Hydrogen Is Unlikely Ever to Be a Viable Solution to The Energy Storage Conundrum

From the MANHATTAN CONTRARIAN

Francis Menton

What I call the “energy storage conundrum” is the obvious but largely unrecognized problem that electricity generated by intermittent renewables like wind and sun can’t keep an electrical grid operating without some method of storing energy to meet customer demand in times of low production. These times of low production from wind and sun occur regularly — for example, calm nights — and can persist for as long as a week or more in the case of heavily overcast and calm periods in the winter.

If the plan is to power the entire United States by wind and solar facilities, and if we assume that wind and solar facilities will be built sufficient to generate energy equal to usage over the course of a year, we then need to do a calculation of how much storage would be required to balance the times of excess production against those of insufficient production in order to get through the year without blackouts. The challenge of getting through an entire year could require far more storage than merely getting through a week-long wind/sun drought, because both wind and sun are seasonal, producing much more in some seasons than others.

Previous posts on this blog have cited to several competent calculations of the amount of storage needed for different jurisdictions to get through a full year with only wind and sun to generate the electricity. For the case of the entire United States, this post from January 2022 describes work of Ken Gregory, who calculates a storage requirement, based on the current level of electricity consumption, of approximately 250,000 GWH to get through a year. If you then assume as part of the decarbonization project the electrification of all currently non-electrified sectors of the economy (transportation, home heat, industry, agriculture, etc.), the storage requirement would approximately triple, to 750,000 GWH. If that storage requirement is to be met by batteries, and we price the amount of storage needed at the price of the best currently-available batteries (Tesla-type lithium ion batteries), we get an upfront capital cost in the range of hundreds of trillions of dollars. That cost alone would be a large multiple of the entire U.S. GDP, and obviously would render the entire decarbonization project impossible. In addition, lithium-ion type batteries (and all other currently-available batteries) do not have the ability to store power for months on end, as from the summer to the winter, without dissipation, and then discharge over the course of additional months. In other words, the fantasy of a fully wind/solar energy economy backed up only by batteries is doomed to quickly run into an impenetrable wall.

So is there another approach to decarbonization that could work? With nuclear blocked by the same environmentalists who oppose all use of fossil fuels, the options are few. The most plausible would be to use hydrogen as the means of storage to balance the random swings of wind and solar electricity generation.

It’s not like nobody has thought of this up to now. Indeed, to politicians and activists who can freely pontificate about theoretical solutions without having to worry about practical obstacles or costs, hydrogen seems like it couldn’t be easier. With hydrogen, you can just completely cut carbon out of the energy cycle: make the hydrogen from water, store it until you need it, and then when the need arises burn it to produce energy with only water as the by-product.

Back in 2003, then-President George W. Bush proposed exactly such a system in his State of the Union address:

In his 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush launched his Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to work in partnership with the private sector to accelerate the research and development required for a hydrogen economy. The President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative and the FreedomCAR Partnership are providing nearly $1.72 billion to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells, hydrogen infrastructure technologies, and advanced automobile technologies. The President’s Initiative will enable the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles in the 2020 timeframe.

Fuel cell (that is, hydrogen-fueled) cars by 2020. Nothing to it!

Perhaps you haven’t noticed any large number of hydrogen-fueled cars on the roads here in 2022. How’s it going with the project to produce the hydrogen by a carbon-free process of electrolysis from water (sometimes known as “green hydrogen”)? This is from the JP Morgan Wealth Management 2022 Annual Energy Paper (page 39):

Current green hydrogen production is negligible. . . .

The solution seems so terribly obvious, and yet nobody is doing it. What is wrong with everybody?

The summary of the answer is that hydrogen in the form of a free gas is much more expensive to produce than good old natural gas (aka methane or CH4), and once you have it, it is inferior in every respect to natural gas as a fuel for running the energy system (other than the issue of carbon emissions, if you think those are a problem). Hydrogen is far more difficult and costly than natural gas to transport, to store and to handle. It is much more dangerous and subject to exploding. It is much less dense by volume, which makes it particularly less useful for transportation applications like cars and airplanes.

And of course there is no demonstration project at large scale to show how a hydrogen-based power system would work or how much it would cost after including all of the extras and current unknowns not just for producing it but also for transporting it and handling it safely.

Here are just a few of the issues that arise in consideration of hydrogen as the way to decarbonize:

  • Cost of “green” hydrogen versus natural gas. In recent years, prior to the last few months, natural gas prices have ranged between about $2 and $6 per million BTUs in the U.S. The price spike of the past few months has taken the price of natural gas to about $9/MMBTUs. Meanwhile, according to this December 2020 piece at Seeking Alpha, the price for “green” hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water is in the range of $4 to $6 per kg, which translates, according to Seeking Alpha, to $32 to $48 per MMBTU. In other words, even with the very dramatic recent rise in the price of natural gas, it is still 3 to 5 times cheaper to obtain than “green” hydrogen. There are some who predict dramatic future price declines for “green” hydrogen, and also continued price increases for natural gas. Maybe. But with prices where they are now, or anywhere close, nobody is going to make major purchases of “green” hydrogen as the backup fuel for intermittent renewables; and without buyers, nobody will produce large amounts of the stuff.
  • How much overbuild of sun/wind generation capacity would be required to produce the “green” hydrogen? Truly breathtaking amounts of incremental solar panels and/or wind turbines would be required to make enough “green” hydrogen to become a meaningful factor in backing up a grid mainly powered by the sun and wind. The Seeking Alpha piece has calculations of how much nameplate solar panel capacity it would take to produce enough “green” hydrogen to power just one small size (288 MW) GE turbine generator. The answer is, the solar nameplate capacity to do the job would be close to ten times the capacity of the plant that would use the hydrogen: “Consider the widely deployed GE 9F.04 gas turbine, which produces 288 MW of power. With 100% hydrogen fuel, GE states that this turbine would use about 9.3 million CF or 22,400 kg of hydrogen per hour. With an 80% efficient electrolysis energy cost of 49.3 kWh/kg, producing that one hour supply of hydrogen would require 1,104 MWh of power for electrolysis. To generate the hydrogen to run the turbine for 12 hours (~ dusk to dawn) would require 12 x 1,104 MWh, or 13.2 GWh. Given a typical 20% solar capacity factor, that would require about 2.6 GW of solar nameplate capacity dedicated to generating the hydrogen to fuel this 288 MW generator overnight.” Given the tremendous losses in the process of making the hydrogen and then converting it back into electricity, it is almost impossible to conceive that this process could ever be cost competitive with just burning natural gas.
  • Making enough “green” hydrogen to power the country means electrolyzing the ocean. The ocean is effectively infinite as a source of water, but fresh water supplies are limited. If you electrolyze salt water, you get large amounts of highly toxic chlorine. There are people working on solutions to this gigantic problem, but as of now it is all in the laboratory stage. Incremental costs of getting your “green” hydrogen from the ocean are a complete wild card.
  • Hydrogen is much less energy dense than gasoline by volume. For many purposes, and particularly for the purpose of transportation fuel, it is highly relevant that hydrogen is much less dense than gasoline by volume. Even liquid hydrogen has an energy density by volume that is only one-quarter that of gasoline (8 MJ/L versus 32 MJ/L), meaning that much larger a fuel tank; and liquid hydrogen needs to be kept at the ridiculously cold temperature of -253 deg C. Alternatively, you can compress the gas, but then you are talking more like a 10 times energy density disadvantage. Either compressing the gas or converting to liquid will require large amounts of additional energy, which is an additional cost not yet figured into the calculations.
  • Hydrogen makes steel pipelines more brittle. Hydrogen is much more difficult than natural gas to transport and handle. Most existing gas pipelines are made of steel, and hydrogen has an effect on steel known as “embrittlement,” that makes the pipes develop cracks and leaks over time. Cracks and leaks can lead to explosions. Also, because of the volumetric energy density issue, existing natural gas pipelines can carry far less energy if used to carry hydrogen.

