 percent. One new device could boost that to 80 percent. That would make solar about one-third the cost of fossil fuels and the markets will switch to solar by themselves.

    A new Device That Channels Heat Into Light Could Boost Solar Cell Efficiency to 80%
    https://www.sciencealert.com/device-that-channels-heat-into-light-could-boost-solar-efficiency-to-80-percent

    There is another lead that may produce 95% efficiency from solar.
    Secrets of fluorescent microalgae could lead to super-efficient solar cells
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/05/190509112258.htm

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