Column: Why Spend a Trillion if You Don’t Have to? Hydrogen the Smart Way

from the BOE report

Terry Etam

Let’s say a hundred years ago some rattled soul emigrated from Russia to this country, fleeing, I don’t know, the Russian revolution or in-laws, whatever. Let’s say he/she became a wealthy industrialist and built a bunch of stuff, and among the accomplishments was the construction of a major airport that became a massive central link in a global distribution hub (hey, it’s just a thought exercise, no judging). The hub grew to include warehouses and trucking operations and you name it, and wealth spread across the land because of this monolith.

Then let’s say a new type of cargo jet arrives on the scene, one so huge that it can’t land on that airport’s runway. The cargo jet rapidly becomes dominant in the world, and the huge airport hub in question will be rendered useless unless the runway can be extended by the length of a football field, and there is plenty of room. If it isn’t extended, cargo traffic will begin rerouting to different hubs that handle the traffic, and the entire structure will fall into disuse and fill with squatters and rats and the next generation of punk rockers.

What would you think if the region’s government elected to scrap the entire transport/distribution complex and build a new one instead of expanding the runway, just because the original constructor was Russian, and Russia under Putin is now trying to live out some fifteenth-century vision of ape-like glory (and failing spectacularly – Ukraine standing up to such a bully is going to be legendary).

That’s essentially what is happening in the energy world. Decarbonization efforts are everywhere (the International Energy Agency says that currently more than half of total energy jobs worldwide are in “clean energy” – a staggering statistic and a sock in the mouth of everyone saying “we’re not doing enough”). Even in the heart of the oil patch, few if any are opposed to environmental progress, though the reasons for pursuing policy “in the name of the environment” are by no means homogeneous (some value habitat conservation above all, some CO2 emissions, some air pollution, etc.).29dk2902l

But decarbonization is, as should now be obvious, unbelievably difficult. It is starting to dawn on everyone (save the few climate warriors hiding in trees who don’t realize yet that the war is over) that demolishing the world’s hydrocarbon based system and replacing it with something else entirely is a pipe dream, for the next half century anyway. The iron-clad laws of industrial development simply won’t allow a rapid energy transition based on dismantling hydrocarbon supply; it takes forever to build anything, and at the first sign of voter stress, politicians turtle, subsidize energy bills, and quietly fire up the coal plants. Yet those clinging to the renewable-dominant dream do so with a vengeance, and for that we will pay – either through an incredibly diminished standard of living, or eventually through our tax bill. Someone has to pay for everything.

And since someone has to pay for everything, it is imperative that we spend every dollar wisely.

Consider hydrogen, for example. Hydrogen, despite many problems, is becoming a dominant topic in current energy discussions as a fuel of the future. (In the 2019 classic The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity, widely regarded as one of the top three energy books ever by an author hailing from Sub-Division 7 of the North East Saskatchewan School Division, the author deftly delivers an unimpeachable summation of the value of hydrogen as a transition fuel.) Hydrogen is a clean burning fuel, and when used as fuel in fuel cells, has only water as an output.

There are various ways to create hydrogen as a fuel, with the source now being annoyingly colour-coded in an effort to make sure that some methods are considered morally superior to others (certainly not economically). Green hydrogen is viewed as the climatic gold standard, being made from renewable energy. Any other colour implies descending levels of respect among policymakers, depending on the presence of hydrocarbons in the supply chain and/or the emissions related therein.

Green hydrogen as a widespread fuel source would be pretty cool, and also a good use for the endless acres of windmills and solar panels being thrown up that will marginally reduce emissions, massively disrupt local ecosystems, and flummox grid operators endlessly with their intermittency and unreliability. But to become a significant component of global energy consumption, the cost will be astronomical (green hydrogen is hideously expensive compared to other sources when the all-in infrastructure costs are included, not to mention the challenge of finding enough water).

One would think and hope that policymakers would, if so enamoured of hydrogen, find ways to utilize the existing infrastructure in any way possible first and foremost, because even in the tar pits of bureaucracy it must be known that building new infrastructure of any stripe is beyond challenging.

There are ways, or at least ways that show great potential, to generate hydrogen cleanly and on a massive scale that should be foremost in any government’s mind before pursuing multi-billion dollar thought exercises that “look good on paper”. Consider methane pyrolysis, a process by which natural gas (from the existing ubiquitous system) is heated in a reactor in a way that decomposes the gas into hydrogen and “carbon black”, a substance used in plastics, ink, and rubber products, according to this University of Alberta article.

Carbon black can also be configured (bad word, I know, process engineers, don’t shoot me) into other high-value carbon based materials like carbon nanotubes or carbon fibre or graphene (I know very little about any of these except that carbon fibre looks really expensive, is incredibly strong (pioneered in Fomula 1 car chassis’), and looks really cool as a stupidly priced option in your average Ferrari).

The beauty of methane pyrolysis is that it utilizes to a great degree the trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure and knowledge that has already been developed and time-tested and works incredibly well. Consider the challenges of distributing a gas through a pipeline system, all the way from massive 36-inch mainline pipes (or bigger) right down to tiny low pressure lines that provide heat, cooking, and clothes drying services (about half the homes in the US rely on natural gas).

Think of the cost of implementing that system, and the cost of duplicating it with something else. In addition to residential usage, this same natural gas system fuels much of the world’s industrial processes including fertilizer production and processing of many critical metals/materials. Abandoning the natural gas system in pursuit of something else is madness, if there is any alternative at all. And there is.

There are hundreds of thousands of miles of natural gas pipe in the ground, globally. We have vast resources of natural gas around the world. We have a highly-skilled workforce that is incredibly good at finding and producing natural gas. The investment and knowledge base is unbelievably large. And yet governments are willing to look at that whole enchilada and say, “meh, I’d rather throw that all in the dumpster and build something else from scratch. In ten years.” Or 3 years, as Trudeau promised Germany a supply of green hydrogen by, an idea that still is wandering the halls of every active/energy-conscious brain, trying to find a welcome. So far, it wanders alone.

The technology behind methane pyrolysis is well proven, and the processes involved are well understood (current research is focused on making the process more efficient). Hydrogen can be produced without the construction of wind farms, solar fields and/or the development of carbon capture/sequestration schemes necessary to de-carbonize traditional hydrogen-generating processes.

According to the same U of A article, hydrogen could deliver up to 30 per cent of Canada’s end-use energy and up to 24 per cent of global energy demand by 2050. If we rely on schemes like green hydrogen from wind/solar, those numbers will most likely remain in the realm of wishful thinking. If we could develop something like methane pyrolysis, the goal might be within reach – primarily because we don’t have to reconstruct an entire new energy system. Methane pyrolysis won’t work everywhere on earth; it may be limited to areas with extensive natural gas development/infrastructure.

Another potential drawback, as one of the genius engineers in the field pointed out to me is that, if the technology became widespread, enormous volumes of carbon would be generated which could swamp the market. However, a dirt-cheap source of such a versatile raw material might develop a whole range of new options for its commercial use. It would be an exciting and interesting prospect to have to deal with. And the world is pretty well covered with natural gas infrastructure, so we will all be very old people before all those potential development sites are exhausted.

Canada is incredibly active in hydrogen development, including in the very heart of the oil patch that is supposedly not interested in new energy ideas (it is, very much so, the patch just wants to address the topic intelligently and capital-efficiently).

The so-called ‘turquoise hydrogen’ field includes many companies such as Innova Hydrogen, Aurora Hydrogen, Ekona Power, Monolith Corp. (out of Nebraska), New Canadian Energy, and others who may feel free to remind me that I missed them. Some of these entities have begun production, including Monolith, which has also signed a letter of intent and collaboration agreement with Goodyear for use of carbon black in tire production.

This is very exciting stuff. It’s real, the technology works, and it could be a massive boost towards emissions reduction – and it might create a whole new industry. Or industries.

Hydrogen via methane pyrolysis is the sort of capital-efficient new-energy dream scenario that governments should be most interested in. 

Recent studies indicate some people have not bought this book yet. That might explain a lot of the chaos. Pick up  “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at, or It’s not too late. Thanks for the support. And hang in there Ukraine! The world is cheering you on.

Read more insightful analysis from Terry Etam here, or email Terry here.

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September 16, 2022 10:13 pm

Hydrogen cannot be safely transported through the current natural gas distribution system due to the well known problem of Hydrogen Embrittlement of the steel the system is built of. It will require an new, very expensive pipeline system, that you will probably never be able to get the permits to build. Don’t hold your breath expecting this to be done anytime soon. Real science sucks.

Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 16, 2022 10:22 pm

I have the same argument as the crude dude. The current pipes will fail.
Any escape of hydrogen does the same to the ozone layer as Chlorine does: it destroys it.
Hydrogen is a step back… and it is not necessary.
Click on my name.

Last edited 4 months ago by HenryP
Reply to  HenryP
September 17, 2022 9:18 am

I keep heating this argument, then I think back to the “Town Gas” that most urban areas of England used to use for cooking and heating (when they were not using coal for heating).

Town gas was a by-product of “coking” – making coke from coal. Roughly 50-50 carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Every town had one or more (usually more) “gasometers” – large containers floating in a deep water container to store (and pressurize) the gas. They would rise and fall with gas demand.

Pretty much all of the distribution system was steel or iron pipe. This system worked successfully for over a century. It also works quite well for powering rockets…

A plastic liner in the pipes would solve this problem anyway. It seems to me to be one of those somewhat true, but basically spurious arguments thrown up by opponents of the idea.

I think that the better argument against it is the end to end inefficiency (yes, a hydrogen fuel cell may, in itself be efficient, but getting the fuel for it, producing the cell itself and dealing with the old ones needs to be taken into account too). Hydrogen is the least dense matter in existence. To carry enough to use usefully you need to highly compress it, or liquify it – both of those are dangerous and expensive, and are much better arguments against its use than “embrittled pipes”.

Reply to  Philip
September 17, 2022 11:21 am

They quit using the original hydrogen town gas in favor of gas created from heavy oil. I wonder why. “Town gas or coal gas refers to a gaseous mixture, used as a fuel, that is released when bituminous coal is burned. Recently, some power plants have begun creating town gas not using coal, rather using heavy oil and naphtha as their feedstocks. Town gas now is essentially manufactured natural gas.

Why would you conflate that with the requirements of a hydrogen pipeline? Do you not understand why hydrogen is more prone to leakage or causes embrittlement? And a plastic liner? For almost two MILLION miles of natural gas transport and distribution lines, just in the US? Even if you could do some sort of vapor deposition you have a major problem ensuring all the proper valves are open but the plastic vapor does not reach a source of ignition or clog fuel ports. And for how long would people be without NG or H while you do this conversion?

Gotta live people who give no thought to the logistics of what they propose.

Last edited 4 months ago by jtom
Pat Frank
Reply to  Philip
September 17, 2022 11:35 am

A plastic liner in the pipes …

Easy to say, not so easy to do. (pdf)

There’s no point (except political virtue-signalling) to conversion of methane to hydrogen anyway. There’s no evidence CO2 is doing, can do, or will do anything to the climate.

The whole business is so tiresomely stupid.

MM from Canada
Reply to  Philip
September 17, 2022 1:01 pm

“A plastic liner in the pipes would solve this problem anyway. It seems to me to be one of those somewhat true, but basically spurious arguments thrown up by opponents of the idea.”

Plastic anything is made from oil, and the goal of all these people is to never extract another drop of the stuff. So how’s that going to work?

Reply to  MM from Canada
September 19, 2022 7:55 pm

Gonna melt all the plastic straws recovered from California, and re-use.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Philip
September 17, 2022 3:24 pm

Another reason to get rid of coal gas was that the carbon monoxide is a deadly poison and was frequently used for suicides. The total suicide rate in England dropped by one third when natural gas (methane) took over.

Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
September 17, 2022 6:48 pm

You are wrong. Indeed carbon monoxide is deadly and was used for suicides. How was it used? Place the card in the garage, close the garage door and start the car. It will produce enough carbon monoxide in the exhaust to kill you fairly rapidly. Medical examiners reports on this issue are clear, suicides this way were common.
So why did the number of suicide rate drop over by one third when natural gas (methane) took over? The answer is not methane taking over in cars, it never did.
The answer is simple: CATALYTIC CONVERTERS were also then installed in cars. Not enough carbon monoxide is exhausted now from cars used after this change took place.

Reply to  Philip
September 18, 2022 7:19 pm

Gas and diesel engines are inefficient, and the means of producing and transporting fuel to the engines is also inefficient.

Jim G.
Reply to  Duane
September 23, 2022 7:36 am

As opposed to…solar cells?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  HenryP
September 17, 2022 9:53 am

Look, he might be rude, but he’s not crude.

Jim G.
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
September 23, 2022 7:44 am

Rude, crude, but socially unacceptable?

Not sure who the quote goes to.

Reply to  HenryP
September 18, 2022 6:58 am

The main thing is to remember that the main thing is the main thing and the main thing is that CO2 is NOT A PROBLEM. The rest is bullshit.

Reply to  HenryP
September 18, 2022 7:18 pm

Then explain how hydrogen is piped in massive quantities quite successfully to virtually every oil refinery in the world, for the last century plus. According to you the oil refining industry could not exist.

John Endicott
Reply to  Duane
September 19, 2022 4:45 am

Not all pipes are equal. What makes you think a hydrogen pipeline is exactly the same as a natural gas pipeline? There’s a reason it’s suggested that natural gas pipelines need to be modified for hydrogen use (minor modifications if it’s a blend of hydrogen and natural gas, more extensive modifications for hydrogen only). They simply were not made with the requirements of hydrogen transportation in mind, whereas hydrogen specific pipelines were.

One possibility for rapidly expanding the hydrogen delivery infrastructure is to adapt part of the natural gas delivery infrastructure to accommodate hydrogen. Converting natural gas pipelines to carry a blend of natural gas and hydrogen (up to about 15% hydrogen) may require only modest modifications to the pipeline.3 Converting existing natural gas pipelines to deliver pure hydrogen may require more substantial modifications. Current research and analyses are examining both approaches.”

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  John Endicott
September 20, 2022 7:51 pm

Hydrogen walks through walls, but I think the conversion is mostly the pumping and control apparatus.

Have any of you heard of the methanol economy? Everything organic can be converted to methanol and all plastics and fuels upgraded from that humble start. All garbage, plastic, biomass, anything not inert can be turned into methanol. There is ever an organization devoted to promoting it. It is started as oil or gas it can be recycled as methanol.

All we need is a large and reliable energy source. That is not far off. Once we have enough gen 4 nukes we can clean up the whole environment and do for the love of nature, not because of some silly weather model.

Methanol can be piped and shipped easily without having to be highly pressurized or chilled. Did I mention it’s cheap?

Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 16, 2022 10:23 pm

Similar to the wind and solar installations in Australia, and new projects held up waiting for a decision, for construction of a new electricity grid to improve transmission of electricity to improve profitability for suppliers from the already subsidised unreliable sources.

Reduce emissions and ignore unforeseen consequences.

Smart Rock
Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 16, 2022 11:55 pm

As I read it, Terry was suggesting using existing pipeline distribution infrastructure to continue distributing methane, and to make the turquoise hydrogen closer to the point of use.

Reply to  Smart Rock
September 17, 2022 12:34 am

And therein lies the problem….

michael hart
Reply to  mark
September 17, 2022 8:09 am

Indeed, Mark. That’s going to be an awful lot of carbon black (AKA soot) to be disposed of. I prefer the current alternative: burning it to produce harmless CO2 which directly benefits the biosphere.

Julian Allbut
Reply to  michael hart
September 17, 2022 9:05 am

Maybe China can buy it and use it for energy production!

Bob B.
Reply to  Smart Rock
September 17, 2022 3:23 am

I read that Terry is suggesting piping hydrogen directly to homes:
The beauty of methane pyrolysis is that it utilizes to a great degree the trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure and knowledge that has already been developed and time-tested and works incredibly well. Consider the challenges of distributing a gas through a pipeline system, all the way from massive 36-inch mainline pipes (or bigger) right down to tiny low pressure lines that provide heat, cooking, and clothes drying services (about half the homes in the US rely on natural gas).”

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Bob B.
September 17, 2022 7:53 am

In the north east of the UK the village of Wincanton (668 households) is under going a trial use of 20% hydrogen 80% natural gas started in August 2021. This mixture is compatible with existing infrastructure.

Higher concentrations of hydrogen would require significant network infrastructure upgrades as well as hydrogen specific appliances and boilers. It has been estimated that introducing the 20/80 mix would only reduce the emissions from the grid by 7%.

Reply to  Dave Andrews
September 17, 2022 8:31 am

And increase the cost to users how much?

