How green hydrogen can become cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels

UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

Research News

Engineers from UNSW Sydney have crunched the numbers on green hydrogen production costs to reveal that Australia is in prime position to take advantage of the green hydrogen revolution, with its great solar resource and potential for export.

The researchers identified the key factors required to reduce the cost of green hydrogen to become competitive with other methods of producing hydrogen using fossil fuels.

In a paper published today in Cell Reports Physical Science, the authors show how different factors affect the cost of producing green hydrogen by electrolysis using a dedicated solar system and using no additional power from the grid.

Without using electricity from the grid, which is predominantly supplied by fossil fuel electricity, this method produces hydrogen with nearly zero emissions. Being free of the grid also means such a system could be deployed in remote locations with good, year-long exposure to sunlight.

The researchers examined a range of parameters that could affect the final price of green hydrogen energy including the cost of electrolyser and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, electrolyser efficiency, available sunlight and the size of the installations.

In thousands of calculations using randomly ascribed values for various parameters in different scenarios, the researchers found the cost of green hydrogen ranged from $US2.89 to $US4.67 per kilogram ($AUD4.04 to $AUD6.53). It was possible to get even lower than this, the researchers said, with proposed scenarios approaching $US2.50 per kilogram ($AUD3.50), at which point green hydrogen starts to become competitive with fossil fuel production.

WHY A RANGE OF PRICES?

Co-author Nathan Chang, who is a postdoctoral fellow with UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic Renewable Energy Engineering, says a common problem when trying to estimate the costs of developing technology is that calculations are based on assumptions that may only apply to certain situations or circumstances. This makes the results less relevant for other locations and doesn’t take into account that technology performance and costs improve over time.

“But here, rather than getting a single calculated number, we get a range of possible numbers,” he says.

“And each particular answer is a combination of a lot of possible input parameters.”

“For example, we have recent data on the cost of PV systems in Australia, but we know that in some countries, they pay much more for their systems. We also have seen that PV costs are reducing each year. So we put cost values both lower and higher into the model to see what would happen to the cost of hydrogen.

“So after plugging all these different values into our algorithm and getting a range of prices of hydrogen energy, we then said, ‘Okay, so there were some cases where we got closer to that $US2 ($AUD2.80) per kilogram figure. What was it about those cases that got it down so low?'”

Co-author Dr Rahman Daiyan, of ARC Training Centre for Global Hydrogen Economy and UNSW’s School of Chemical Engineering, says that when they examined the cases where the cost per kilogram approached US$2, certain parameters stood out.

“Capital costs of electrolysers and their efficiencies still dictate the viability of renewable hydrogen,” he says.

“One crucial way we could further decrease costs would be to use cheap transition metal-based catalysts in electrolysers. Not only are they cheaper, but they can even outperform catalysts currently in commercial use.

“Studies like these will provide inspiration and targets for researchers working in catalyst development.”

IT ALL ADDS UP

The system and cost simulation model itself was built by undergraduate student Jonathon Yates, who got the opportunity to work on the project through UNSW’s Taste of Research scholarship program.

“We used real weather data and worked out the optimum size of the PV system for each location,” he says.

“We then saw how this would change the economics in different locations around the world where solar-powered electrolysis is being considered.

“We knew that each location that would install such a system would be different – requiring different sizes and having to wear different costs of components. Combining these with weather variations means that some locations will have lower cost potential than others, which can indicate an export opportunity.”

He points to the example of Japan which does not have a great solar resource and where the size of the systems may be limited.

“So there is potentially a significant cost difference when compared to the spacious outback regions of Australia, which have plenty of sunlight,” says Mr Yates.

LOOKING AHEAD

The researchers say that it is not far-fetched to imagine large scale hydrogen energy plants becoming cheaper than fossil fuel ones in the next couple of decades.

“Because PV costs are reducing, it is changing the economics of solar hydrogen production,” says Dr Chang.

“In the past, the idea of a remote solar-driven electrolysis system was considered to be far too expensive. But the gap is reducing every year, and in some locations, there will be a cross-over point sooner rather than later.”

Dr Daiyan says: “With technology improvements in electrolyser efficiency, an expectation of lower costs of installing these types of systems, and governments and industry being willing to invest in larger systems to take advantage of economies of scale, this green technology is getting closer to being competitive with alternative fossil fuel production of hydrogen.”

Mr Yates says it is only a matter of time until green hydrogen becomes more economical than hydrogen produced from fossil fuel methods.

“When we recalculated the cost of hydrogen using other researchers’ projections of electrolyser and PV costs, it’s possible to see green hydrogen costs getting as low as US$2.20 per kg ($AUD3.08) by 2030, which is on par or cheaper than the cost of fossil-fuel produced hydrogen.

“As this happens, Australia, with its great solar resource, will be well placed to take advantage of this.”

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From EurekAlert!

148 thoughts on “How green hydrogen can become cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels

    • One of the biggest problems of hydrogen is how to contain it. The molecules are so small they leak out of almost anything.

      This study seems to stop at production and does not analysis of the cost of containment and distribution and safe transport of liquid hydrogen.

      One of the main advantages of petroleum based fuels is the trivial requirements for containment.

      thousands of calculations using randomly ascribed values for various parameters

      Taking a leaf out of the climatology manual there then.

      • Another problem is that it doesn’t tell us how much hydrogen is created per square kilometer of solar collectors per day. How does this compare with demand?

        There’s a reason industrial hydrogen production doesn’t use electrolysis.

      • Another missing analysis is thermal efficiency vs energy density. For this reason Elon Musk uses kerosene in his reusable Space-X rockets. Hydrogen fuel requires too much insulation, special mechanical components and fuel tanks that are massive. But we can use “free solar” to produce it….

        • Barry. I totally agree with your comment.

