Hydrogen Will Not Save Us. Here’s Why.

Sabine Hossenfelder

Replacing fossil fuel with hydrogen seems like an ideal solution to make transportation environmentally friendly and to provide a backup for intermittent energy sources like solar and wind. But how environmentally friendly is hydrogen really? And how sustainable is it, given that hydrogen fuel cells rely on supply of rare metals like platinum and iridium? In this video, we have collected all the relevant numbers for you.

Many thanks to Jordi Busqué for helping with this video http://jordibusque.com/

00:00 Intro
00:49 Hydrogen Basics
03:39 The Hydrogen Market
06:04 The Colours Of Hydrogen
12:11 Water Supply
13:34 The Cold Start Problem
14:05 Rare Metal Shortages
15:55 Hydrogen Embrittlement
16:45 Summary
18:16 Protect Your Privacy with NordVPN

HT/P Gosselin

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antigtiff
January 22, 2023 10:09 am

Yeah, but I think Sabine is onboard with CO2 causing global warming. Fuel cells do have a problem requiring platinum and iridium and H2O freezing at 0 C. H2 as a fuel is really a different subject from GW.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  antigtiff
January 22, 2023 11:10 am

Like the new Scottish plan. They had the U of Edinburgh do a study to evaluate the all-renewable road to net zero – the first wise step I know of related to feasibility of this silly tech. Expectedly, the study said you can’t get there with renewables.

Scot gov. concludes that therefore, they will massively build enough windmills to produce enough hydrogen for thermal power and motive fuels!! Ya see, wokie feasibility uses what they can imagine as their support of feasibility. That, added to the study made the plan perfect!

I don’t know if any engineers were engaged in this process. In Canada, if this was the work of engineers, it is in regulations that I, and thousands of other engineers would be obligated to report this incompetence.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  antigtiff
January 22, 2023 11:19 am

I wouldn’t worry about a shortage of iridium – we’re likely to see another major asteroid impact well before they work the other kinks out of the hydrogen economy.

Reply to  Frank from NoVA
January 23, 2023 7:59 am

bobpjones
Reply to  antigtiff
January 22, 2023 11:33 am

She most certainly is, in another video she did a few weeks ago, she made the statement, that CO2 was the major factor in global warming. At the point, I stopped watching the video.

Scarecrow Repair
Reply to  bobpjones
January 22, 2023 12:01 pm

Ah, I hadn’t seen that one. I just looked and didn’t see any video in the last year labeled as such. Can you provide a link?

bobpjones
Reply to  Scarecrow Repair
January 23, 2023 7:21 am

I have struggled to find it. I can’t remember the main topic, but I do recall her saying it, It surprised me, because all of her content is so good.

doonman
Reply to  bobpjones
January 22, 2023 12:44 pm

CO2 is the major factor in global warming. The fact that it doesn’t do much and can be ignored is what is missing.

bobpjones
Reply to  doonman
January 23, 2023 7:25 am

How can that claim be supported when, water vapour has a far great bandwidth of IR absorption? Yes, CO2 in its limited bandwidth is greater than vapour, but its impact is drowned out by that of water.

It’s a bit like having an individual with a loud voice trying to be heard above the general noise of a football crowd.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  bobpjones
January 23, 2023 7:56 pm

We can’t do anything about the H2O content of the atmosphere. Its upper limit is fixed by the dew point at any temperature. Above that is just falls out as fog and rain. CO2 we can (theoretically) do something about by emitting less. We may not want to bother, but we could. There is no upper limit to how much CO2 can stay in the atmosphere because it doesn’t condense out. The positive feedback is that if CO2 warms the atmosphere a little bit, it can then hold more water vapour increasing the greenhouse effect.

MarkW
Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
January 23, 2023 9:38 pm

Theoretically air could hold more water when it gets warmer.
In the real world however, that never seems to hold.

MattXL
Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
January 24, 2023 2:07 pm

CO2 may not condense out, but it does rain out. And rising levels of atmospheric CO2 generates its own “drag” – the flourishing of green plants in the presence of rising levels of CO2.