Reply to  Drake
September 18, 2022 5:26 am


Reply to  Dave Andrews
September 19, 2022 4:32 am

(…)For instance, hydrogen is supposedly more likely to leak because the molecules are smaller than methane – though the trials have provided no evidence to support this(…) supposedly…

Reply to  Bob B.
September 17, 2022 8:38 am

It was rather ambiguous as to what the author was alluding. I initially assumed this was a humorous ways of saying just keep piping the methane to the end users for “pyrolysis” in their gas fuel home furnaces and stove tops. Actual collection of the carbon residue would have to be appropriately addressed there.
CH4 is a pretty good hydrogen transport gas.
We liquify it for rocket fuel.

Reply to  Bob B.
September 17, 2022 11:35 am

You cannot use the existing infrastructure to pipe hydrogen directly to homes.

Reply to  Bob B.
September 19, 2022 10:48 pm

Using the current Natural Gas system for hydrogen distribution is not viable you will have millions of leaks.
Also the explosive limits for natural gas in air are 4.7 to 15 % hydrogen 25% to 75%.
Unless you are into “urban renewal or demolition” it isn’t going to work
Also the Calorific Value for hydrogen is much lower than natural gas so the pipeline system would have to be bigger .
This is a pipedream

Ken Irwin
Reply to  Smart Rock
September 17, 2022 4:10 am

May as well just burn the methane in ICE engines – without going through all those spendthrift processes of steam reforming, compression, cooling storage etc. etc.
Hydrogen is the worst possible solution to doing almost anything.

Reply to  Ken Irwin
September 17, 2022 8:51 am

Not too difficult to convert a standard ICE to run on CNG (Compressed Natural Gas).
I helped design just such an urban transit vehicle. It was a hybrid CNG (ICE) / Electric
all composite city bus, called the ATTB (Advanced Technology Transit Bus).
As with all electric vehicles the major dilemma was batteries. All our regeneration from deceleration had to be dumped via thermal/electric heaters.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
September 18, 2022 10:12 am

In the 60’s – 80’s , I worked for a water well digger in the Chino Valley, CA. We had dozens of small block Chevies out in the boonies with piped in NG, attached to wellhead. They were cheaper to run than electricity. The NG ran VERY clean. Little engine maintenance.

Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 17, 2022 12:15 am

What might make sense is transport the natural gas using existing infrastructure to the pyrolysis co-generation power plant, you consume the Hydrogen as you produce it, powering both the methane pyrolisis and electricity production and sequestering the carbon in carbon feedstock for carbon nanotubes and graphite.

But of course no subsidies, if they can make it economically feasible let them.

Reply to  Kazinski
September 17, 2022 1:18 am

If economical, then this is simply a way to use methane for electricity generation, while capturing carbon in a solid form. I would sign on to that in a second—I always thought chasing down gaseous CO2 in a chimney sounded idiotic.

I wouldn’t spend too much effort in deciding where the solid carbon would go. It would find its own value stream. I ven if it were used as “fertilizer” like char.

The basic question for me is, is there an overall energy gain in the process? From the cycle description here it seems we input methane, release the H as H2, leaving solid C. Combining H2 with O2 we get energy and water. Are we sure all of that process is exothermic?

Reply to  ParmaJohn
September 17, 2022 1:39 am

Very crude answer to my last question….
The enthalpies of the relative reactions imply the following:
-Methane pyrolysis at 74kJ and hydrogen recombination to water at -280kJ yields a theoretical 200kJ or so per mol of CH4.
-Burning CH4 into water and CO2, like I just did to make my coffee, yields about 800 kJ per mol of CH4.

So, we lose 3/4 of the methane’s energy potential, but the process is theoretically doable.

Reply to  ParmaJohn
September 17, 2022 2:07 am

The pyrolysis temperature is at 600c, using that heat for co generation would up the efficiency by a lot.

Leonard Weinstein
Reply to  Kazinski
September 17, 2022 5:57 am

This is not an exothermic process. Using the heat for cogeneration would drop efficiency.

Reply to  Kazinski
September 17, 2022 4:00 pm

The reaction is endothermic, and is more efficient at high temperature. You need to add energy to the reactor to make it work.

Reply to  ParmaJohn
September 17, 2022 3:39 am

And that is why it makes no sense to convert a fuel, CH4, into a lesser fuel, H2. The hydrogen economy is as delusional as wind turbines, solar power, and the nonexistent fusion.

The smart people came up with the fossil fuel economy more than a century ago. The fools have been recycling all the bad ideas since the Carter administration.

Reply to  tgasloli
September 17, 2022 4:40 am

Au contraire. As long as you properly store the leftover ‘elemental carbon’ (some might all it charcoal), you could, at least, burn it for heat when the Russians cut off the supply of CH4. /s

Reply to  tgasloli
September 17, 2022 4:16 pm

What I like about this relatively inefficient use of methane is that it brings together a couple of conflicting points of view into a common conclusion.

First, forget about the senseless hydrogen economy. You will notice that my ideal power generating path here just happens to include a hydrogen component, but it is not transported or stored or even noticed. It’s just one part of the single plant.

All I see is using an abundant fossil fuel to generate electricity without polluting, while not releasing CO2 (which I generally like to call plant food) into the atmosphere. Plus, solid carbon can be used for a lot of great things, like bio char.

With such a process the greenies, who demonize CO2, can’t demonize the fossil fuel methane. They will even get tons of feel-good fertilizer out of the deal. So, the hair shirt crowd will have to let greedy fossil fuel companies and fat-cat executives off the hook. The fossil fuel companies will be able to go back to fracking for fossil fuels and stop vomiting their new age greenwashing alternative energy crap.

A win-win solution. The only loser is efficiency.

Did I mention I’m a nuclear engineer? I’ve got another solution to the impasse, but it’s been impossible to get anywhere since TMI and Chernobyl.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  tgasloli
September 17, 2022 4:30 pm

Hydrogen isn’t a fuel, any more than electricity is. It’s just a way of storing some fraction of a primary energy transformation and moving it to some other place and time for use then. Of course methane is a better fuel than hydrogen because the former comes out of the ground ready to use. It’s only if you absolutely must have a “fuel” that doesn’t emit CO2 that you go to the effort, and spend energy, to “de-carbonize” methane. The danger is that lefties think that hydrogen can be made for free with no emissions along the way, so why aren’t we doing it already?

Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
September 18, 2022 12:21 pm

Lefties also think that solar and wind power are free as well. We need to take them into account since they seem to have the ears of the power brokers. I wonder why.

Leonard Weinstein
Reply to  ParmaJohn
September 17, 2022 5:54 am

You need to consider that 1 mole of methane yields 2 moles of H2. The methane pyrolysis of 1 mole of methane uses 150.8 kJ. This produces 2 moles of H2 which when burned produce 572 kJ, for a net of 421.2 kJ. Burning 1 mole of methane directly yields 810 kJ. The hydrogen route is about 52%, not 1/4. This is still lower, but not as extreme as stated.

Reply to  Leonard Weinstein
September 17, 2022 3:10 pm

Realize that all of these numbers are “high school chemistry” calculations.

The pyrolizer for the methane is not going to be 100% efficient – which decreases the efficiency of the overall system, compared to directly combusting the methane.

That loss might be partially or wholly made up by less draw from the power producer for scrubbing carbon monoxide and carbon black from the stack gases – I’ll let someone far more knowledgeable of real world power plants answer that one. Although dealing with the products of incomplete pyrolosis would also have to be considered.

(By the way, does anyone have a link to an online calculator that can handle endothermic reactions? To my irritation, I found out that the one I use on rare occasions does not – only exothermic.)

Reply to  Leonard Weinstein
September 19, 2022 3:24 am

And you split the methane with no energy/cost penalty? I think that is where the additional losses come into play.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  ParmaJohn
September 17, 2022 4:20 pm

Don’t forget to double the molar enthalpy of formation for water because there are 4 H’s in each molecule of methane. So 560 -74 = 486 kJ/mol. If burning methane directly gives 800–I didn’t check this—the energy recovery of the pyrolysis process is ~ 60%. You are of course leaving the heat value of the carbon itself on the table (in order to avoid CO2 emissions.). If you burned it as anthracite coal, nearly pure carbon, you would get the other 314 kJ.

But you need a source of heat to achieve pyrolysis at 600C. Even though the pyrolysis reaction extracts only 74 kJ from the machinery for each mole, you will still many kJ of heat to keep the reaction vessel that hot. Unless you can use the residual heat downstream of the reaction for something else, the fuel or electricity to achieve that temp is still a deadweight loss.

Remember the current value of hydrogen made through steam reforming of methane is its use in making ammonia for fertilizer, not as an energy source.

Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
September 17, 2022 11:46 pm

Regardless of the quantitative details, qualitatively it’s an endothermic rx– you have to put more energy into it than you’ll get out of it….Where is this input energy coming from?…Wouldn’t it make more efficient use of that input energy to just apply it more directly to the end application instead?

Reply to  guidoLaMoto
September 19, 2022 8:19 pm

Please! No logic.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 17, 2022 2:17 am

They have a new alloy: it’s called “Unicornite.”

Reply to  Eric Vieira
September 17, 2022 8:25 am

Do you need unobtanium to create unicornite?

Ian Johnson
Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2022 10:01 am

Dilithium might be ok.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Ian Johnson
September 17, 2022 11:42 am

Administratium suppresses all catalytic activity

Reply to  Pat Frank
September 17, 2022 8:26 pm

All of those compounds release unacceptable levels of dihydrogen monoxide into the atmosphere, which is the most potent greenhouse gas, and causes about 320,000 deaths a year when people are exposed to environments with highly concentrated dihydrogen monoxide.

Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 17, 2022 5:35 am

Agree, hydrogen will never be a major energy source. More energy to make it than is obtained from it just for starters. Nuclear (and electricity from it) is the only real long-term source.

son of mulder
Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 17, 2022 6:36 am

Here in the UK they’ve already replaced many miles of gas mains with a plastic tube lining? How would hydrogen affect that?

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  son of mulder
September 17, 2022 7:10 am

My employer is looking at that. Hydrogen permeates through polyethylene and there will be losses along the line and a possibility of accumulating enough hydrogen in some sections of the pipeline to get to a flammable concentration. Proper venting will be an issue.

As pointed out above, thermodynamically, you are throwing away half of your energy. The point of hydrogen is to make it with excess solar and wind. It becomes the storage rather than a battery. If wind and solar were competitive generating processes, this would almost make sense. Alas, they are not.

The best solution is nuclear (let’s give liquid thorium salt reactors another try) with enough capacity to handle base plus peak. Use the excess capacity during off peak hours to desalinate water. This solves problems 1 and 2 from the list.

Ferdinand Engelbeen
Reply to  son of mulder
September 17, 2022 7:49 am

Hydrogen creeps through plastics and even metals, the latter at elevated temperatures… Even joints need to be of metal, or you have more leak than supply…
In the right combination with air, it is very explosive, within wide borders, much wider than for natural gas.
Worked many years with hydrogen… Never in my house or car!

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
September 17, 2022 9:51 am

Same here. In fact, while gassing up/down the generators w/hydrogen, only us plant engineers were allowed to do it, ostensibly because we knew the dangers and how to use the detection/monitoring instruments during the process (hydrogen is pushed out w/CO2 until it reached below 5%). Monitoring the generators and hydrogen piping for leaks was a constant requirement — valves were particularly leaky. Any work on hydrogen piping has to use brass tools to avoid sparks.The regular operators were allowed to change out hydrogen bottles in the roofed (but no walls) hydrogen-bottle shed in every-day operations, but that was outside in open air.

Last edited 4 months ago by beng135
DJ in De
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
September 18, 2022 7:13 am

Hydrogen creeps through plastics and even metals, the latter at elevated temperatures… Even joints need to be of metal, or you have more leak than supply…
In the right combination with air, it is very explosive, within wide borders, much wider than for natural gas.”

totally agree
In addition, the forward flame velocity of Hydrogen is much higher than for hydrocarbon gasses.
1) Flame arrestor technology often used for hydrocarbon gasses does not work for hydrogen. Hydrogen flame arrestor technology does not exist.
2) Not only is the combustion ‘envelope’ much larger for hydrogen, if ignited it doesn’t just burn, it can DETONATE.

Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 17, 2022 7:57 am

The only workable system would be to distribute methane through the pipelines and generating H2 locally as needed…and using carbon black locally as needed (valuable soil amendments can be made from carbon – like biochar @ $2/lb bulk)

Hydrogen transport and storage problems are big enough negatives to ruin any such plans.

Last edited 4 months ago by DocSiders
Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 17, 2022 7:44 pm

We find that not even NASA can handle it on a tiny scale…

Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 17, 2022 7:54 pm

And hydrogen being four times more explosive than natural gas, what could possibly go wrong?

Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 18, 2022 6:27 am

Good post. Any oilfield trashers* who have worked around H2S know this.

  • Not a pejorative.

Last edited 4 months ago by bigoilbob
Reply to  The Rude Dude
September 18, 2022 7:16 pm

Nice straw man ya got there.

Nobody has ever proposed converting the existing natural gas distribution system to hydrogen distribution.

Hydrogen is routinely used in pipelines to supply industrial chemical feedstocks – in particular, oil refineries, for more than a century. It’s not very expensive or difficult to transport or store.

However, an even more readily available means of supplying hydrogen fuel, and the one that will become dominant in the next several decades, is storing hydrogen as ammonia, one of the most commonly used industrial chemicals worldwide with an existing very large distribution network. Ammonia is stored in liquid form at far lower pressures and higher temperatures than most industrial gases. A number of new processes have been developed within the last decade to catalyze ammonia (NH3) into pure hydrogen and nitrogen. An ammonia tank can be integrated into motor vehicles, or can be transported by truck (as is gasoline and diesel) to service stations and then converted there to hydrogen.

Reply to  Duane
September 19, 2022 3:14 am


Ammonia is NH3, correct?
As N has an atomic mass of around 14, it seems that your process will result in several problems, if my chemistry still works.

  1. Less than 20% of Ammonia by mass is hydrogen. Current cost of ammonia in the US is close to US$400/tonne. At that rate, the cost of hydrogen delivered by that method will be around $2000/tonne for a product with less energy than the equivalent tonne of hydrocarbon fuel.
  2. It costs energy to transport mass. As already pointed out, your proposed process results in over 80% of the transported mass being wasted.
  3. As a rural user of large machinery – of the kind that may be important to you if you like eating – I’ll point out a couple of other minor problems. One is that we can’t just drive a tractor, combine, dozer or any other heavy machinery dozens of miles to a service station. One way or another, we need bulk delivery and storage on-site. An even larger cost is that transferring to a hydrogen fuel source means that diesel machinery that would normally work out its life , has to be turned over and replaced over a very short period…. and there are no cost-effective replacement options. Have you the slightest idea what it would cost to replace all the machinery on the average farm at new prices? Or what the new prices will be when the factories to produce it are still being built and whole nations are undergoing this transformation at the same time?
Reply to  PeterW
September 19, 2022 8:27 pm

Duane has just admitted his error in thinking… really… all of you engineers and others who have actually studied and worked with Hydrogen, have convinced him… really..

September 16, 2022 10:29 pm

Recent studies indicate some people have not bought this book yet.

If the book defends that hydrogen is the solution to the energy problem, that’s a reason not to buy it. It couldn’t be any more wrong.

September 16, 2022 10:54 pm

“from Russia to this country,”

Which country do you mean by “this country”?

We can exclude Russia, so there are 194 to choose from. Can you be a bit more specific?

The Dark Lord
September 16, 2022 11:03 pm

widely regarded as one of the top three energy books ever by an author hailing from Sub-Division 7 of the North East Saskatchewan School Division” I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that there are ONLY three energy books authored by graduates of the “Sub-Division 7 of the North East Saskatchewan School Division”

this has to be a send up … why would anyone suggest taking a safe clean burning fuel, add another process and expense to create another clean burning fuel but one that is much more difficult to store, transport and pipe …

Reply to  The Dark Lord
September 17, 2022 7:23 am

You know the answer, so they can get loads of lovely tax funded dollars to go play and get rich.

September 16, 2022 11:17 pm

A cubic meter of methane produces a certain amount of BTU’s. What quantity of hydrogen is produced by pyrolysis of that cubic meter, and what is it’s BTU content? I suspect it’s a relatively low number.

Leonard Weinstein
Reply to  Terry
September 17, 2022 6:03 am

1 mole of methane produces 2 moles of H2, so 1 cubic meter of methane produces 2 cubic meters of H2. The 2 cubic meters of H2 produce 572 kJ of energy (542 BTU).

Leonard Weinstein
Reply to  Leonard Weinstein
September 17, 2022 6:19 am

I meant the 2 moles (not cubic meters) of H2 produce 542 BTU. 1 cubic meter is 22. moles at STP, so pyrolysis of 1 cubic meter of methane yields 89.3 moles of H2 which when burned give 25,400 kJ or 24,200 BTU

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Leonard Weinstein
September 17, 2022 4:52 pm

Not correct explanation although final answer is correct. One mole of an ideal gas at STP occupies 22.4 litres. One cubic metre is 1000 litres, or about 45 moles. So the cubic metre of methane does pyrolyze to 90 moles of H2, as you say, but your typo on moles in a cubic metre would throw off the casual reader.