          This is just a silly Pollyanna kiddy engineering ‘study’ that ignores reality to push the hydrogen urban legend. It is pathetic that this dead on arrival concept is still pushed as the magic battery.

          Hydrogen is a fake magic battery for the CAGW crowd. Why not use the green electricity when it is produced?

          In the day time when there is excess solar and wind energy produced which there is no use for. This excess green energy needs to be stored for days, for weeks, and for months.

          Creating Hydrogen does not work, as a battery conceptually…. …… because it is too expensive, dangerous, and requires too much energy to liquify it.

          And hydrogen also does not work, at a fundamental engineering level, because…

          …. hydrogen gas is difficult, dangerous, expensive, and requires much higher energy to ship hydrogen gas by pipeline than to ship methane CH4.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_hydrogen#cite_note-IPTS-1968-3

          “Liquid hydrogen requires cryogenic storage technology such as special thermally insulated containers and requires special handling common to all cryogenic fuels.

          This is similar to, but more severe than liquid oxygen. Even with thermally insulated containers it is difficult to keep such a low temperature, and the hydrogen will gradually leak away (typically at a rate of 1% per day[7]). It also shares many of the same safety issues as other forms of hydrogen, as well as being cold enough to liquefy, or even solidify atmospheric oxygen, which can be an explosion hazard.”

          It requires NASA like safety methods and costs to store.

      • There are many problems similar to the electrochemical challenges that have yet to be overcome in batteries. Eventually expensive protective resins and components have to be replaced. The resulting wastes, like the wastes that are generated from solar panels and wind turbines, are not being adequately factored into operating costs.

      • The best method for containing hydrogen is combine it with carbon to produce compounds that are liquid at most ambient temperatures. and can be easily stored, transported, and used with existing infra structure to run transportation equipment, provide heat and electricity of domestic and commercial purposes, used as a chemical feed stock, and on and on.

        • Two more easy ways to use hydrogen without trying to transport it.

          combine it with atmospheric nitrogen to make ammonia (NH3) which can be easily liquefied and is readily usable for all kinds of agricultural and industrial purposes, and which can be used as a transportation fuel.

          Australia has very large reserves of high quality iron ore. Hydrogen can be used to directly reduce the ore into metallic iron.

        • But, but, getting lots of *that* kind of stuff out of existing shale layers, *that* would be too frakkin’ easy, er, I mean ‘far too economical’.

  1. Hydrogen isn’t green – burning hydrogen produces H20 in the form of the water vaport. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas.

    So those who peddle this are simply lying. Media, scientists, anyone who proposes this – lies.

    • No, there is virtually no net increase in H2O because the H comes from cracking H2O open in the first place. It’s a cycle just like cows produce no net CO2 (every C they emit comes from an atmospheric C in the first place). If you push up atmospheric H2O it (a) reduces ocean evaporation and (b) increases clouds and rain and hence has a negative feedback.
      H2O from solar is just a way of converting useless solar into dispatchable energy. Trouble is, it’s a dangerous way of doing it – see Nicholas Tesdorf’s comment below.
      We need new thinking for ways of turning the $billions that have been poured into solar and wind energy into at least some $-worth of value. Maybe re-locate businesses that use a lot of power but don’t care when they get it, putting them next to “solar farms” or “wind farms”. Bitcoin mining, for example. As long as they pay the full cost, of course. [I put the common names for subsidy farms in inverted commas].

      • The solar energy goes into producing hydrogen and oxygen from LIQUID water. When the hydrogen is reacted with oxygen to produce energy, usually heat, it will form water VAPOUR, which we are constantly reminded is the most powerful “greenhouse gas”. If the “greenhouse effect” has any credence than all that extra water VAPOUR in the atmosphere will make the planet much warmer.

        All the climate models rely on the POSITIVE feedback from water vapour to produce catastrophic global warming. So clearly converting water into hydrogen then releasing water vapour into the atmosphere is NOT green. But very bad for the environment. Physics has to be consistent. The laws of physics cannot be changed on a whim.

      • Mike writes:
        If you push up atmospheric H2O it (a) reduces ocean evaporation and
        (b) increases clouds and rain and hence has a negative feedback.

        And this is one of the many reasons the whole CO2 scare is wrong. Their tipping points and runaway warming scenarios are all based on the false hypothesis of amplification of the warming by more H2O. Without the false positive feedback of H2O, climate sensitivity to CO2 is really low. Thank you for pointing ut why we don;t need these (not really) green energy sources including this hydrogen boondoggle.

      • Although cows only emit CO2 that was previously in the atmosphere, they are net sources of methane which is 20-21 times as potent a greenhouse gas (during the century after being contributed to the atmosphere, and the factor is greater during a shorter time frame) as CO2 is.

        • Cows as greenhouse gas source makes no sense if you check the historical data for bison populations in the US for example. In 2019, US had 94.8 million cattle. Estimated bison population was “in excess of 60 million” to 1830. That’s suddenly less than 30% difference in quantity of the dreaded methane between dark human-cow conspiracy and natural holy balanced Native American friend emissions.

          Both produced cow farts, and counting the change of ecosystem, I estimate that if we also count deer and the like, the amount is pretty much similar.

          So the “cow burps” and “cow farts” narrative is a lie.

          • Very good point! Thanks for bringing history and context back into the discussion. I’m sure the green alarmists won’t appreciate you disturbing their carefully crafted narrative, but anyone who values truth above all will.

        • It’s also measured in parts/billion/volume as opposed to parts/million/volume.
          20 times more potent but 1,000 times less prevalent. Draw your own conclusions.

          • Wasn’t methane a no-brainer due to band width saturation caused by water in the atmosphere. Thus, if it’s the tundra, bogland or any burping or farting critter. Let it all out free of global warming concerns.
            But- a proportion of methane in the atmosphere leaves for space. However, don’t know the proportion and if there is any non-linear function of concentration in this context. Methane is, for example, much appreciated by bacterie wherever they are. Or, maybe radiation increases the reactivity of methane as altitude increases?