Joao Martins
Reply to  bobpjones
January 22, 2023 1:40 pm

Yes, and she even said that in this video, when she states that methane is a much stronger GHG than CO2.

Last edited 15 days ago by Joao Martins
bobpjones
Reply to  Joao Martins
January 23, 2023 7:29 am

It is, but there’s so little of it, in comparison to CO2, its effect is almost negligible. It’s like comparing CO2 to water vapour, molecule for molecule the hierarchy is methane, CO2 then water vapour. But water vapour is the most abundant, followed by CO2 and a long way third methane.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  bobpjones
January 23, 2023 11:14 am

I think methane absorption bands overlap heavily with water vapor, which means it would be a non-factor even at much higher concentrations.

Add to that the fact that it rapidly breaks down INTO CO2 and water vapor, and you’ve got another meaningless excuse to dictate how people can live their lives.

michael hart
Reply to  bobpjones
January 22, 2023 1:51 pm

I think Sabine may have swallowed the global warming pill, for the present, but she probably hasn’t looked closely enough yet. She generally seems to do a very good job when approaching topics outside of her areas of special expertise. So I’m quite optimistic about the long term.

A good woman fell among climate scientists.

Reply to  bobpjones
January 23, 2023 7:10 am

open to education i see

Steve Case
Reply to  antigtiff
January 22, 2023 11:48 am

Yeah, I think you’re right.

Scarecrow Repair
Reply to  antigtiff
January 22, 2023 11:57 am

I’ve been watching her videos for a while and find it hard to pin down her position on AGW. She does pay lip service to it sometimes, mentions it in passing without scare quotes, but she also has a few videos about the lies (though she doesn’t directly call them that) of AGW, like this one, the Gulf Stream not disappearing, the unreliability of solar and wind, the need for storage, and so on.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Scarecrow Repair
January 23, 2023 7:33 pm

She may just not need to have an opinion about it in order to put together informative videos that provide information about a topic relevant to it. Not everyone has to have a partisan opinion that shouts down the other side or calls them liars.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  antigtiff
January 22, 2023 12:00 pm

The key message I took away was that the hydrogen route doesn’t offer much salvation for those who do believe that increased CO2 and methane can make a serious GHG contribution to “dangerous” climate change. That’s an important message, in just the same way as Kisin’s debating tactic at the Oxford Union.

Scarecrow Repair
Reply to  It doesnot add up
January 22, 2023 12:31 pm

It’s the same in her other videos, such as storage. She doesn’t mention global warming at all, just clearly compared a bunch of different storage options — hydro, Lithium batteries, massive weights, compressed air, I forget them all, might skip flow batteries. Costs, efficiencies, even their carbon footprint. Anyone with half a brain can see they are all pretty much worthless, and she leaves it at that, no diatribes, no rants. Some people mistake that for being just another climate alarmunist.

RicDre
Reply to  antigtiff
January 22, 2023 4:10 pm

This video by Sabine Hossenfelder from 2 years ago titled “Follow the Science? Nonsense, I say” is a rather emotional rant about people who say “Follow the Science”. While I agree with her point about people who say “Follow The Science”, it is also pretty clear that, at least two years ago, she had swallowed the Global Warming pill (to use Michael Hart’s term)



Rick C
Reply to  antigtiff
January 22, 2023 7:22 pm

Yeah, but she avoided using H2 as an ICE fuel. Maybe because of the increased explosion risks or that it’s not entirely pollution free due to some NOx production. Fuel cells will always be exotic and expensive due to the need for expensive catalysts.

Reply to  antigtiff
January 23, 2023 7:58 am

go figure shes a physicist

Curious George
January 22, 2023 10:40 am

The fuel cell technology is very immature. Our digestive tract is a fuel cell running on a wide range of fuels. No platinum or iridium.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Curious George
January 22, 2023 11:22 am

Yes! And we achieve energy conversion efficiency rivalling a heat engine (~25%) even though there is only a few degrees of temperature difference between us and the environment, and the efficiency is independent of temperature. All that happens is that as ambient temp gets close to body temp, you have trouble giving up heat to it.