Note that a cubic metre of methane yields 35,300 BTU, so most of the heat in gas comes from the hydrogen, not the carbon. But of course we know this, because gas is a better fuel than coal and any other hydrocarbon because gas has the most hydrogen per mole of any fuel.

Leonard Weinstein
Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
September 17, 2022 7:40 pm

I left some steps out of the text, not a mistake. Read what I did say. The 22.4 was typed, but appears to have been cut out. The comparison to burning methane was on a previous comment.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
September 17, 2022 10:06 pm

“…because gas has the most hydrogen per mole of any fuel.”

This is incorrect.
One mole is a certain number of molecules, specifically Avogadro’s number of them, 6.02 times ten to the 23rd.

So obviously the larger a molecule of an alkane is, the more H2 it has.
You must have meant to say it has the most per unit of weight, or the highest proportion of H2.
Not the most per mole.
Just sayin’.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Terry
September 17, 2022 5:01 pm

In fact it’s a relatively high number: 24,000 BTU compared to 35,000 BTU for the cubic metre of gas you started with. “Relatively” is in the eye of the beholder I suppose.

Now, of course, the energy cost of doing the pyrolysis has to be added in. Cooking methane in a hot oven to drive off the hydrogen is not going to be cheap. You would only do this if you really really wanted to burn fuel without CO2 emission no matter how expensive it is. Only idiots will do this.

September 16, 2022 11:19 pm
September 16, 2022 11:21 pm

Hydrogen is a bad answer for a problem that never existed in the first place.

Steve Case
Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2022 12:11 am

Hydrogen is a bad answer for a problem that never existed in the first place.


Hydrogen is great if you don’t factor in the well known problems. Any discussion here at Watts Up With That involving hydrogen needs to dwell on the production, environmental, distribution, transportation, handling & storage problems and their inherent costs, before any of the benefits are discussed.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Steve Case
September 17, 2022 11:49 am

great if you don’t factor in the well known problems

About as universally true a statement as one may ever find.

Particularly true with reference to green fantasies, and with any idea fashionable among academic intellectuals.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2022 5:18 am

Thank you for stating the obvious. Well, obvious to those with a brain and the skills to think logically when looking at charts and graphs published by the climate cultists.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

jeffery P
Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2022 7:17 am

Hydrogen is the perfect answer, unless you consider all the reasons it’s not.

Zig Zag Wanderer
September 16, 2022 11:22 pm

the International Energy Agency says that currently more than half of total energy jobs worldwide are in “clean energy”

Producing about 5% of the worldwide energy. Obviously “clean energy” is a fantastic “job creation” scheme.

Let’s ignore the fact that it requires 20 times as many people to produce it, shall we?

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
September 17, 2022 7:28 am

Its a great way of deliberately depressing your economy’s productivity. What can go wrong!

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
September 17, 2022 5:03 pm

Maybe we should revive rowed galleys for shipping. Think of the jobs they would provide!

Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
September 19, 2022 8:34 pm

Brandon has promised that they are ‘on the way’.

September 16, 2022 11:25 pm

Hydrogen, just like the west’s 20th century ape-like glory, is on a road to nowhere.

jeffery P
Reply to  Phil Salmon
September 17, 2022 2:02 pm

Apes are glorious? I didn’t know that.

September 16, 2022 11:30 pm

Alternatively, we could forego the entire mental and ethical gymnastics foisted upon a reluctant world by watermelons hellbent on destroying everything that was and rebuilding it into their warped idea of utopia, which involves reducing the human population to below 3 billion, and take the next couple hundred years (at least) afforded us by known energy reserves to come up with viable alternatives.

As for hydrogen, I propose bonding it with captured carbon to make clean energy-dense synthetic fuels that can utilize existing transportation, storage and distribution facilities. There. Carbon neutral.

Reply to  ACParker
September 16, 2022 11:58 pm

bonding it with captured carbon to make clean energy-dense synthetic fuels that can utilize existing transportation, storage and distribution facilities

Yes, but that would mean hardly any change in infrastructure was needed. No “Creative Destruction” in order to “Build Back Better”. Where’s the profit (and subsidies) in that?

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  ACParker
September 17, 2022 7:16 am

Your clean synthetic fuel is still going to have carbon and hydrogen atoms and produce the same amount of CO2 as evil fossil fuels when burned. The chemistry is the same, but your process is less efficient so it will produce more CO2 per work done than methane or gasoline. No one has yet successfully got around the laws of Thermodynamics.

Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
September 17, 2022 9:20 am

Oh ye of little faith. The process would be powered by sanctioned “renewables” (and nuclear — mostly nuclear) so inefficiencies can be ignored. Still carbon neutral.

Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
September 17, 2022 12:24 pm

He means if the petroleum products are made from clean hydrogen and re-captured carbon, the petroleum products are clean and can be safely burned with no harm to the environment.
Just like electric cars have a zero carbon foot print.
The magic of green thinking.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Plebney
September 17, 2022 5:08 pm

Well, if aviation fuel can be made from CO2 and water through the use of magic catalysts just around the corner and unlimited cheap green energy to drive the process uphill, then yes, the fuel could be burned without net CO2 emission. It would be really expensive though. Flying would not be for us plebes.

John Endicott
Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
September 19, 2022 4:58 am

 Flying would not be for us plebes. “

Just the way the watermelon elites like it.

Rod Evans
September 16, 2022 11:42 pm

Hydrogen, providing a non solution to a non problem. The perfect woke strategy. Persistent promotion of pointless options.

Reply to  Rod Evans
September 17, 2022 1:32 am

And the introduction of unnecessary risk

Mostly involving fires that can’t easily be extinguished

Reply to  fretslider
September 17, 2022 12:29 pm

Yes. The so-called Hydrogen embrittlement. Research showed Hydrogen penetrates steel about 6mm. But this isn’t simply “embrittlement”, it is a chemical reaction that creates Iron hydride. In other words, it’s not steel any longer.
Anyone familiar with chemistry knows hydrides are extremely flammable.

Reply to  Rod Evans
September 17, 2022 7:17 am

Unfortunately, there is no test for the new COVID-23. Fortunately, it has no symptoms.

Ed Zuiderwijk
September 16, 2022 11:51 pm

The underlaying assumption here is that we must ‘decarbonise’. We must not. Csrbondioxide does not drive the climate in any meaningful way. Therefore, this process is another solution to a non-existing problem. Use the methane, so much easier to handle.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
September 16, 2022 11:59 pm

Csrbondioxide does not drive the climate in any meaningful way.

Indeed not.
No one is sure what it even is 🙂

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
September 17, 2022 4:29 am

We could add some carbon atoms to hydrogen to make a safer, better fuel. We could call it gas…

September 17, 2022 12:04 am

Just use the methane as fuel. We already have everything in place, and the cost in dollars and in energy of converting methane to methane is zero. Having said that, however, let me be very clear that if people want to invest their own money and effort into hydrogen and can make a commercial (and safe) success of it I will be happy to congratulate them. But they can’t use my money for it, and of course that includes not using taxpayers’ money.

Reply to  Mike Jonas
September 19, 2022 8:42 pm

C,mon, man… you are hypothesizing that taxpayers presently have some sort of control over where their money is spent.

September 17, 2022 12:10 am

SpaceX uses methane

NASA has trouble with Hydrogen

Our gas network isn’t exactly new, it certainly wouldn’t last long

September 17, 2022 12:33 am

[invalid email-mod]

Serge Wright
September 17, 2022 1:31 am

BS detector is now off the scale

Peta of Newark
September 17, 2022 1:59 am

still a little way to go….
Quote:”Carbon black can also be configured (bad word, I know, process engineers, don’t shoot me) into other high-value carbon based materials like carbon nanotubes or carbon fibre or graphene

Yessssss, it can be configured but doesn’t need to be.
(Be careful, those ‘fibres’ are going to become ‘the new asbestos‘) ##

To make everyone happy (you think I’ve gone mad doncha – Ha Ha – you’re a decade late too late!!!!)..
Configure the Carbon Black into Biochar.