I don’t know how much extra our energy would cost if we forcibly got rid of all hydrocarbons and shifted to wind and solar backed up by “green” hydrogen — and neither does anybody else. An educated guess would be that the all-in cost of energy would get multiplied by something in the range of five to ten.

Read the full article here.

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Tom Halla
June 14, 2022 10:15 am

But the greens still insist unicorn farts will save us.

IanE
Reply to  Tom Halla
June 14, 2022 11:12 am

Yes, but Jacinda will insist on taxing them!

PCman999
Reply to  Tom Halla
June 15, 2022 8:55 am

Who’s doing the “insisting” on these useless and harmful “Rube Goldberg” solutions to a fake problem?

Even if CO2 really was a problem, any sane engineer, or even a committee, would start with ocean fertilization and reforestation projects, to get the most CO2 sequestered per buck and more quickly than the typical wind turbines and solar panels recommended by the “experts”.

Seems more like they are actually increasing the amount of CO2, at least in the short term by relying on turbines and panels since so much energy goes into making them and so little is generated by them. One wonders if they’ll be in place long enough to make a dent in CO2 before wearing out or being replaced with better models – it’s happened in many areas old turbines being replaced before their time, with newer ones to maximize mining for those subsidies.

TRM
Reply to  PCman999
June 16, 2022 8:32 pm

“any sane engineer, or even a committee, would start with ocean fertilization and reforestation projects” – LOL. The second part describes Mr Watts entry into this field.

beng135
June 14, 2022 10:15 am

Any engineer or reasonable person could tell that. Takes more energy to make hydrogen than it produces.

Shoshin
Reply to  beng135
June 14, 2022 10:22 am

The problem with oil is that it is just so darn useful. If it wasn’t produced by Mother Nature, we would have had to invent it and the person who did would have gotten a Nobel Prize.

Prjindigo
Reply to  Shoshin
June 14, 2022 2:01 pm

Actually the prize would likely have been named after the person who invented it.

Why there’s no Zerk prize in engineering I’ll never know.

AndyHce
Reply to  Prjindigo
June 14, 2022 4:22 pm

For grease fittings?

alastair gray
Reply to  Shoshin
June 14, 2022 2:35 pm

A suitable time to remind the world that Mikie Mann is overdue for a Nobel prize for his contributions to Hockey, and, like you know “Science” coz he’s like wow as a scientist

Rusty
Reply to  beng135
June 14, 2022 11:23 am

And it isn’t very energy dense. And it therefore requires storing under pressure.

Reply to  Rusty
June 14, 2022 11:48 am

Deuterium and/or Tritium can be very energy dense. Making fusion work is infinitely more possible than trying to make anything ‘green’ work to produce energy.

chadb
Reply to  Rusty
June 14, 2022 11:56 am

I find talking about energy density for hydrogen annoying. It is both density (energy/mass) and low density (energy/volume). It is possible to store as a liquid, but then you need some very expensive cryogenics.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  chadb
June 16, 2022 3:27 am

Which takes MORE ENERGY! Once again, no free lunch!

alastair gray
Reply to  beng135
June 14, 2022 2:32 pm

My son in law is an engineer but he reads the Guardian and listens to the BBC That trumps working things out with a pencil and paper. He lectures part time on sustainable transportation.. Cognitive dissonance perhaps but to give him his due he does not use his car much , and only when there is no alternative.
Maybe 10 billion people driving SUV s is not sustainable but how do we envisage our future world. Some would say Listen to the Club of Rome, Greta Thunberg, Klaus Schwab and the Davos billionaire clique. Personally I would rather leave it to a Darwinian free for all “. Red in tooth and claw” is a better end than termination by UN diktat. I need to own just a little bit of this planet to be happy so stuff you Herr Obergrupenfuehrer Swab

Reply to  beng135
June 15, 2022 1:47 am

That actually is not the issue – that’s simply encapsulated in the concept of ‘turnround efficiency’ which applies to all energy storage. A bigger bugbear is the EROEI factor – if it takes more energy to create the whole energy generating system than it generates, you are totally borked.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 16, 2022 3:28 am

And that is “renewables” and hydrogen in a nutshell.

TonyL
June 14, 2022 10:19 am

Hydrogen is a terrible non-starter. Just the first look at the thermodynamics of electrolysis rules it out in the most emphatic way possible. Then you look at the kinetics and it is just that much worse. This, and this alone is why you do not see any pilot project proposals. The idea is DOA, and it is not going to improve with “technical improvements” or “breakthrough technologies”.
If we must – “Thermodynamics is a Harsh Mistress”.
Thermodynamics puts a solid limit on what you can do. Theorizing about Hydrogen power is nothing more than Magical Thinking, something we already have in abundance in “renewable energy”. We surely do not need any more.

UAH still has not updated all of their monthly temperature files. Anybody know whats up with that?

chadb
Reply to  TonyL
June 14, 2022 11:09 am

The thermodynamics may be bad, but it isn’t the worst part of this solution. Let’s imagine for a minute the size of infrastructure used for Natural Gas transport. Now imagine tripling that to handle Hydrogen (the article mentions the lower volumetric energy density, this is the consequence). Now consider that hydrogen (especially under pressure) tends to make metals brittle. And now add 30 years of time to those enormous (now brittle) pipes of hydrogen under high pressure near hot equipment.
Anyone else see a problem?

TonyL
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 11:23 am

No problem at all. The idea is dead, dead, dead long before you need to consider these little problems.

A good scientist or engineer cuts to the heart of the mater. If it is dead, then it is dead, and you are done.

Nick Graves
Reply to  TonyL
June 15, 2022 12:16 am

It’s not dead – it’s just pining for the fjords.