        • I have to take issue with your comments Donald Klipstein.
          Methane comes from many natural sources such as wet lands ,rice paddies.termites and any decomposing vegetation and enteric digestion from farmed and wild animals .
          All of these sources are carbon neutral as they are closed cycles .
          All the fodder animals consume has absorbed CO2 from the air and the small amount of methane emitted during digestion breaks down in the upper atmosphere in 8 to 10 years into CO2 and water vapour .
          The process is a cycle .
          Not one atom of carbon or molecule containing carbon is added to the atmosphere over any time frame .
          The biggest lie that the greens peddle is that enteric methane is a danger to the world because methane has 20 times the heating value of CO2 .This may be so but a cycle adds nothing over 8 to 10 years .
          This was introduced at the Kyoto Accord by green activists and has never been examined or scrutinized scientifically .
          A cycle can not raise the amount of methane or CO2 in the atmosphere .
          If you must blame some thing lay the blame with coal mining and combustion .
          Methane levels in the atmosphere were flat-lining between 1999 and 2008 and world coal production was stable at 4.7 billion tonnes .
          Coal production has now increased to over 8 billion tonnes and global methane levels have also risen as this coal has been mined.
          Blame the coal and not the Cow

        • The whole CH4 drama is a non event. ALL carbon based life forms when they die
          ( including gut bacteria) and rot in an anaerobic environment give off CH4. This why rubbish tips, mangrove swamps, rice paddys etc give off CH4. Once in the atmosphere and in direct sunlight, CH4 breaks down and molecules are reconfigured with oxygen into CO2 and H2O. The North Atlantic Rift belches out methane from time to time as does our old dog.

        • Walt
          I am surprised it took so long for some one to notice that fatal flaw. I wonder how much in subsidies was included in their calculations. In Australia all solar is subsidized and that makes them seem cheaper than they actually are. this is a very dodgy study.
          John

    • yeah! water vapor is the worst green house gas. and everyone knows that there is a vicous feedback cycle. More water vapor makes more heat which make more water vapor….

    • Nonsens, water vapor will very soon turn inte cloud drops and fall down. (both these forms are not GHG. The is tremendous amount of wapor circulating all the time, some extra in negligable.

      • Are you denying water is a “greenhouse gas”? If it turns into precipitation and drops out then it cannot be a “greenhouse gas”.

        • I think his point is that it’s insignificant compared to the natural water cycle.

          We think of CO2 from fossil fuels being of little significance compared to the natural carbon cycle but the water cycle in orders of magnitude larger. Also, keep in mind that water vapor is formed by the combustion of hydrocarbon fossil fuels.

          Now there could be local impacts, like water dripping out of cold exhaust systems, but comparatively this is small. As far as human effects are concerned, irrigation is much much larger.

          • Increase water vapor from irrigation is adding to UHI. It my guess that increase humidity in were once dry places showing up in the climate recorded, my guess that effect is being attributed to CO2 at100%.

        • Yes Rick, but it is a GHLiquid. And the residence time of energy in water is far longer then in the atmosphere.

          Oh, and it’s a good thing IMV.

    • As for how bad a greenhouse gas water vapor is: Its average atmospheric lifetime is quite short, a matter of a few weeks. The amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is a result mainly of the area and surface temperature of bodies of water, and atmospheric temperatures.

  2. The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration has some interesting comments on Hydrogen:

    “Hydrogen used in the fuel cells is a very flammable gas and can cause fires and explosions if it is not handled properly. Hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. Natural gas and propane are also odorless, but a sulfur-containing (Mercaptan) odorant is added to these gases so that a leak can be detected. At present, it is hard to tell if there is a hydrogen leak because it has no odor to it. Hydrogen is a very light gas. There are no known odorants that can be added to hydrogen that are light enough to diffuse at the same rate as hydrogen. In other words, by the time a worker smells an odorant, the hydrogen concentrations might have already exceeded its lower flammability limit.
    Hydrogen fires are invisible and if a worker believes that there is a hydrogen leak, it should always be presumed that a flame is present. When workers are required to fight hydrogen-related fires, employers must provide workers with necessary protective gear to protect them from such invisible flames and potential explosion hazards. There are several OSHA standards that may apply to employers who produce or use hydrogen.”

    Perhaps this is why whenever I hear the word ‘Hydrogen’ I picture an invisible leaking gas, invisible fire and visible catastrophe.

    • At the plant I worked at they had a poster with a photo of a steel tank in one panel that had a caption that said “photo of a hydrogen storage vessel.” In the other panel was the exact same photo with a caption that said “photo of a hydrogen storage vessel on fire.”

      I always picture this when people want to have motorists fill up their hydrogen fueled cars.

        • As the mythbusters showed, shooting a 50 cal bullet into a gasoline tank results in, at worst, some gasoline leaking out onto the ground.

        • Why would shooting a .50 caliber bullet into a gas tank cause anything more than a leak?
          There’s no ignition source. Even if there was an ignition source the air (oxygen) to vapor ratio would not likely be high enough to allow ignition.
          (Does your car burst into flame when you fill your gas tank?)
          But Hydrogen? It’ll blow at the drop of a hat.
          But at least it won’t make CO2. (It’ll make a stronger greenhouse gas, H2O.)

        • So the 12.7x99mm BMG is now the formal test method for ‘safe’?

          There you go. Next time you make a major purchase demand to see the proof mark. Small dent? Good to go. Clear hole and evidence of spalling? Send that puppy back – It’s a DEATH TRAP!

          As much as I like the idea of a M2HB-QCB set up in the quality department of the Tesla factory I don’t think, Young TRM, that this is quite the argument you wish to be making.