It does already happen, certainly used to, in the Black Smoke that came from diesel engines and all other fossil engines running rich fuel mixtures
Biochar assists greatly in the lives and existences of soil bacteria and when they are happy, The Plants are happy.
Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with Global Greening

Because when plants are happy, the water they use/re-use and recycle keeps The Climate happy.
The Biochar traps nutrients in the soil the same way as Buckyballs trap Glyphosate = the same way ‘activated carbon’ is in all the best air filters.
Basically as far a Climate goes, Biochar traps water
<wonders> Would affect ‘sea level rise also‘ What say you Shirley?

And because Biochar is pretty well totally chemically inert, it remains in the soil for very great lengths of time – thus very effectively ‘capturing Carbon’

  • Activists are happy
  • Energy users are happy
  • Soil bacteria are happy
  • Plants are happy
  • Climate is happy
  • Farmers are happy
  • Folks who eat food will be happy and well-adjusted. i.e. Food that is nutrient rich quality food not filled with toxins and poisons food. As now.

Simply by making a bit of soot. And putting it where it’s useful.
Oh hello hello folks who (claim to) ‘know about ‘food, vegetable & flower growing allotments
If you really knew about allotments, this message would have passed by these pages many times over before now.
Tell me, ask yourself, has it?
(Possible exception I recall was/is a story on Alan Savory)

This time the question is deadly serious:
What Is Not To Like?

## Seemingly, C60 ‘Buckyballs’ have health benefits. Especially that should you eat/consume them they latch onto ‘stuff that shouldn’t be there’ insides of you and you subsequently poo it out. Notably, and you do have to love this, Glyphosate

They make a nice purple colour when mixed into water. Not = Green
(Am sure there’s a message there, possibly to do with trapped heat and re-radiated energy – watch this space. There again, that particular crock is overflowing already)

edit to PS
Coal would work beautifuly – that’s what ‘coke’ is. Great big lumps of ready made Biochar.
It did used to happen as well, that is where ‘Town Gas’ came from.
We really are receding into a Dark Age, everything is now wrong

Last edited 4 months ago by Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 17, 2022 3:19 am

“Activists are happy”. I don’t think that is actually possible.

Curious George
Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 17, 2022 9:06 am

Why don’t we configure it into diamonds?

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Curious George
September 17, 2022 5:12 pm

But if this could be done easily and cheaply, would diamonds still be a goil’s best friend? (Yes, I know they’d have industrial uses.)

Reply to  Peta of Newark
September 17, 2022 9:36 pm

Carbon fiber is currently produced from Poly Acryolo Nitrile, PAN, formerly known as Rayon. It need to be a fiber first, then the process is well-known. I made Serena William’s tennis racquet, I know whereof I speak.

Geoffrey Williams
September 17, 2022 2:05 am

Terry Etam is clearly a hydrogen believer. Me, I’m not.
Talk about getting blood out of a stone, because that’s what he is trying to achieve.
There are too many obstacles in the way, inefficient, unsafe and unnecessary.
Sure there are people out there trying to make it work and spending zillions on the way, but they are only there for the ride and making a buck at the same time . .

September 17, 2022 2:15 am

Taking natural gas, and spending a fortune turning it into hydrogen so that you can burn this instead of gas, is by definition an expensive and illogical idea.

It is also very energy inefficient, as much of the gas input is wasted in the process, thus increasing demand for a scarce resource.

Why not just burn the gas in the first place?

To use the airport analogy, it is like building a new airport, so that you can transfer the goods and passengers onto smaller planes, which then fly to the airport you had in the first place!

September 17, 2022 2:15 am

my part of the world is not cheering Ukraine on. Or The Empire of Lies.

The author needs to widen their news scope.

Reply to  AleaJactaEst
September 17, 2022 3:32 pm

I look at it this way – if Ukraine wins (for certain values of “winning”), they will, at most, regain territory lost to the previous Russian invasions (Donbas, Crimea, etc.). Possibly a small amount of “buffer” territory to geographic barriers to another “easy” invasion. At the very most – I think that is unlikely, to be honest. In any case, highly unlikely to be expansionist beyond wherever the border settles.

But, if Putin wins (again, for certain values) – he’s taken a very big step towards his dream of reestablishing the Russian Empire. Including places like Finland, the Baltics, and Poland. Most likely beyond that, to the old borders of the Warsaw Pact (nothing encourages aggression like success in prior aggression).

Reply to  writing observer
September 19, 2022 8:48 pm

Just one more reason I miss President Trump.

Eric Vieira
September 17, 2022 2:16 am

I think otherwise about the greens: their goal .. is .. to waste money. And as much of it as possible, in order to tear the world’s economy and the Governments finances apart. The problem with hydrogen, is that its distribution would have a lot of losses associated with a rapidly eroding infrastructure and would probably kill quite a few people. The latter doesn’t seem to bother these people at all. After the resulting chaos, they impose their new “green” communist anti-human order. The only answer to that must happen at the ballot box, while there’s still free elections .. at least in some places.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Eric Vieira
September 17, 2022 5:02 am

“their goal .. is .. to waste money.”
You left out two words: “other people’s”. Insert between “waste” and “money”

alastair gray
September 17, 2022 3:40 am

Does anyone know about the use of biochar as a fertiliser. finely ground charcoal I think. Presumably carbon black is similar, and if this can be employed as a soil additive then Terry’s idea may have legs. I still see the distribution of hydrogen as a huge problem though from the point of view of hydrogen embrittlement

Reply to  alastair gray
September 17, 2022 3:56 pm

Production now is about 1.4 megatons (US & Canada). That’s enough to treat some 400 square miles of truly horrible soil (like what I have here in the US desert Southwest). For more average soils, multiply that by five – so 2,000 square miles of land. More, because you don’t apply that much every year.

Note that carbon black is not biochar. What you use to amend the soil in your garden (or farm field, if you have one) is produced by pyrolosis of plant matter, not methane. It has several other nutrients in an assimilable form for what you plant there. (Except, mostly, nitrates – which is why you mix it with compost or artificial fertilizer when applying it.)

September 17, 2022 3:56 am

I’m holding out for safe, clean, reliable nuclear power. The technology is proven and mature and its energy output (electricity) makes its implementation a wire connected to the existing grid.

Right now, making that happen is a marketing challenge — convincing the luddites of its safety, cleanliness and reliability.

Reply to  Speed
September 17, 2022 12:57 pm

Oh, yes! The luddites in Chernobyl and Fukushima! I notice more luddites are developing near the Ukraine Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant too.
They’re everywhere.

Reply to  Plebney
September 17, 2022 4:00 pm

Build a wind farm with no governors and poorly insulated cables – or have it scatter fiberglass and toxic combustion products all over the landscape when someone decides to fire 105mm artillery at it – and you’ll have plenty of “Luddites” around that, too.

September 17, 2022 4:12 am

The question is not if a given process is real – the question is if the process is actually usable in the real world – at scale. And that assumes that the process is actually net beneficial.

September 17, 2022 4:16 am

Whatever the solution sought to satisfy a given need, free-market pricing will tell you what the best solution is – no subsidies, no kickbacks, no mandates, no allowances, no tax holidays, etc. Thorough thermodynamic analysis can do the same, but everyone understands prices.

And, ultimately, only consumers pay taxes. Every other entity just collects taxes and passes their tax-costs on to consumers as increased prices (or diminished product/service).

Coach Springer
September 17, 2022 4:27 am

Here we go again. If you had something new to say, you would have said it in the first paragraph or two.

September 17, 2022 4:48 am

My company uses Methane pyrolysis to generate Hydrogen to saturate aromatic molecules to aliphatic molecules for subsequent chemical modification and polymerization. Not for ‘green hydrogen’.

Reply to  Buckeyebob
September 17, 2022 7:30 am

What do they do with the carbon black?

Pyrolysis of ethane to ethylene, propane to propylene or natural gas liquids to olefins is practiced at million tonne levels for production of plastics. It’s going to be difficult to decarbonize these.

September 17, 2022 5:27 am

Why is WATTS… publishing this fantacy? If this works, the market would have embraced it a long time ago, take the hint: Nuclear fuel generated electricity works.

Willem Post
September 17, 2022 5:33 am

This article is off-the-charts ridiculous

No numbers regarding costs of producing one kg of hydrogen, or 50 million kg per day.

A whole NEW infrastructure would be required, not just to produce the electricity for production of hydrogen, but also its transport and distribution.

All that will be done with wind, solar, hydro and batteries? Nuclear will not be allowed?

September 17, 2022 5:38 am

Sir, you have missed the point entirely. The argument for green energy has never been about that, else every country would be going to nuclear. Rather, the whole issue is about power, control of everyone’s lives. The greens and now politicians can control everything you do, from heating you house, to the clothes you wear, even the food you eat, if they can control how much C02 we produce. The mythical goal of clean energy can never be reached until the world is run by one central body, until then they will just keep moving the goalpost further and further away.