Steve Keppel-Jones
Reply to  Nick Graves
June 15, 2022 8:50 am

The only reason it’s still sitting on its perch is because you nailed it there!

Prjindigo
Reply to  TonyL
June 14, 2022 2:04 pm

Electrolysis isn’t the worst part of hydrogen. Unlike helium which just bleeds right through literally all methods we have to store it, hydrogen doesn’t actually exist and destroys the molecular structure of everything we try to fill with cold dense plasma. 99.9% of the population doesn’t understand that problem, its only called “hydrogen” when it has chemically bonded to an atom or molecule and even in chilled liquid state it is TERRIBLY reactive.

Imagine having to keep the base-load of the national power grid refrigerated all the time but having to re-manufacture the tanks every 10 years.

Now imagine doing so is almost as dangerous as keeping whopping large volumes of hydrofluoric acid in the middle of cities.

You also cannot add things to it in order to nose-detect leaks.

Last edited 21 days ago by Prjindigo
WILLIAM D LARSON
Reply to  TonyL
June 14, 2022 2:50 pm

And I read somewhere back when–sorry, no link: I’m lazy–that the greatest problem with hydrogen fuel cells is that they can’t get the hydrogen pure enough. Any little impurity gums up the membrane.

alastair gray
Reply to  TonyL
June 14, 2022 2:50 pm

Agree on  “Thermodynamics is a Harsh Mistress”.and sleepy Joe may repeal the constitution but he can not repeal the second law of thermodynamics.
However don’t give up on magical thinking. Fraccing happened because a very small number of people thought outside of the box. The adversity that the incompetence of the Brandons of this world force upon us all may stimulate some genius somewhere to make magical thinking work., and then sleepy Joe will c;aim the credit.
Did you know that Al Gore invented the internet?

beng135
Reply to  TonyL
June 15, 2022 10:14 am

UAH still has not updated all of their monthly temperature files. Anybody know whats up with that?

Fanatics are prb’ly taking potshots at the UAH offices.

Paul J Thiel
June 14, 2022 10:34 am

An under-considered additional complication is the need for all those stickers of the Hindenburg on anything involving simple hydrogen.

June 14, 2022 10:39 am

Turns out the federal government is responsible for grid reliability. This would include using hydrogen for electricity. They are ignoring the entire issue.

https://www.cfact.org/2022/06/14/news-of-nerc-is-not-good-for-reliability/

Breaking the story on NERC and FERC’s deliberate negligence, ignoring the rapidly declining reliability of the American electric power system due to the reckless replacing of reliable coal fired power plants with unreliable renewables. Given the coming election the timing is excellent. We must restore reliability!

Speed
June 14, 2022 10:48 am

Today’s Wall Street Journal …

NextEra Energy Inc., NEE -1.85% the owner of Florida Power & Light and one of the world’s biggest renewable energy developers, said Tuesday that it plans to make most of its operations carbon-free by 2045, by building huge solar farms and converting its power plants to run on hydrogen fuel.

https://on.wsj.com/3b5cRPT

So I guess we’ll see.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Speed
June 14, 2022 11:43 am

NEE may own FP&L, but as a regulated entity, the latter can’t take a piss without say so. (As we say up here in Shawshank). And if FP&L’s regulators want to keep their jobs, they’ll insist that FP&L meet its customer’s needs for cheap and reliable energy, even if they have to wheel it in from distant providers, rather than from the climate change addled economic rent-seekers at NEE.

TonyL
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
June 14, 2022 12:26 pm

This whole stinks of Biden’s “Build Back Better” Trillion dollar economic program. Alternatively, the 2 trillion COVID relief fund. You just know the money is coming from somewhere.

AndyHce
Reply to  TonyL
June 14, 2022 4:32 pm

You just know the money is coming from somewhere.

By keying the numbers into the main computer. Nothing more is required because nothing but those numbers exists.

Kit P
Reply to  Speed
June 14, 2022 1:30 pm

I have a lot of NEE stock. The main reason the nuke plants they run and second because they are good at harvesting subsidies.

Love coal too, BTU.

Olen
June 14, 2022 10:57 am

Best not to look Joe Biden in the eye and get his guarantee.

chadb
June 14, 2022 11:04 am

The actual “green” solution would be a bit different than what is described in the article.
It is much more economical to overbuild wind and solar and curtail. There would be some storage, but not tons of storage. The difference between solar+wind+nuclear+storage and total generation can be managed with offsets fairly economically.
Do I advocate for that system? No. I personally don’t really care where my electrons come from, so I’m not advocating for anything. However, it is really is the case that solar is cheaper than natural gas in much of the US so Texas really ought to have 60 GW of solar in place (swap out Nat Gas for solar as much as possible without storage), and similarly 40-50 GW of wind. By the time you have that much wind and solar in Texas a relatively small amount of storage (they will have 5GW before the end of this year, 50GWh becomes a game changer) brings you to a system where ~80% of actual demand can be met with wind, solar, existing nuclear, and storage at a lower cost than today’s system.
The amount of Natural Gas capacity doesn’t change all that much, but the annual throughput would.

IanE
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 11:15 am

‘it is really is the case that solar is cheaper than natural gas in much of the US’

So from where is the tax take to come?

chadb
Reply to  IanE
June 14, 2022 11:30 am

Let’s imagine that all the solar that was installed in 2019 only made economic sense due to tax benefits. Not true, but lets propose that for the sake of argument. Since 2019 the price of natural gas has more than doubled. Given that the solar tax benefit was less than 50% of the installation cost you should be able to admit that in today’s market solar is cheaper than gas. That is before considering the drop in the cost of a solar panel over the last 3 years.
Solar is cheaper than gas in the southwest (including California and Texas), is marginal in the southeast and southern Midwest (Missouri), doubious in Florida (where it is cloudy/rainy during the hours that should have the best sun), probably weather constrained in tornado alley, and not viable in the Northeast and Northwest.

MarkW
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 11:30 am

There are so many problems with your proposal that it’s hard to believe you are being serious.