    • Hydrogen flames are not invisible, they’re visible in most lighting conditions where blue natural gas flames are easily visible. They’re merely less bright than blue natural gas flames and a little dimmer than blue flames of burning methanol. Blue natural gas flames are invisible in brighter daylight conditions, and so are blue flames of burning methanol, sulfur and carbon disulfide (a flammable liquid). “Sterno” flames are often invisible in bright daylight. And in direct sunlight, the flame of a propane torch is close to invisible and sometimes invisible, with its main visible evidence being heat ripples in its shadow.

    • $6.75 before taxes. If taxed at the same rate as oil & gas extraction, production, property and especially taxes at the pump = $8.00 or more. When is the world going to give up on this worth less than nothing green crap? If you like environmentally and economically hopeless ethanol, you’ll love hydrogen as a transportation fuel.

    • Over $2 per kilo (production cost only – not the cost at the pump), where that same $2 buys me a gallon of gasoline (approximately 5.9 lbs or 2.7 kilos). Then factor in the cost of a fuel-cell plus electric motor-driven car versus an internal combustion engine car. It will be a long time before the hydrogen option is competitive.

  3. The cost of transportation and storage of cryogenic hydrogen was certainly not considered. Nor was the long-term embrittlement of the metals and leakage materials problem with its storage and delivery systems, leading special metals and seals considerations in any mobile vehicle design.

    Simply electrolyzing water from solar PV power to produce hydrogen is just a small part of the problem with liquid hydrogen energy as a fuel source.
    Storage in a gaseous phase would entail impossibly large pressurized tanks and then diffusion-leakage is a serious issue. The time-tested best way to store hydrogen is to attach it to a carrier atom like carbon (we’ll call it a “hydrocarbon”). We could even store it then in very underground natural geologic formations in very large quantities. It is a stable dense liquid at standard temp and pressures and wouldn’t mix with water much at all.
    Or we could bind it to a metal substrate like nickel or lithium in a battery (Ni-MH, Li-ion).
    Or 4 H’s could be combined with molecular nitrogen to make a very nice high energy molecule, but it might be somewhat toxic to handle and you wouldn’t want to breathe it or get it in your eyes. We could give it a snappy name like hydrazine.

    We could use it fill big rigid airship bags and float around the planet to replace passenger airplanes and return to a more leisurely pace of air travel. We could call it the Hindenburg.

    • Yes, they say: “Being free of the grid also means such a system could be deployed in remote locations with good, year-long exposure to sunlight.” Total disconnect.

    • Australia has an enormous area in the center of the continent that is desert. It would be a great place to carpet with solar cells. It is also easily accessible to the ocean which can provide water, unlike the US Southwest where the desert is separated from the ocean by mountain rages.. The problem is what to do with the electricity, which is intermittent and a long way from markets. The answer is to find industrial processes that can run asynchronously, and do not take a lot of labor which will be costly and in short supply.

      You could use the electricity to desalinate ocean water, or, as the article suggests, produce hydrogen.

      Clearly the thing to do is not to transport the hydrogen or even to store it for very long. Because it is expensive and dangerous.

      Hydrogen can be used to produce ammonia, to reduce iron ore, and to synthesize hydrocarbons. All of which are easy to store and transport.

      If the economics of the solar cells and the electrolysis are right. The projects might be really worthwhile an be a real boon to Australia.

      • Um, Australia is very big

        That desert may not be over mountain ranges but is a long way from the ocean to the center

      • Walter writes:

        “Australia has an enormous area in the center of the continent that is desert. It would be a great place to carpet with solar cells. It is also easily accessible to the ocean…”

        Keywords. Centre and Ocean.

        Sorry Walter, there is a word for being near the ocean and it is not centre. It is coast.

        So, once you build your carpet of solar cells you need to get your seawater from the coast to the centre. Yeah, good luck with that budget.

        Then, you need to ship in your nitrogen, cause that ammonia you mentioned isn’t going to produce itself.

        Then you have an industrial sized pile of ammonia in the middle of Australia, with which you will do what exactly? Transport it somehow?

    • My wife and I both spent our careers in rocket propulsion, liquid and solid. We’ve both been exposed to substantial amounts of hydrazine and monomethyl hydrazine, neither of us wearing SCAPE suits or any other PPE – with no ill effects. For directly handling liquid hydrazine, you should wear a face shield, rubber gloves, and maybe a rubber apron. But Daihatsu has developed a hydrazine encapsulation technology which renders it harmless in the event of a crash and subsequent spill, for their hydrazine fuel cell truck.

      The rocket propulsion industry is responsible for the bizarre fear of hydrazine. Specifically, companies wanting to hawk hydrazine alternatives (“green propellants”), set about demonizing it by blowing its toxicity hazard way, way out of proportion. If you’ve ever used Drano or PVC pipe cement, you’ve used a much more hazardous material.

      The hydrazine boogey man actually parallels the demonization of CO2. The warmunists insist on adopting “green energy” that isn’t, while both hydrazine and CO2 have great benefits agriculturally (hydrazine decomposes to ammonia and hydrogen in the soil, and the ammonia is great for adding nitrogen).

  4. Suggestion to Charles (CtM),

    When you run these hydrogen energy fairy tales, you could lead the article with a picture of the Hindenburg arriving in Lakehurst NJ, lest anyone forgot the benefits of hydrogen transportation systems.

    • It amazes me that people get the vapours about hydrogen (BTW, no one was killed by hydrogen in the Hindenburg disaster) and the risk of fire/explosion after an impact, yet they are happy to drive around in petrol driven cars, which given an impact doing similar damage will leak all over the roadway and immolate them, fairly slowly. It happens quite often.

      I would have thought Methanol powered cars would make more sense than hydrogen. Much easier to store and transport and with a reasonable energy density.