Reply to  Mike
September 17, 2022 7:33 am

Crystal ball says there’s a pentavalent booster coming.

Reply to  Scissor
September 17, 2022 3:36 pm

“And our boosters boosters boosters boosters” – Paraphrasing Monty Python

Steve Z.
September 17, 2022 5:42 am

In the early 1960s, “Fortune” was a monthly magazine that did deep research dives into timely business and financial subjects. I clearly remember reading a Fortune cover story titled “The Hydrogen Economy” and discussing it with my Dad.

60 years ago my Dad expressed the same skepticism I am reading here today. Specifically, why would anyone go to the expense of extracting hydrogen from natural gas – or – burn huge amounts of energy to extract hydrogen from water?

Reply to  Steve Z.
September 17, 2022 7:37 am

Iceland was the test case. They are still talking about the future hydrogen economy there.

Reply to  Scissor
September 17, 2022 4:04 pm

Well, if you have no significant fossil fuel reserves – and abundant electricity from geothermal power plants – and a very small amount of infrastructure to build out – it makes sense.

Very few places like Iceland, of course.

Bruce Cobb
September 17, 2022 5:50 am

Hoo-boy, not the hydrogen horse hooey again.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
September 18, 2022 1:24 pm

You mean the ‘Hoo-boy not the hoplessly horrible hydrogen horse hooey here again’…

Simon MacPhisto
September 17, 2022 6:09 am

Why use energy source one to make energy source two, when you can much easier just use energy source one directly and fat more efficiently. Makes no sense. Even Greta would object had she any sense of her own.

Mickey Reno
September 17, 2022 6:27 am

There’s no need to convert natural gas to hydrogen. Burning it directly for home heating and cooking and in vehicles designed to burn it, makes the only possible solution, seeing has the CO2 that’s emitted is good for the living biosphere, good for animals plants, and not incidentally, humans. CO2 is good for life. Stop blathering about clean green hydrogen, and start shouting the good news about CO2.

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Mickey Reno
September 17, 2022 8:13 am

Burning natural gas as a transportation fuel makes for a very whimpy vehicle unless the engine is designed for such. You cannot put much mass of fuel into a typical one liter displacement cylinder in a big vehicle engine. There is a reason we typically burn natural gas in very large stationary engines.

I had atruck at one time that I could switch from gasoline to propane. It ran well enough on propane at cruise speed, but if I stepped on the accelerator nothing much happened.

Hydrogen would be worse yet.

Last edited 4 months ago by Kevin Kilty
John K. Sutherland
September 17, 2022 6:37 am

There are NO hydrogen mines. It has to be MADE, from something else. Thermodynamics, anyone?

Reply to  John K. Sutherland
September 17, 2022 7:40 am

Easy. Saturn is 75% hydrogen, enough to supply our current energy needs for millions of years.

Getting it here might be more difficult.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Scissor
September 17, 2022 8:55 am

Its the transportation costs that will kill the plan.

willem post
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 17, 2022 10:36 am

transportation and distribution

John Bell
September 17, 2022 7:16 am

Hyzon Motors | Zero Emission, Hydrogen-Powered Vehicles My former coworker used to work at HYZON, but left recently. I do not think there is a future for hydrogen in transportation.

Reply to  John Bell
September 17, 2022 8:25 am

Niche applications exist, such as where no local emissions are desirable. Plus, difficulties and drawbacks associated with batteries are avoided, although fuel cells have their own issues, as does hydrogen storage.

GM intends to sell a $300,000 Cadillac EV and P.T. Barnum used a similar formula for success.

Curious George
Reply to  John Bell
September 17, 2022 9:12 am

From a HYZON web page:

Matthew Schilling
September 17, 2022 7:21 am

But you can simply burn the methane and cut out the middleman. Hydrogen from methane can’t be as efficient as methane. Hydrogen from methane is a wasteful extra process (not to discount niche markets). It would only be done to (fail to) satisfy hysterical, lead poisoned fools. No thanks.

September 17, 2022 7:28 am

Canada Is The Most Useful Climate Idiot in the World;

Trudeau proposes to produce hydrogen on a wind farm that does not yet exist, have it liquified at a facility that does not yet exist, and transport it to Germany, where neither the facilities nor the demand for significant hydrogen importation exists. This fantasy shipment of green hydrogen will supposedly be realized by 2025 in undetermined quantities at an undetermined capital cost and for an undetermined price.

Even if Trudeau’s plan were possible, liquefied hydrogen is not a good choice to replace LNG for three reasons:

1) Bulk marine transport of hydrogen is in its infancy. The world’s first and only liquified hydrogen bulk transport ship, the Suiso Frontier, conducted its first voyage from Australia to Japan in 2022. In contrast, LNG transport is a mature off-the-shelf technology.

2) While it’s true that hydrogen can be converted back to energy in a fuel cell, fuel cells waste 50 percent of the energy. That’s why Elon Musk has called them “mind-bogglingly stupid.” Are Hydrogen Fuel Cells ‘Mind-Boggling Stupid?‘ – Climate Change Dispatch

3) Hydrogen can also be converted back to energy by combustion but burning hydrogen produces more nitrous oxides (NOx) than does burning LNG. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), NOx can form powerful ‘greenhouse gases’, be harmful to human health, deplete the ozone layer in the stratosphere, and cause acid rain and smog

Note to Reader: Hydrogen promoters are quick to point out that when hydrogen is burned in the presence of oxygen the result is heat and water. This is true, but they fail to point out that when hydrogen is burned in the presence of oxygen and nitrogen (which is 78 percent of our atmosphere) the results include nitrous oxides. Lots of them.

Curious George
Reply to  S.K.
September 17, 2022 9:16 am

“fuel cells waste 50 percent of the energy” Link, please.

Reply to  Curious George
September 18, 2022 1:13 pm

To be fair, hydrogen fuel cell efficiency is on par or better compared to efficiency of most other power generating techniques:

Sub-critical thermal 35-38%
Super-critical thermal 42%
Ultra Super-critical thermal 45-48%
Combined cycle gas turbine 45-55%
Geothermal 35%
Internal combustion engines 35-42%
Wind 30-45%
Hydro 85-90%

It is the energy wasted manufacturing the hydrogen itself that is the killer for true end-to-end efficiency.

Not to mention how lower the energy density, high reactivity, and metal embrittlement issues that drive up the fuel transportation and storage costs (compared to just transporting natural gas or liquid hydrocarbons in the first place).

There is already enough carbon source available to make nanotubes and such today. The raw cost of making raw carbon is a drop in the bucket compared to the energy to convert into nanocarbon forms and the end value of the nanoproducts.

Drastically increasing production of char is only good for making more char for soil available and otherwise burying it simply for sequestration.

And char for soil is not all roses, char decreases soil nutrients available to plants, increases soil compaction, and suppresses earthworm activity. So you have to offset char with increased fertilizer usage. (And where do we get the fertilizer if we ban fossil fuels? Invent new processes to synthesize it from hydrogen and char and air?)

September 17, 2022 7:46 am

The Climate Fraud Industry isn’t interested in any ACTUAL SOLUTIONS to reduce Carbon Emissions. They are only interested in REDUCING the wealth and power of (only) the West while increasing their own Illegitimate Power….At least that’s what they’ve said PUBLICLY in recorded video and in writing for ~50 years.

So…there won’t be widespread Methane Pyrolysis Projects developed…anywhere in the West.

Just like there won’t be any massive Soil Regeneration movement in Agriculture which could sequester 10% -15% of the CO2 currently in the atmosphere (and yes, I know the oceans will fill it back up…just speaking of magnitudes)…while virtually eliminating fertilizer and pesticide use…and while making Agriculture profitable…and while virtually eliminating flooding & making most croplands drought-proof by retaining 10″ of rain per hour instead of the current 0.5″ per hour…and increasing the nutritional content of food “severalfold”…and reducing food spoilage “severalfold” (by increasing antioxidant content up to 10 times – ripe peppers sit on shelves for weeks without rotting unrefrigerated)…and cooling all croplands several degrees in midsummer.

The Climate Fraud Industry isn’t about Carbon at all.

Mike Smith
September 17, 2022 7:50 am

Just ask NASA how hydrogen is working out for them as a fuel. If NASA has so many challenges with one installation, I submit that it’s not ready for deployment right across the nation. And, in my view, in never will be. The issues are so profoundly fundamental.