1) Where exactly are you planning to put 10 times as many wind mills and solar panels. Is there any room for people on your planet?
2) As you increase the number of windmills and solar panels, each additional unit is placed in incrementally more marginal places. You wind up with things like solar panels in Saskatchewan, and wind mills that shadow each other. The more wind mills and solar panels you build, the less power you get from each additional unit. As a result, you are going to have at least double or triple the numbers of each to get the kind of power you are talking about.
3) The reality is that when the wind stops blowing, it stops blowing over very large areas. Of course you can bring in power from other places, power lines cost money, big HDCV lines cost a lot of money. So you have to add that to the cost of your fantasy.
3) The same problems exist with solar. Obviously half the planet is in the dark at any given time. A much bigger problem is that solar only provides max power when the sun is directly over the panel and perpendicular to the surface of the panel. Because of this, power output from each panel drops off rapidly either side of noon. Since the sun moves up and down in the sky over a year, you also only get max power one day a year. Max power drops on either side of that day.

chadb
Reply to  MarkW
June 14, 2022 11:51 am

Thank you for the response.
My numbers suggested that Texas (currently 36GW of Wind) install 40-50GW total. Installed and planned solar is 20GW, I suggested 60GW. That is 1.5x wind, 3x solar. Not 10x.
As far as the wind goes, much of the suggested increase could technically come from repowering sites. That is, take the 300kW turbines off the pads they were placed on in 1998 and put 4MW turbines in their place. Fewer turbines, but better performance over the year. Additionally there is a backlog of places that could be built out, but haven’t.
Interestingly the 60GW of solar I suggested for Texas turns out to be almost the same amount of solar per acre as installed already in California. Perhaps that is an untenable amount of solar, but it isn’t like California has run out of room for solar panels.
In the southeast you have poorer solar (more clouds and rain) and much worse wind, so the same solution wouldn’t work there.
Not sure if you read what I wrote. I am aware that when the wind stops it stops. Battery backup is a poor solution for anything over ~12 hours (at most). However, if you kept around gas turbines that have already been built for those periods then you end up with a grid that is 80% CO2 emission free at a lower cost than today. I didn’t say net-0, and I didn’t say to build a national HVDC grid (something disconnected ERCOT wouldn’t do anyway).

MarkW
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 12:47 pm

Repowering as you outline is not possible.
First off, the larger turbines have much longer blades, so the towers have to be replaced as well as the turbine.
Larger towers can’t be placed on the pads used by smaller turbines, so you have to first de-commission the smaller pads (break them up) and build new pads. Secondly even though they may be further apart, they are also bigger, which increases the amount of wind blocked by each turbine. Net result, you’ve spent a lot of money for no additional power.

CA may not have run out of room for solar, however they are still only getting a few percent of their power from solar. The total amount that would be needed to power their own needs, much less provide excess power to export to those areas where solar is less optimal is so huge that there simply isn’t enough land available.

I did read what you wrote. Your solutions can’t work. For the reasons I outlined, and dozens more.

chadb
Reply to  MarkW
June 14, 2022 1:09 pm

Replacing the towers and pads is technically feasible. It may not be the best economics (right now lower capacity factor green sites are cheaper than replacing towers and pads on higher capacity sites), but it is certainly possible. At those sites your blades are certainly further apart (meaning not all pads would need to be decommissioned and replaced), but the power output from modern turbines is higher than 20 year old turbines.
Isn’t enough land available? Have you driven through Texas before? I have. There is enough land. There may not be enough raw materials for that level of build, but there is enough land.
Also, the level of build I suggested means the same proportion of land that has been dedicated to solar in California. Sometimes I tell my kids “never argue the impossibility of something that has already been done.” This level of build has already been done. It exists, and it is difficult to see on satellite images unless you know where to look ahead of time. California didn’t “run out of land” to hit that build level.

AndyHce
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 4:48 pm

According to the occasional report, CA has frequently spent millions of $ per month to get surrounding states to take it’s excess solar generation since much of the power is generated when no one in CA has any use for it.

chadb
Reply to  AndyHce
June 15, 2022 5:16 am

That’s because CA has stupid rules that prevent them from curtailing their solar. I never said adopt stupid rules. I suggested ERCOT triple their solar and increase their wind by 50% which would develop a grid that is 80% emission free and lower cost than today. I didn’t suggest they take their really nice energy only market and adopt moronic rules imposed in other ISOs.
Luckily they are asynchronous, so they couldn’t export the excess power even if they wanted to.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  chadb
June 16, 2022 7:51 am

When you throw away half your solar output because it cannot be absorbed you double the cost of what is of some use. The marginal benefit of an additional solar park or wind farm is even less, making the effective cost a multiple of the theoretical levelised cost. Screws up the economics a bit, and is almost never accounted for in these high solar/wind renewables grid blueprints.

The reality is that going beyond about 60% renewables results in rapidly rising useless surplus power that is uneconomic to store with very little contribution at times of shortage, which is why you find that no practical grids are built to do so. The remarkable thing is that this sort of figure seems to apply in many different geographies that I’ve looked at.

MarkW
Reply to  chadb
June 15, 2022 12:22 pm

Just because something is possible, doesn’t make it a good idea.
Wind and solar aren’t economical and never will be.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 12:47 pm

Why have two other sources both of which can stop producing one randomly and have a third which can work all the time on standby, with a fourth operating all the time as a base, and a fifth to cover sudden peaks in demand?

Surely the optimum solution is to have the base, the peak cover and the one that works whenever needed? You’ve saved investing in two part time generating systems and the infrastructure that goes with them.

I’ve never understood the logic and justification, these schemes always remind me of the impractical plans of 12 year olds

chadb
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
June 14, 2022 1:01 pm

Fuel costs money. If the annual capital cost of wind/solar is lower than the cost of fuel for the same hours run then you install the capital and idle the combustion equipment for the hours when the 0 marginal cost source is available. Then you have the choice of either overbuilding & storing excess electricity or ramping up the more expensive fuel source when the 0 marginal cost source is unavailable.

The optimum solution is the one that leads to the lowest total cost over the course of a year. That solution is not the cost that has the lowest capital expense or the lowest fuel expense, or the lowest fixed operating expense, but the one that serves each hour of the year for the lowest total cost.

When wind and solar are available they are dirt cheap. As long as you get less than ~10% curtailment they are cheaper than natural gas combined cycle (that analysis was with 2019 costs, so it is probably closer to 30% curtailment now). So you install wind/solar until you get to 10-30% curtailment and then use dispatchable sources for the rest. Given the amount of overbuild that goes into the system there is some storage that is practical, but it isn’t enough to meet days at a time of low wind & clouds.

If the cost of fuel goes down then you would build less wind/solar. If the cost goes up you build more.

Effectively the question is: You are operating a natural gas plant right now. If you install solar on your site you can replace electrons from the turbine with electrons from the panels. The cost of the panels is less than the cost of natural gas. Do you install a panel? “But it’s more complicated!” Whatever, you have more money in your pocket at the end of the year. If the fuel savings pays for the capital equipment you buy it. If they don’t you don’t. The reality is in much of the country right now the fuel savings pay for the panels.

I honestly don’t understand all the down votes I’m getting on this. It’s just math.

Derg
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 1:42 pm

We need reliable power not unreliable solar and Wind.

BobM
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 2:05 pm

“For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” –Warren Buffet cited by U.S. News/Nancy Pfotenhauer

Rud Istvan
Reply to  BobM
June 14, 2022 2:31 pm

He said that at one of his Berkshire annual meetings, to his shareholders. I cited the quote with a fn in ‘True Cost of Wind’ over at Judith’s a while ago.

chadb
Reply to  BobM
June 15, 2022 5:06 am

8 years ago. The economics have changed in the last 8 years.