      • Methanol has less energy density than ethanol, which has less energy density than gasoline. Ethanol has almost as much useful energy density as gasoline has in cars, when cars are optimized for these fuels in aspects such as compression ratio or effective compression ratio (adjustable by adjusting of spark timing), because ethanol can be used with a higher effective compression ratio than gasoline with commonly pump-available octane ratings has. Methanol fires are typically invisible in brighter daylight conditions. Methanol, ethanol and liquid hydrogen (with less energy density per liquid volume than methanol, ethanol and gasoline) currently cost more per gallon than gasoline does, and I have yet to hear of a way to produce methanol or hydrogen with available energy output from burning these being greater than the energy used to produce these.

      • It really is amazing how many people actually believe that what they see o the silver screen is an accurate depiction of reality.

        It is very, very rare for a car to burn after a collision.

        • A brief search revealed 5 people who died in car fires in the UK in the past 4 months. I am sorry your friends are not terribly bright and take their views from films, but that says more about you than my comment. I took my statement from talking to motorway police – multi vehicle shunts are the really dangerous ones. Post impact the car shortens, the doors jam, you can’t get out, petrol leaks on the road for various punctured tanks..

          • And just how hydrogen instead of gas have changed anything?
            More deaths but quicker?
            And liquid gasoline is not under pressure. Liquid hydrogen?

          • Gunga Din: When hydrogen escapes it goes upwards, very quickly, and at worst you get an upwards jet of flame. That is what happened in the hydrogen part of the Hindenburg conflagration. It was the burning cover material painted with rocket fuel that killed people.

            Petrol onto the other hand runs onto the road, lacks viscosity and travels very fast, and when it goes on fire it sets light to every vehicle it has passed under.

          • Not sure how your cars in the UK differ, but in the last 6 years I’ve been a volunteer firefighter our department has had only one vehicle fire due to a crash.

  5. I have dealt in detail with the hydrogen scam at http://michaeldarby.net/Scam.pdf and will welcome further contributions from WUWT subscribers who are mostly much wiser than I. My email address is michael@michaeldarby.net
    WUWT leads the world in defending civilisation against the destruction, misery, starvation, disease, truncated lifespans, revolution, dictatorship, war and the prohibitive cost of meat pies and ice cream which are among the inevitable consequences of decarbonisation. Anthony Watts, Charles the Moderator and all you other champions, civilisation honours you. In preparation is a book intended to show the rulers of Australia the right way to lead the nation out of the dangerous situation which they have caused. The aim is to gain from the lessons of historical successes where human advancement, liberty and reliable energy have been closely linked. This is an invitation to WUWT contributors anywhere in the world to submit a chapter to michael@michaeldarby.net. The aim is to publish online by Christmas and in print by Australia Day 26 January 2021. Working title is THE WAY BACK AND BEYOND. Suggestions welcome. If we come out ahead, profits will be shared pro-rata with contributors. Please accompany your chapter with a high-resolution photo and a brief biography. On Saturday 24 October 2020 there will be a Rally for Life Health and Liberty at Parliament House Perth Western Australia commencing at 11am (0300 GMT). The link for the program (now online) and for live streaming is http://www.form.clickablecard.top/UCCJGT. Residents of Western Australia, please attend in person. Kind regards Michael

  6. Bait and switch!

    Headline:

    Cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels

    Article:

    Mr Yates says it is only a matter of time until green hydrogen becomes more economical than hydrogen produced from fossil fuel methods.

    So not actually compared to fossil fuels, but to hydrogen produced from fossil fuels. So still not economic.

  7. All they have to do now is invest their own and their supporter’s money in this “brilliant” project, and they’ll be rich in no time.

  8. Another lemon, like all green schemes. I’m also thinking that none of these people really believe that you can create hydrogen for a lower cost than using natural gas, which is absurdly cheap in the USA. Like all failed green schemes that originate from a learning institution, this is all about securing more taxpayer funds to create a better life for themselves at the expense of those that do it tough in a real job.

  9. Of they wanted to use hydrogen as an energy storage buffer, I think there is potential. For example, build nuclear baseline power to close to average daily demand. During periods or overproduction, use the excess to generate hydrogen that can be burned during peak times.

    It may solve the issue of sluggishness of nuclear adjusting to meet demand while leveraging its strength in producing huge amounts of constant power.

    The advantage would be that you would only need to store small amounts of it, where it is produced and consumed and since nuclear plants have a lot of land as a security buffer, there would be plenty of room for the hardware.

    Of course there is likely a difficulty I am missing, but it seems more feasible than this plan.

    • There’s a new design for nuclear that in using molten salt for the coolant will be built with an extra large reservoir so that the excess heat can be used during peak demand. This is different than the thorium msr’s, but there’s no reason this peak adapter couldn’t be incorporated, making the thorium molten salt reactors an even better target for research dollars. Would be cheaper and safer than fusion, especially with tritium at $30,000/gram.

  10. Ands in 10 years they will be producing 10%….

    If you want electric to waste, and you do for hydrogen cells, then nuclear is the only viable option.

  11. But when you factor in the enormous energy costs of the mining, smelting and manufacture (using fossil fuels) then this isn’t so green after all. The “sustainable” energy scam is beginning to remind me more and more of that phrase “In order to save the village we had to destroy it.”

  12. Watching an Australian Senate enquiry a few months ago the question was asked What about Hydrogen?
    The answer was ‘We do not expect hydrogen to be a mature resource for at least 15 years’.
    The big problem with hydrogen is the difficulty in storage, it makes metals brittle and cannot be easily compressed to a volume equivalent to the energetic capacity of an equivalent volume of a mixture of alkanes.
    Liquid hydrogen is very dangerous.
    The University of NSW was the place that the photovoltaic cell was developed.
    The Chinese engineer brought it home to China and built the cells, exporting them to the world.
    Today this work continues.
    https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/unsw-team-lands-new-efficiency-breakthrough-emerging-solar-cell-material
    Hopefully we will do this work here in Australia and keep the patents and manufacturing.
    It will be worth watching.
    Perhaps the Chinese team can develop H2 as a storage, useable fuel at UNI NSW.
    Again, to the benefit of Australia first.
    We then could export to China.
    With a fair trade agreement, of course.