SpaceX knew about the multitude of problems and instead chose methane as their fuel.

Reply to  Mike Smith
September 17, 2022 7:58 am

One of several “green hydrogen” production projects in Australia research supported with taxpayer’s monies.

September 17, 2022 7:53 am

Toyota believes there is a future for fuel cell hydrogen vehicles;

Mike Smith
Reply to  Dennis
September 17, 2022 7:12 pm

With cash incentives of up to $25,000, thanks largely to the taxpayer.

michael hart
September 17, 2022 7:54 am

No thermodynamics numbers?
Need to see the energy benefits.

Kevin kilty
September 17, 2022 7:57 am

Make blue hydrogen and end up with a lot of CO2 to sequester or carbon black to use. The scales involved are vastly different. World production of carbon black is 8 million tonnes. U.S. consumption of natural gas contains about a thousand times more mass of carbon.

Maybe we can make blocks and erect black pyramids to go along with the sulfur pyramids up at Ft. McMurray.

Robert MacLellan
September 17, 2022 8:08 am

Green Hydrogen production IS an answer but not to the question asked. It would be a practical solution to the energy storage problem of intermittent wind/solar generators. Rather than force the grid to absorb their swings we can limit their grid tie and use any excess to make green hydrogen, store it onsite, and burn it in a gas turbine generator for when wind/solar fail. This would almost make wind/solar reliable and dispatchable. It would still be more expensive than fossil fuels but would at least utilize existing useless infrastructure.

September 17, 2022 8:25 am

Maybe the Mars colonies will show us how it’s done.

Jonathan Brown
September 17, 2022 8:36 am

Great discussion!! Glad to see the many concerns of regarding the production of hydrogen from water. A truly precious resource whose use as a fuel source must be carefully considered as consequences could be severe.

Meanwhile, please keep in mind that water used for the production of hydrogen must first be demineralized. That cost can be quite high depending on how mineralized it is. Then there is the question of what we will do with all of those dissolved solids that get stripped out of the source water, particularly if we target the oceans as a source. Finally, let’s not forget to consider the long-term environmental and climatological effects that desalination of seawater might have. As man has proven over and over again, the more we tinker with natural systems the more instability we create in those systems.

Curious George
Reply to  Jonathan Brown
September 17, 2022 9:19 am

“water used for the production of hydrogen must first be demineralized.” Link, please.

Intelligent Dasein
Reply to  Curious George
September 17, 2022 2:50 pm

You don’t need a link for that. Unless you’re an alchemist, you can’t turn minerals into hydrogen.

Reply to  Jonathan Brown
September 17, 2022 3:17 pm

Every power plant demineralizes its feedwater.

September 17, 2022 9:44 am

“According to the same U of A article, hydrogen could deliver up to 30 per cent of Canada’s end-use energy and up to 24 per cent of global energy demand by 2050.”

Except that by 2050 we are far beyond any ‘tipping point’, a life boat an hour after the Titanic sunk. IF the IPCC is to be used as a guide, we need at least 50% reduction in CO2 emissions well before 2050. Not to mention that we are only ten years or so away from fusion………

[could you please spell hotmail correctly so your posts don’t go into moderation-mod]

Reply to  Dennis Topczewski
September 17, 2022 3:05 pm

In ten years we’ll still be ten years away from fusion LOL. Now MSR/LFTR you have a really good shot at some energy being produced in 10 years.

September 17, 2022 10:07 am

Let them drive nowhere at progressive cost.

September 17, 2022 10:14 am

Very interesting, except Russia is defending itself from NATO aggression and has been seeking peace since 2014.

Reply to  Timstuckle
September 18, 2022 9:40 pm

Hey, stop sneaking truth into this.

September 17, 2022 10:47 am

First let’s inject corn based ethanol into the methane.

Besides the ‘nothing is free’ thing, this pyrolysis process really sounds like a boondoggle. Solyndra!?

September 17, 2022 2:56 pm

“Ukraine standing up to such a bully is going to be legendary” – ROTFLMAO. Getting killed 10 to 1 is really showing them nasty ruskies now isn’t it?

September 17, 2022 3:13 pm

Hydrogen and electricity are carriers of energy not sources. For this to work you need to use it immediately in place or store it. Storing it cheaply in bulk for long periods of time is the catch. I’ve never met an energy source I didn’t love but storage matters and it isn’t there for either.

Aside from pumped hydro no cost effective storage for intermittent sources exists and even that can be screwed up. Just check out the Aussie boondoggle with pumped hydro. I was shocked that they could screw that up because all the calcs and equations have been known and used for 5-7 decades.

September 17, 2022 10:19 pm

We already have a significant hydrogen economy, and have had for nearly 100 years for 1001 applications and uses for everything from making margarine, steel, fertilizers, oil refining, and the list is enormous and extensive. But it is usually made from steam reformation out of natural gas, in real time just when you need it because it is easy and relatively cheap to do. Or used to be when nat gas was cheap. It will never be cheap again in North America due to all the LNG markets that is available now, and new LNG processing terminals coming on-line limiting domestic supply.

Now I am all for doing things smarter, cheaper, more efficient and especially if a new way is found to say, ‘mine’ hydrogen. Research is being done on ‘mining’ hydrogen from old oil wells, or the lower grade oil sands in-situ by pumping pure oxygen into the reservoir and basically setting the whole lot on fire underground. Pure oxygen is an oxidizing reactant and setting the bitumen or oil on fire underground releases the unburnt hydrogen and leaves all the sands and carbon/CO2 underground where it was to begin with. Sounds good in theory. Might even work on coal, in-situ. Might even be a game changer if it was to scale up and be economical.

As others have already rightly noted, hydrogen is a tricky molecule to work with, especially store it, or transport it. So probably best to burn this ‘mined’ hydrogen from the low grade bitumen fields and turn it into electrons (electricity) and send it down the power line at 500 KV hundreds of miles away somewhere where they can use the electricity. That eliminates the storage and transportation issues since it would be burnt real time in a CCGT burner once reaching the surface.

In the research done so far, there is a 15% parasitic hit to making the pure oxygen, but you also get some ‘green’ hydrogen back from the electrolysis to add into the mix. This is a 15% loss to the electricity you are generating from the CCGT hydrogen burner to make the oxygen/hydrogen through electrolysis, as you need the pure oxygen to make this process work.

A company in the Oil Sands called Proton Technologies is developing this process and has some patents and are pre-production. Whether it will scale, is another issue. I might buy some stock in this company when they do their IPO, just because they will pop on all the ‘green’ BS. I just want to make a trade, so I can escape the winter in a nice big jet plane going south.

Last edited 4 months ago by Earthling2
September 18, 2022 3:37 am

But decarbonization is, as should now be obvious, unbelievably difficult.

Will hydrogen storage for the unreliables be safer?
Fears fires caused by lithium-ion batteries will ‘increase considerably’ as popularity of electric scooters rises | Watch (

September 18, 2022 5:37 am

The”green hydrogen’s” yieId is about 25-30% onIy of the totaI energy that was necessary to produce it, whiIe a Lithium/Ion battery yields abt 90% of its charging current.

Reply to  Jack
September 18, 2022 5:39 am

Forget Green Hydrogen. It is a dead end thermodynamicaIIy and economicaIIy speaking.

September 18, 2022 6:05 am

I remember the oId times of the industriaI diving when a french company named COMEX performed successfuI triaIs of SCUBA divers at depths of 400-500 meters. The divers were given to breathe a mix of gases, mainIy hydrogen, heIium and a Iitte percentage of oxygen. These divers used diving watches 1000 meters waterresistant. Since they stayed in Iiving habitacIes for weeks at severaI hundreds meters depths, their watches’ O-ring seaIs couIdn’t prevent the hydrogen of the breathing mix sIowIy Ieaking inside the watches untiI it reached the same pressure as in the habitacIe, about 50 kg/cm². Once they were okay to ascend to the surface, the gIasses of their watches were bursting out !

Intelligent Dasein
September 18, 2022 6:58 am

This was the worst article I have ever read at this site.

September 18, 2022 6:56 pm

Why on earth would you jump through all those hoops? Fire up all coal, gas and nuclear generators, problem solved. Well not quite, build more gas and nuclear generators and coal if need be.

September 19, 2022 6:19 am

H2 – the smart way – is to not consider CO2 reduction as a reason for H2. CO2 is not a problem – we need more CO2.

September 19, 2022 7:41 am

So take natural gas, put energy into it to heat it, make hydrogen, and get less energy out than you started with to prevent making plant food. Genius.

September 20, 2022 8:09 am

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