MarkW
Reply to  chadb
June 15, 2022 12:23 pm

They have gotten worse.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 3:22 pm

 idle the combustion equipment for the hours when the 0 marginal cost source is available.”

How do you idle them and still have them available? Gas turbines take time to come up to operating temp and to sync with the grid. It isn’t like firing up your 2kw gas generator on the patio when the electricity goes out.

Nat gas is expensive today because of government regulation. Lose the regulation and suppression of availability and it will once again be cheaper than wind and solar.

chadb
Reply to  Tim Gorman
June 15, 2022 7:08 am

The same way it happens literally every night. Each day ERCOT swings up to 40GW of power. If they can do it each and every day then they can do it each and every day.

MarkW
Reply to  chadb
June 15, 2022 12:25 pm

Why don’t you spend some time studying the subject?

Everyday, ERCOT knows hours in advance when the peaks are going to be and prepares for them.
Nobody knows when the wind will stop blowing or a bank of clouds will pass over your solar panels, so that can’t be prepared for.

chadb
Reply to  MarkW
June 17, 2022 10:45 am

You should let ERCOT know that they don’t know that. I mean they go ahead and put out their 24 hour look ahead for wind and solar generation. You should tell them to pull that off their page. You should tell CAISO to do so as well.
Also, you should let every weather man in the world know that they can’t tell if it’s going to be sunny or cloudy tomorrow.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 3:16 pm

 However, if you kept around gas turbines that have already been built for those periods then you end up with a grid that is 80% CO2 emission free at a lower cost than today. I didn’t say net-0, and I didn’t say to build a national HVDC grid (something disconnected ERCOT wouldn’t do anyway).”

Those gas turbines can’t just be turned on instantaneously unless you keep them fueled and running all the time. If you are going to do that then why not use them all the time? Then you don’t need the solar panels at all!

Mac
Reply to  chadb
June 15, 2022 4:44 am

You forgot the initial costs and the most important the lifespan of so called renewables.

chadb
Reply to  Mac
June 15, 2022 5:09 am

That is included in the amortized cost.

MarkW
Reply to  chadb
June 15, 2022 12:25 pm

It should be, but it never is.

AndyHce
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 4:35 pm

And when it is very hot, or especially very cold, and wind and solar drop to 0% – 3% of their ‘normal’ output for extended periods?

Craig from Oz
Reply to  chadb
June 15, 2022 1:06 am

I love the way you casually dismiss the costs of actually making, installing, maintaining and DECOMMISSIONING wind and solar.

Some things last forever – the idea that solar is 100% free for example – but everything else SHOULD be decommissioned and disposed of.

Where are your calculations for the disposal of old solar?

Where are your calculation for the disposal of old wind?

Sorry to be reality, but the only thing you get from rubbing rainbows and unicorns together is white light and the same unicorn.

DrEd
Reply to  chadb
June 15, 2022 2:34 pm

https://www.manhattancontrarian.com/blog/2022-6-2-bidens-most-preposterous-lie-is-too-much-even-for-the-washington-post

In all our current experience the data shows that the more wind and solar is installed, the more expensive electricity is. There is a graph on Quora Sept 30, 2021 that show this in EU countries. Germany has about 1000W per capita green energy with 30 eurocents/KWh residential electricity costs while at the other end Poland has about 120W per capita and costs of 14eurocents/KWh. 19 countries data points are on the graph and fall along a straight line.
UK has installed ~35GW nameplate solar, on- and off-shore wind and gets about 21% from it. Their costs estimated for 60 years (the lifetime for gas and nuclear generation plants) for all costs including fuel, maintenance, and replacement shows the green idiocy is 10X the gas fired costs and 2.5X the overpriced nuclear option.
The green options are BS.

chadb
Reply to  DrEd
June 17, 2022 10:50 am

They have poor market structures though. Compare Germany to ERCOT. ERCOT is 30% wind and solar over the last 12 months and is on the lower side of wholesale electricity cost. However, they are an energy only market. They don’t have the same level of distortion as Germany, Spain, and the others.
The Solar over the last 12 months has nearly doubled, and according to EIA planned builds it is set to double again. That along with planned builds for wind is likely to push ERCOT to 50% renewables. I think the economics will get stressed after that point, but that is within 80% emission free generation (not capacity, generation).

chadb
June 14, 2022 11:05 am

Hydrogen for grid is bad. However it isn’t nearly as bad as the crazy schemes for hydrogen for flight. There is a reason we haven’t used hydrogen for air travel since the Hindenburg.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  chadb
June 14, 2022 11:33 am

Oh come on! Where’s your sense of adventure?

Rud Istvan
June 14, 2022 11:07 am

I did an analysis of hydrogen in essay ‘Hydrogen Hype’ in ebook Blowing Smoke. Focused on fuel cell automobiles. IF you ignore all the obvious insurmountable technical problems with fueling and storage, and just focus on round trip efficiency from electrolysis to fuel cell electricity for the car, it turns out the humble Toyota Prius hybrid is already significantly more energy efficient.

Frank from NoVA
June 14, 2022 11:26 am

‘In his 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush launched his Hydrogen Fuel Initiative.’

That’s all you need to know about H2!

Charlie
June 14, 2022 11:39 am

The President’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative and the FreedomCAR Partnership are providing nearly $1.72 billion to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells

$1.72 billion and then nothing. I think there’s a clue there. But there’s more. Their intention was to make the hydrogen the cheaper way – extracting it from natural gas, coal, biomass. And still nothing.

Tom.1
June 14, 2022 11:41 am

You were doing really well up to this point:

Hydrogen makes steel pipelines more brittle. Hydrogen is much more difficult than natural gas to transport and handle. Most existing gas pipelines are made of steel, and hydrogen has an effect on steel known as “embrittlement,” that makes the pipes develop cracks and leaks over time. Cracks and leaks can lead to explosions. Also, because of the volumetric energy density issue, existing natural gas pipelines can carry far less energy if used to carry hydrogen.

There are already commercial hydrogen pipelines and many, many, many miles of steel hydrogen piping in refineries and chemical plants. Hydrogen embrittlement is a metallurgical problem, but well understood and easily managed. Any use of existing piping systems for hydrogen service would require an engineering review. The economics are terrible, but metallurgical problems won’t stop it. Hydrogen embrittlement mainly occurs because of improper welding technique, corrosion unrelated to the hydrogen itself, or low-quality steel. It occurs when monatomic hydrogen is present.

Meab
Reply to  Tom.1
June 14, 2022 12:56 pm

You’ve been schooled on this before. Did you read the study done by Sandia I referenced the last time you made this same ignorant post? The truth is that piping designed and fabricated for hydrogen works fine but hydrogen can cause weld embrittlement in nearly all piping not designed for hydrogen.