  13. The thing that makes hydrogen an unsuitable energy currency is the difficulty of storing it. There is a lot of work on converting hydrogen to ammonia because that is much easier to store.

    A lot of the work on ammonia as a transportation fuel is in the shipping industry.

    For the development of an ammonia-powered tanker, Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) joined hands with foreign partners including Malaysian shipping company MISC and MAN, a ship engine manufacturer. Based on Lloyd’s Register’s “approval in principle,” SHI said it would try to commercialize an ammonia-powered oil tanker in 2024. 1

    I had always assumed that the ammonia would be burned in the ships’ giant diesel engines. It seems that there is also work on using solid oxide fuel cells 2 for large ships. These operate at a high temperature and the thermal energy can be used to run a turbine.

    In response to tightened international regulations, South Korean shipbuilders work hard to develop new technologies and secure a competitive edge in eco-friendly vessels. In June, SHI partnered with Bloom Energy, an American public company, to develop core technologies for highly efficient solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) for ships by 2022. (see link 1 above)

    Note that the dates are quite aggressive. This leads me to believe that there aren’t any significant technological hurdles to be overcome.

    Caveat: I have watched a number of promising energy technologies over the years. All of them worked at the pilot plant stage. That means the technology actually worked outside the laboratory. None of them progressed further. example So, why would we expect ammonia fuel for ships to be different!

    • Using ammonia as a transportation fuel simply scares the willies out of me. Yes, it could be used as a fuel, but the safety issues become rather significant.

      • Yep. From link 1 above:

        Based on Lloyd’s Register’s “approval in principle,” SHI said it would try to commercialize an ammonia-powered oil tanker in 2024.

        I thought there was a rule that would prevent ammonia from being a ship fuel. If it was true, apparently it isn’t any more.

        I do have visions of something like the Bhopal disaster.

        I’m not an ammonia fuel promoter. It’s just something I see coming down the track.

  14. Much easier way to make hydrogen competitive with fossil fuels.

    Tax fossil fuels and give hydrogen subsidies. That’s what they do for every other technology hated by Greens. Does anyone think they won’t do the same here?

  15. Why this car is…. hiiiiiiiiiiiiiydrogen-matic
    It’s ultramatic….
    It’s systematic….
    Why… It’s greased lightning!

    We’ll get some green tax credits
    Some zero emission low carbon offsets too….

    Keep talking, oh keep talkin…

  16. Calculations based on ‘randomly ascribed parameter values’ are about as far away from reality as you can get. If wishes were kisses comes to mind.

  17. Great news. Now they can invest their own money in building a plant to produce their cheap hydrogen without ANY subsidies, and make lots of money selling that hydrogen to self-fund a rollout of plants across the world. If this doesn’t happen, it’s a strong indication that UNSW is producing worthless papers along with worthless degrees.

    • I was amazed at “UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic Renewable Energy Engineering” – They teach something to reinforce the false premise, CO² is bad.

  18. Didn’t spot anything about power factors in the piece. For instance, given PVs in a sunny clime could produce ‘x’ kWhrs of electrical power with which to create H2, how many kWhrs would the resultant H2 provide?

  19. My wonderation is : What are they gonna do to actually utilise this abundant resource?
    (Even before we get over the oft repeated claim that ‘sunshine and wind are free’)

    Maybe, put it into an internal combustion engine.
    But they’ve got horrendous efficiency, easily 65% of you energy is lost via the tail-pipe and engine cooling

    Maybe put it through a Fuel Cell to make elektrikery and then drive an electric car
    OK
    Correct me if wrong but, I came to understand (aaaages ago) that any/all Fuel Cells require Platinum and there is simply not enough Platinum in The Known Universe to do that, let alone on Planet Earth..

    Can we make it into ammonia maybe, or propane.
    Acetylene packs a big punch but will melt your engine.
    *There* is possibly The Solution= engines that run at high(er) temps

    But *they* make lots of NOx – which in turn, because N is the Liebig Limter for all plant/bacterial Life on Earth, promotes Global Greening.

    What’s not to like 😀

    • Your comment brings to mind the driver visually checking the fuel filling using his cigarette lighter for light. Can anything be dummy-proofed?

  20. A postdoc did a monte carlo analysis, wrote a paper for a trade rag. got a EurekaAlert! press release.

    Big whoopi.

    I feel for postdocs

  21. UNSW is home to Andrew Blakers who has been producing zero carbon fantasies for Australia for a long time. I suspect he will prove to be involved in this one.

    Meanwhile in the UK, National Grid has just produced its 2020 Future Energy Scenarios, which include the extreme assumptions necessary to pretend that net zero can be achieved by 2050. They don’t bother to estimate real costs, simply assuming that carbon taxes will be raised in order to enforce as necessary. They do offer an insight into green hydrogen made by wind power. They propose deep sea floating dedicated wind farms (in order to improve capacity factors) which first desalinate sea water before electrolysis, with hydrogen pipelines to shore. A no expense spared solution. They do admit that electrolysers can in practice expect an average utilisation of 15-24%. Which roughly means that the capital charge element is 4-7 times as great as for a continuous process. The real fantasy is that they expect over half of final energy consumption will be delivered as hydrogen.

    https://www.nationalgrideso.com/future-energy/future-energy-scenarios/fes-2020-documents

    Even with axis tracking solar, the best locations struggle to achieve better than 25% capacity factors. It’s very hard to see how intermittency isn’t going to kill the economics. Using part of the output via a battery is surely a very expensive way to smooth the solar output. Perhaps Blakers has in mind his extravagant claims about pumped storage as the alternative.