As I told you before, I did my Master’s thesis on the thermochemical production of hydrogen.

Tom.1
Reply to  Meab
June 14, 2022 2:40 pm

I don’t care about your degree or your study. If I said something that is incorrect, then just point it out.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Tom.1
June 14, 2022 3:26 pm

Several problems were pointed out to you. The distribution network for nat gas today is *NOT* suitable for hydrogen. You can’t guarantee no embrittlement and most of the residential pipes are too small to carry the load. Home insurance would skyrocket in cost and retrofit costs would badly hurt many homeowners.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Tim Gorman
June 14, 2022 6:29 pm

Correct
Tom keeps missing the point, I think it’s looking pretty deliberate.
All of the hydrogen facilities are specially built with much more expensive components that have absolutely no relevance to your average home or commercial building.

Switching to hydrogen without first replacing all the infrastructure, incalculable trillions, would mean many disasters in short order.

Tom like to pretend sanity.

Tom.1
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
June 15, 2022 1:21 am

Carbon steel is the alloy family most commonly used in hydrogen gas transmission pipelines.

Microsoft Word – Doc 121 04 E.doc (h2tools.org)

Tom.1
Reply to  Tim Gorman
June 15, 2022 1:19 am

I never said any existing piping or pipelines would be used for hydrogen without first making sure they were suitable for hydrogen service (engineering review). This document talks about piping systems for hydrogen. I think it should answer most of your questions: Microsoft Word – Doc 121 04 E.doc (h2tools.org)

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Tom.1
June 15, 2022 1:12 pm

The document is on the transmission and distribution requirements for using hydrogen. What does that have to do with existing transmission and distribution of natural gas? Are you going to build parallel infrastructure everywhere, including inside houses, or are you going to dig everything up and replace it.

You have the same problem with hydrogen that you have with putting charging stations along all the sidewalks in every urban area in the US! Neither is going to happen before the end of the century. The taxpayers/ratepayers couldn’t afford digging up every sidewalk and there isn’t enough workers available to accomplish either one!

It isn’t a problem of lacking the regulatory documents (like the National Electric Code), its a problem of getting it done. Saying we could move to hydrogen is a delusion!

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Tom.1
June 15, 2022 1:10 am

Tom?

You did.

He did.

See where this conversation is going?

You don’t have to be a SME on everything in life. You just need to have access to enough AND listen to what they actually say.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Tom.1
June 15, 2022 1:16 am

While we are talking about steel and the large amounts needed to make all these new hydrogen pipes, do you have any suggestions for how it is going to be mined and processed in a ‘post fossil fuel world’?

Also all the copper for all the transmission wires. Speaking from personal professional experience, copper doesn’t grow on trees, sulphur doesn’t grow on trees, the large amount of electricity used doesn’t grow on trees.

I have worked in that industry. The lack of trees involved in the process was very obvious.

MarkW
Reply to  Tom.1
June 15, 2022 12:33 pm

Those pipes exist in a controlled environment and are regularly and extensively inspected.
They are also much more expensive than standard pipes.

Just because something is technically possible in small controlled ways, is not evidence that it’s possible in the rest of the world.

BTW, just because something may be technically possible, is not evidence that it is not monumentally stupid.

Peta of Newark
June 14, 2022 11:53 am

How much Platinum is there on this Earth?

I recall from somewhere that there is ‘not very much‘ and certainly the stuff is far too scarce to make any significant number of fuel celled cars.

Unless they’ve worked out how to make Hydrogen Fuel Cells without using Platinum?

Jeff Labute
Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 14, 2022 1:13 pm

60% to 70% of the world supply is used in auto catalysts and the rest in jewelry, electrical, chemical, etc. A catalytic converter has about 5g of platinum, while a fuel cell needs 30g to 60g. They are trying to do the same with less, and researching alternative catalysts. So, not enough platinum to get everyone in to a fuel cell vehicle. Not enough lithium to get everyone into an EV.

Paul C
June 14, 2022 12:05 pm

Unfortunately, the UK is already in the process of proving the unsuitability of hydrogen as a fuel for transport. Hydrogen hub is the term used for the government’s use of taxpayer money to set up a bit of infrastructure to try producing and using hydrogen as a fuel. I hope it proves its unsuitability quickly before too much treasure is wasted.

ThinkingScientist
Reply to  Paul C
June 15, 2022 6:56 am

Perhaps a small explosion might focus the minds?

Steve Case
June 14, 2022 12:48 pm

With nuclear blocked by the same environmentalists …
__________________________________________

We will slowly run out of fossil fuels. How far out is that? Centuries? At any rate, the other side is going to eventually agree to nuclear or starve and die. Until then it’s going to be very ugly.

Someplace I read that there’s enough fissionable fuel to last until the Sun burns out.

Kit P
Reply to  Steve Case
June 14, 2022 2:05 pm

Not one enviromentalist has ever blocked a nuke plant in the US thanks to the rule of law.

However, the coal and gas industry has done a pretty good job of making the ecomics of nuke plants a challenge.

For those who do not know there is already a hydrogen economy. Producing hydrogen is a important industry. Part of Bush’s initative was a prototype for a modular high temtperature gas cooled reactor in Idaho that would improve the efficiency of making hydrogen.

If the gas industry in the US had not done such a good job making gas cheap, it would operating

Steve Case
Reply to  Kit P
June 14, 2022 6:33 pm

Not one enviromentalist has ever blocked a nuke plant in the US thanks to the rule of law.
____________________________________________________

The quote is from Francis Menton maybe you should take it up with him. Having said that, I certainly was under the impression that the usual crowd of environmentalists routinely protest against nuclear power.

I’m in the same boat as Willis Eschenbach who has said something to the effect that he likes WUWT because his mistakes are swiftly pointed out.

In other words, thanks for your reply.

MarkW
Reply to  Kit P
June 15, 2022 12:43 pm

In the US, they don’t physically block the plant, what they do is repeatedly sue to block construction and certification of the plants.
They rarely win, but the do make the companies spend so much money defending themselves against the law suits, that they make construction impossible.

They also use regulatory agencies to constantly change the regulations in order to cause repeated redesigns during construction and retrofits after construction.
None of which actually increase safety, all of which make the plants more expensive.

Kit P
Reply to  MarkW
June 15, 2022 8:45 pm

Mark this true of any project.

Let me share some of my experience. I had this crazy idea that utlities could help their customers with environmetal problems because of our experience. I took it to my manager who shot it down because we were in the federal group working DOE jobs. He did call a friend at the home office.

Next thing you know I am allowed market my ideas berween nuclear gigs. I ran across a liked minded individual. He was looking for a job because his project got sued faslely because he could not afford to fight it.

What I learned was that no matter how you want to make electricty, somebody is against it. Nuke plants can afford lots of lawyers.

niceguy
Reply to  Kit P
June 22, 2022 9:15 pm

“Not one enviromentalist has ever blocked a nuke plant in the US thanks to the rule of law.”

Here in France:

French detectives have launched a manhunt near Lyon in southeastern France to find the person who fired five rockets at the jewel of the nuclear energy program, the sodium-cooled plutonium breeder reactor known as the Super Phenix. The shots were fired at the reactor, still under con-struction at Creys-Malville, from a point across the Rhone River at around midnight on 18 January. According to a spokesman for the French nuclear agency in Washing-ton, Bertrand Barre, the police still have no suspect and few clues. One man, who would not identify himself except to say he represented a group called the Pacifist and Ecologist Com-mittee, telephoned a news agency to claim responsibility. He said the dam-age would “cause an enormous delay in the construction of the plant, which was our objective. We were not trying to be spectacular for the sake of it, but to delay the building of this monstrous object and make people think—so that the nuclear debate will start again in France.” When the Mitterrand administration came into office in May 1981, the government’s nuclear construction program was put on hold for a review lasting several months. Work has re-sumed now on most reactors. Bare says the attack did little dam-age to the Super Phenix, which will be the world’s first large-scale plutonium breeder. There will be no delay in the operating schedule, he says. Full power (1200 megawatts) testing is supposed to begin late in 1983 and regular operation should start in 1984. The rockets and launcher were of Russian design. intended for use against armored tanks.

comment image

That was January 18, 1982

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Steve Case
June 14, 2022 2:44 pm

I wrote parts of two ebooks about that. We will never ‘run out’ of fossil fuels completely—they just become too expensive to be practical as fuels. The way to think about this is the global peak in production. The decline side is slower than the increase side of the curve, because existing fields display a gamma function with a long tail, NOT a symmetrical logistics function as Hubbert originally postulated. The peak for crude including fracked shales is about 2025, so very near. That shoe begins to pinch about 2040. The peak for natgas including fracked is about 2060. The peak for all coal types is sometime in early 2300, although others place it significantly earlier.

Steve Case
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 14, 2022 6:35 pm

That isn’t a pretty picture.

RobK
June 14, 2022 12:57 pm

The concept of making green hydrogen from variable RE is folly because you essentially just kick the overbuild ogre down the road.

alastair gray
June 14, 2022 2:21 pm

Paul,
I have a spreadsheet for the UK that considers various wonderful green energy storage solutions that will back up our renewable grid such as Hydrogen, Gravity storage, car batteries and answers the question ” Given the capacity factor of the renewable resource, and the efficiency of the storage medium How many gigawatts do you need to install to be net zero and how many of these wonderful storage devices do you actually need , and in all cases the answer is as you say, and in terms that a politician would understand About a gazillion of them.
I enclose a link to the spreadsheet. Please let me know how I can build on this to show the patent absudrdity of the guff that our political idiots spout

https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/inse49u6v31bwcb5g6c0o/UK-Backup-plan-for-menton.xlsx?dl=0&rlkey=0sdgrszu121ruj2rktppzxbip

kzb
June 14, 2022 3:05 pm

Tell you what though. You can refuel a vehicle with hydrogen in about the same time as it take to refuel with gasoline. I also don’t need to install charging facilities at my home and there is no huge additional capacity needed in the electrical distribution system either.

Fuel cells are 2 to 3 times as efficient as a gasoline internal combustion engine, which greatly mitigates the lower energy density problem. As a result there are fuel cell vehicles on the market right now with ranges greater than EVs and comparable with smaller ICE vehicles.

If they could fit in just one extra cylinder the range could be maybe 500 miles which is quite satisfactory for most people.

I’d like a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle more than a battery vehicle thank you,

Kit P
Reply to  kzb
June 15, 2022 9:06 am

 You can refuel a vehicle with hydrogen……

I can’t because it is too dangerouse.

One of the proterties of hydrogen is that it detonates. While fatal accidents are rare in an industrial setting, widespread use by the public will get people killed in the name of protecting the enviroment.

It is not that hydrogen can’t be handled safely, it is that it is too expensive.

Next time you are fueling your car, look around and see if anyone is paying attention while doing a dangerous activtey.

A truck driver delivering H2 and the coal plant operator were killed. Windows five miles away were blown out. How many would die if it was a city refueliong station?

Tom.1
Reply to  Kit P
June 15, 2022 9:55 am

This is the Toyota Marai. They have apparently figured out how to make it safe.
2022 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Vehicle | Innovation is Power

Kit P
Reply to  Tom.1
June 15, 2022 7:55 pm

Thanks for the tip. If I see one of these parked in a parking garage, I will pull the fire alarm to evacuate the building it is in.

See the point?

RickWill
June 14, 2022 3:42 pm

Some useful facts.
Australias NEM could be powered with a 250GW solar array somewhere in the vicinity of the Fliders range. It would required 750GWh of storage to get through June. That demand peaks around 30GW and the annual consumption is around 200TWh.

US usage is about 10X Australia. So with a well located solar array of 5TW and storage of 15TW would go close to meeting the current demand for electricity. It needs to be tippled to cover all energy so just 15TW of panels and 45TW of storage.

Australia is already producing green hydrogen for injection at 5% into part of the South Australian gas network. The plant cost AUD14.5M and produces at 20kg/hr. If it was able to achieve 100% availability, it could produce 175T per year.

The plant

RickWill
Reply to  RickWill
June 14, 2022 4:46 pm

Not truncated:
Some useful numbers.
Australia’s NEM could be powered with a 250GW solar array somewhere in the vicinity of the Flinders Range. It would require 750GWh of storage to get through June – the worst month. The demand peaks around 30GW and the annual consumption is around 200TWh.

US usage is about 20X Australia. So a well located solar array of 5TW and efficient storage of 15TWh would go close to meeting the current demand for electricity in the USA. It needs to be tippled to cover all energy so just 15TW of panels and 45TWh of storage.

Australia is already producing green hydrogen for injection at 5% into part of the South Australian gas network. The plant cost AUD14.5M and produces at 20kg/hr. If it was able to achieve 100% availability, it could produce 175T per year.

The plant power consumption is 1.5MW and the energy content of 20kg of hydrogen is 780kWh. So the conversion efficiency is just over 50%.

The power rating of a hydrogen production facility would ideally be designed to absorb the difference between base demand and peak solar output – lets say 10TW. So the capital cost of the plant is $14.5M*10TW/1.5MW = $97tr – or a lot. Hang on, the conversion efficiency is 50% so the solar array is now 30TW and the plant cost $194tr – more than a lot.

Scale up would probably lower the capital cost for the production but it is still expensive.

There may be smarter ways by buffering the plant with a small amount of batteries to reduce the power rating of the plant but running it at a steadier rate. Buffering the plant using the hydrogen produced suffers from the high cycle conversion losses.