  22. This is why I’m confused every time I see a WUWT headline:
    Hydrogen Future Would Triple Energy Bills
    OCTOBER 16, 2020

    I couldn’t find a story that I heard not too long ago about why hydrogen is not a viable alternative.
    I did a search for “why hydrogen is not a viable fuel” and found several articles on the topic.
    While you might be able to find a way to use say solar or wind to produce the “zero emissions” hydrogen, how much toxic emissions does building those energy sources need?
    Simple logic tells us “there is no such thing as a free lunch”.

  23. An even better explanation is that I must have been confusing this blog with the Not A Lot of People Know That blog for the past several years. Now I have to figure out why I’ve been doing that. Am I having a “Biden Moment”? (copyright 2020 BlueCat57, I just made that catchphrase up. Do you think it will catch on?)

    Of course, since my other comment hasn’t showed up yet, this one makes no sense at all. I can see the other comment in the WordPress app but not here? Deep breath. I’ll just move on instead of offering my opinion of the WordPress comment system.

  24. Probably worth pointing out that 1kg of hydrogen provides about 120MJ, or 0.1136 MMBtu, so to convert prices from per kg to per MMBtu, multiply by about 9. So their cheapest forecast of USD 2.20/MMBtu works out at about $20/MMBtu. Not exactly competitive with Henry Hub at around $3/MMBtu. The use of unfamiliar units masks the reality.

    • The headline makes it sound like they are offering a replacement for natural gas or other fossil fuel, but they are actually offering a replacement for hydrogen produced by fossil fuels, which is at around $2/kg. If they had an accurate title then they wouldn’t have got the press exposure. Welcome to the post-truth era.

  25. As a Chemical Engineer often involved in process safety analyses, economic evaluations and logistics, I need to go on record saying:

    I think hydrogen, even as a fuel source for electrochemical cell power supplies is a bad bet.

  26. Let’s get real (honest) about “no emissions” from green energy. Technically, yes, there are little or no “direct” emissions from green energy.

    But when you include the emissions and environmental damage from creating green power sources, it’s more than using fossil fuels.

    If we want to reduce emissions, we need more nuclear power. If the engineering, economic and other issues for mainlining hydrogen as a portable power source can truly be overcome, then nuclear is the best option for powering hydrogen production.

    On the other, my relatives in Australia have duel-fuel automobiles that can use gasoline or natural gas. Natural gas is very clean burning. Why not use natural gas instead of hydrogen? From a practical point-of-view natural gas is the better choice. But it’s a fossil fuel and therefore unacceptable.

  27. From the above article’s first sentence: “Engineers from UNSW Sydney have CRUNCHED the numbers . . .” (my all cap emphasis added for “crunched”)

    It could not have been said better.

    I should have stopped reading right then and there. My bad.

  28. As a old chemist, I’ve always wanted to see an energy cheap means of producing hydrogen. It’s never going to be the leading source for our energy needs but it can help.

  29. That article is a con job from the get go. Not many readers are going to pay attention to the fact they are using a price measured in weight (kg) when the world buys it’s fuel in volume (l or gal). That difference puts hydrogen fuel darn near 3x the cost of fuel in the US using their rosiest cost prediction.

    • Darrin, excellent point!

      I’m wondering when the world will get around to pricing competing, transportable energy sources in the only apples-to-apples metric that matters: million BTU available/pound mass (or metric equivalent, MJ/kg).

  30. So – there is abundant solar in the outback.

    I thought it was supposed to be somewhat arid as well.

    SO – How much liquid water does it take to make this wheel go around and where does that come from?

  31. Since this depends on photovoltaics to capture solar energy and there are now some pretty good life-cycle analyses of such systems showing they may actually be net consumers rather than producers of power, I think I can safely put this modeling of hydrogen power in the back of the filing cabinet. Life-cycle analysis, of course, must include all the prospecting, mining, refining, and manufacturing of rare elements and high tech components; the manufacturing, delivery and installation of panels; the cost of affected lands and opportunity costs lost to other uses; the operation and maintenance of the devices; the declining efficiency and intermittency of electrical generation; any unintended secondary consequences of the technology such as habitat loss, land degradation and any adverse health effects from industrial byproducts; and finally all the costs of decommissioning and safely disposing of the devices at end of life. One might note when reviewing the list that there are many steps along the way that won’t and can’t happen without a big push from fossil fuels.

    • ‘there are now some pretty good life-cycle analyses of such systems showing they may actually be net consumers rather than producers of power’

      No there are not!

      • griff, remember when the same thing was said about ethanol? that it consumes 2-7 times as much as it yields? All you renewables (unreliables/ruinables) said, NO, better than gasoline! Now you all have figured out what Dr. Lintzen, MIT, told you decades ago, and you can’t get the skunk p%%% stopped. Did you see my posting earlier that hydrogen is at least twice as expensive as conventional hydrocarbon based? Hydrogen has a ethanol ring to it wouldn’t you say? Give it up.

  32. https://renews.biz/63656/global-green-hydrogen-pipeline-tops-60gw/

    ‘The pipeline of planned 1MW-plus green hydrogen projects is over 60GW, according to research by Rystad Energy. The analysts said 87% of the projects are gigawatt-scale plants. Europe and Australia dominate the global pipeline, which includes 11 proposed electrolyser projects with a capacity of 1GW or more.'”

    I note also renewable hydrogen power to gas plant in Eugene, Oregon; UK’s first hydrogen powered train,; use of hydrogen in Linz, austria steel plant; use of renewable hydrogen in Norway to produce ammonia; UK hydrogen powered plane; numerous projects injecting hydrogen into the natural gas grid and this:
    https://www.rechargenews.com/transition/worlds-largest-floating-wind-farm-to-power-landmark-green-hydrogen-project/2-1-883061

    • Pointing out how much money people are planning to throw away on this, mostly taxpayer money, doesn’t disprove what is being said here, it just means there is no difference between this and other useless tech like solar and wind

      Always a money loser

  33. It would be interesting to see how much they are budgeting for maintenance of these solar panels, also what’s the expected lifespan they are using for their calculations.

    Finally, what percentage of the hydrogen is lost between “manufacture” and consumption?

  34. It is not true that the only waste product from hydrogen is water. That is true only if the engine operates in a pure oxygen environment. Our atmosphere is 79% nitrogen, so you will have things like nitric oxide released out the tail pipe.

    You also have this reaction.

    H2 + 3O2 + N2 —-> 2HNO3 (nitric acid)

    Be careful what you wish for.

    • ferdberple
      October 18, 2020 at 10:07 am

      That’s a very interesting comment Fred…I had not seen this aspect mentioned before. It would seem to reduce the ‘green’ credentials of a hydrogen economy, even using their famous and much touted ‘green’ hydrogen.

    • Easily solved by adapting the space shuttle’s external fuel tank technology.

      Just need two cryo storage tanks. What could possibly go wrong?

    • This type of electrolysis will be done in half-cells, anode and cathode, so H2(g) is produced in anode compartment while O2(g) is produced in cathode. The half-cells are usually separated with Nafion membranes. H2(g) can only be produced at the anode electrode surface and this reaction must compete with anions and their reactions at the anode surface. I would say the best one can do is 50% electrode efficiency depending on what electrode material is used. The efficiency will decrease with time as the anode surface wears or becomes poisoned. The water must be very pure because of the unwanted electrode reactions. The use of pure water will increase energy input because the water must become ionized prior to splitting. H+ production will occur and if Cl is present Cl2(g) will be produced as Cl -> Cl2(g) is preferred to H2(g) production from splitting H2O.
      incomplete list of Issues: electrode life, membrane life, separation and storage of gas and availability of pure water. Calculations must also include the life cycle cost of the solar panels from “cradle to grave” for complete economic analysis.
      This is just to start as we have not considered the cathode half-cell reactions and what to to with those unwanted reactions and products of electrolysis.

  35. I have seen this game before claiming low cost hydrogen at $1.5- $2.00 by the Dept of Energy in the 1990s also. The game being played is, they are talking about uncompressed hydrogen.
    I have evaluated retail hydrogen fuel cost for California for years. Compression cost for hydrogen (from my memory) is $4-5 per kg, refinery supplied hydrogen cost $2.00 kg at 250 psi. Adding $1 million dollar hydrogen stations (equipment & installation cost only) 180 k/day capacity all this ends at a retail price in California today at $13-15/kg. (Untaxed). This will never compete with retail gasoline or diesel.

    Gary Yowell
    Recovering Government Automotive Engineer

  36. Leaving aside the merits of hydrogen as a transportable fuel and the current relative costs, on-site electrolysis at large-scale PV installations may be useful as a load levelling approach.
    If PV installations had to provide a guaranteed level of electrical output over the full 24-hour period, any excess production could be used to produce H2 which could then be used to power an OCGT generator to make up the shortfall when PV production dropped below the contracted level.

    The feasibility study / sensitivity analysis referenced in the article was conducted at a PV research facility, but the use of electrolysed H2 as a short-term storage medium is equally applicable to wind, which has a higher capacity factor but less predictability.

  37. Wasn’t methane a no-brainer due to band width saturation caused by water in the atmosphere. Thus, if it’s the tundra, bogland or any burping or farting critter. Let it all out free of global warming concerns.
    But- a proportion of methane in the atmosphere leaves for space. However, don’t know the proportion and if there is any non-linear function of concentration in this context. Methane is, for example, much appreciated by bacterie wherever they are. Or, maybe radiation increases the reactivity of methane as altitude increases?

  38. Germany (the top wind and hydrogen promoter) has more wind and solar power than it can economically distribute and utilize. To perpetuate their “Energiewende” dream they need to put windy and sunny day excess wind and solar generation to use. They know battery storage and pumped storage is unworkable so hydrogen wins by default. Conservatives, such as the AfD, understand that the only feasible alternative to imported Russian natural gas is restarting their nukes. Once Merkel leaves (soon) doing so will be politically possible (IMHO). She should take her worthless hydrogen with her when she exits.

  39. “…One crucial way we could further decrease costs would be to use cheap transition metal-based catalysts in electrolysers. Not only are they cheaper, but they can even outperform catalysts currently in commercial use…”

    So people are not currently using the cheaper and better catalysts? Huh?

  40. A hydrogen powered car.
    FINALLY the dream of a flying car can be realized!
    “Green Streamers” won’t just be birds!

  41. From the University of NSW “School of Photovoltaic Renewable Energy Engineering.”

    A group of hammers looking for nails, only. But that how government & NGO funding works.

  42. “The system and cost simulation model itself was built by undergraduate student Jonathon Yates, who got the opportunity to work on the project through UNSW’s Taste of Research scholarship program.”

    Undergraduate.

    We have a graduate programme here in the day job and a new graduate rotates into our team every six months.

    HR also reminds us regularly that beating them with sticks is no longer recognised as a valid education process. Most of them have been lovely people. None of them could work unsupervised. One of them cut himself while being taken on a workshop tour seconds after being directly told not to pick up the scrapers on the workbench because the edges were a lot sharper then they looked.

    (“really? They don’t look that… .OWWW!”)

    Graduates however do have – technically at least – more training and experience than undergraduates.

    So yes, forgive me if I don’t take this report that seriously.

  43. For those that believe in the radiant greenhouse effect, a major problem using Hydrogen as fuel is that when it burns it forms a greenhouse gas that is molecule per molecule a stronger absorber of IR radiation than is CO2 so hence would be worse for the environment than burning Carbon based fuels.

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