Cost of storing hydrogen is down to around $2/kWh. So the actual storage is low by comparison with producing it at a suitable rate; in the billions not trillions. Wood costs next to nothing to store.

RobK
Reply to  RickWill
June 14, 2022 5:19 pm

“ Wood costs next to nothing to store.”
Neither does coal.

Jack
Reply to  RobK
June 15, 2022 5:37 am

OK, but wood is a renewable energy. Its CO2 footprint is akin to zero so far as the burnt wood is replaced by planted and growing trees.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Jack
June 16, 2022 3:59 am

So is coal – just on a longer time scale.

Then you have the other issues of burning wood for heat – it burns much faster than it grows (so deforestation), and it rots if stored for very long.

Just look at Haiti for a shining example of depending on wood for heating, cooking, etc.

2hotel9
June 14, 2022 5:08 pm

As anyone who has worked with liquidfied gases could have told them for free, no. Where is my check?

michael hart
June 14, 2022 7:21 pm

Playing Devil’s advocate, you don’t need to transport the hydrogen, just the electricity. via an upgraded grid.

I also estimate that the total annual energy use of the US, as hydrogen, is available via electrolysing water equivalent of ~43 days flow of the Mississippi. (workings available to the interested when I am sober). However, that fresh water would be easily recycled, so the point is moot..There are plenty of reservoirs.

MarkW
Reply to  michael hart
June 15, 2022 12:47 pm

You still need to store the hydrogen, if you are using it for power.
If you are using it for transportation, you will need to transport it.

michael hart
Reply to  MarkW
June 16, 2022 7:28 am

Agreed. Especially about the transportation.
But storage might be accomplished at a few, very large, installations for grid use?

Greg Locock
June 14, 2022 9:12 pm

There are a couple of solutions, if you have some spare hydrogen. (1) synthesise methane from it or (2) synthesise ammonia from it. Both are useful products that we know how to handle.

Rod Evans
June 14, 2022 11:41 pm

If the green energy advocates are fixated with hydrogen? Maybe we can remind them that CH4 is mostly hydrogen, with a bit of carbon needed to stabilise it.
So maybe we should take the fight to them and champion hydrogen in its stable form, i.e. ‘natural’ gas.
It is so much saner than promoting pure hydrogen which is ‘unnatural gas’….

Anders Valland
June 15, 2022 12:57 am

In order to store hydrogen in large quantities over long periods of time you need to put it into a metal or a liquid carrier. Gasoline is a good, high density carrier of hydrogen. It actually contains more hydrogen per liter than pure liquefied hydrogen 🙂

But usually you need to put it into a metal hydride or a thermal oil, where it can remain in storage. There are some downsides to this, as storage is an exothermic process requiring around 30 bar pressure and heat equivalent to 8 kWh/kg hydrogen (hydrogen contains 33.3 kWh/kg of useful energy). To release it you need a catalyst, and the process is endothermic requiring heat at around 11-13 kWh/kg hydrogen. Proponents of such solutions say that in a large system you can use the exothermal heat from hydrogenation (i.e. storing hydrogen) as an input to the release process, but that seems a bit strange. When you have excess energy to store, you would not at the same time draw on the storage.

Storage in liquid form is out of the question since boil-off starts to be a real problem after about 14 days. You could theoretically use tank systems for liquid helium, but then the costs are magnitudes higher.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

June 15, 2022 1:43 am

I don’t know how much extra our energy would cost if we forcibly got rid of all hydrocarbons and shifted to wind and solar backed up by “green” hydrogen — and neither does anybody else. An educated guess would be that the all-in cost of energy would get multiplied by something in the range of five to ten.

Essentially lifestyle is directly related to the cost of energy.

You merely need to look at the lifestyle of countries that have no access to energy apart from ‘renewables’

Think sub Saharan Africa

istockphoto-538752303-612x612.jpg
MarkW
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 15, 2022 12:53 pm

An educated guess would be that the all-in cost of energy would get multiplied by something in the range of five to ten.

I don’t know where this guy got his education, but he needs to see if he can get his money back.

Building enough wind and solar to power an economy alone will cost more than his “educated guess”. That doesn’t count the excess generation capacity that will be needed to actually produce enough hydrogen and store it, for those times when wind and solar aren’t producing enough.
Then there is the cost of the facilities to create the hydrogen. The facilities to store the hydrogen and finally the facilities to burn the hydrogen.

Altogether an increase in cost of well over 100 is a low estimate. The actual bill will undoubtedly be much higher.

Last edited 20 days ago by MarkW
Jack
June 15, 2022 1:56 am

The water electrolysis requires a very pure water to reach its best yield. Usually pure drinking water should be distillated twice to become acceptable in the electrolyzers.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Jack
June 16, 2022 4:03 am

Requiring…MORE ENERGY! Once again, no free lunch.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
June 15, 2022 6:18 am

Consider the widely deployed GE 9F.04 gas turbine, which produces 288 MW of power. With 100% hydrogen fuel, GE states that this turbine would use about 9.3 million CF or 22,400 kg of hydrogen per hour. With an 80% efficient electrolysis energy cost of 49.3 kWh/kg, producing that one hour supply of hydrogen would require 1,104 MWh of power for electrolysis.

Coincidentally, 1,104 MW is almost exactly the output of one of Diablo Canyon’s reactors (1,118 MW). So you could run that reactor at full power and use the output to produce enough hydrogen to keep a 288 MW gas turbine running continuously. A clearly absurd idea, but if you sold it as a way to promote a clean hydrogen economy and said it would cost a few billion in federal subsidies, I have little doubt someone in the Brandon administration would back it.

William Wilson
June 15, 2022 7:19 am

Here in Scotland we have First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who must be Jacinda’s competitor for the Unicorn Prize. She is planning a hydrogen village in Fife with all heating and cooking with hydrogen. Luckily I live on the other side of the country.

Kelvin Duncan
June 15, 2022 2:16 pm

There is a lot of barking up non-existent trees here. The obvious way to bring hydrogen on stream is to use ammonia as the manufactured product and for storage and transport. Then split off the hydrogen to be used as fuel on site.
Ammonia has been made in great volumes for a century. It is easy to store, transport, and manufacture.
The other possible production method for producing green hydrogen is photolysis. It is looking more and more viable and appears to be much cheaper and more efficient than photovoltaics. Let the sun provide the energy!
Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, especially for aircraft, trains, trucks, and ships.
Try doing any of that economically with batteries! Noticed the price of lithium recently?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Kelvin Duncan
June 16, 2022 4:10 am

Right. So manufacture ammonia, and then “split off” the hydrogen. Which requires energy and energy. And then compress the hydrogen as “fuel,” which takes…more energy.

And all this energy comes from?!

And you of course ignore the fact that the hydrogen “fuel” will provide LESS energy than it took to produce it. No free lunch.

Hydrogen is NOT AN ENERGY SOURCE, and never will be.

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