Rud Istvan
January 22, 2023 10:48 am

I reached this general conclusion a decade ago in essay Hydrogen Hype in ebook Blowing Smoke. When you work it thru completely, a Toyota Prius would emit less CO2 IF that were a concern. And it costs a lot less, and the infrastructure is already in place.

Dennis Gerald Sandberg
January 22, 2023 10:49 am

Japan seems to have a positive outlook for hydrogen:

copy
The Diplomat
By Daisuke Akimoto
January 04, 2023
   
comment image
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Tokumeigakarinoaoshima

In the upcoming ordinary session of the Diet to be held this month, the Japanese government plans to enact new legislation to financially support industries that are involved in the production and establishment of hydrogen and ammonia supply chains, as well as the development of relevant infrastructure…..

…During the seventh hydrogen policy subcommittee meeting held in December last year, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) compiled an interim arrangement plan to establish a supply chain system by around 2030 with a view to expanding the use of hydrogen and ammonia in the country.

The plan proposed that the Japanese government would subsidize the difference in price between the two substances (hydrogen and ammonia) and existing fuels (fossil fuels) for 15 years. In the new subsidy system (called nesahoten in Japanese), the price of hydrogen will be cross-referenced with the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG), whereas the price of ammonia will be compared to that of coal.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Dennis Gerald Sandberg
January 22, 2023 11:23 am

More subsidies. Yawn.

MarkW
Reply to  Dennis Gerald Sandberg
January 22, 2023 1:03 pm

That politicians are willing to spend money on something, is not evidence that it will ever work.
Look at how long they have been subsidizing wind and solar.

It doesnot add up
January 22, 2023 11:09 am

Sabine does an excellent job in covering the ground in an open manner. Having kept an eye on this topic for some years, and done some research on the real problems with hoping to rely on surplus renewables production I can shed some more detailed light on some aspects.

Shell’s REFHYNE project at their Wesseling refinery was a high profile, EU subsidised effort that to begin with everyone wanted to be associated with.

https://youtu.be/biCkdkVgm2M

It has its own website

https://www.refhyne.eu/

Shell were good enough to share many insights into their experiment to produce about 1% of the Wesseling refinery’s hydrogen needs, and their thoughts on the problems with retail distribution. This paper sets out a lot of useful background:

https://refhyne.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/D7.2-report-v7.0-clean.pdf

and their recent lessons learned presentation includes a number of hard truths

https://www.refhyne.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/REFHYNE-Lessons-Learnt_Aug22_PU_FV.pdf

Perhaps one of the hardest is this: high fossil fuel prices have made green hydrogen less competitive. Market confidence in ITM Power, the provider of the PEM units has fallen when it announced a week ago its losses would be much higher than previously forecast.

Screenshot_20221228_201610.png
Frank from NoVA
Reply to  It doesnot add up
January 22, 2023 11:36 am

‘Shell were good enough to share many insights into their experiment to produce about 1% of the Wesseling refinery’s hydrogen needs,…’

Back in the day, most refiners were able to obtain 100% of their hydrogen needs from catalytic reforming. Oh well.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
January 22, 2023 11:43 am

Desulphurisation requirements are such that reformer hydrogen must be supplemented with SMR these days. Some other processes can be big consumers too – hydrocracking to produce jet for example.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  It doesnot add up
January 22, 2023 12:29 pm

I’m sure you’re more knowledgable / current than I am. My recollection is that reformate was once a big deal in meeting octane specs, but has since been replaced in mogas to some extent by alkylate and other less carcinogenic components. Have refiners cut back on reforming altogether or are they simply diverting more of the reformate to petchem manufacturing?

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
January 22, 2023 2:04 pm

It’s more the case that diesel demand has risen while gasoline demand has been static or even falling. That means that cat crackers are run to produce middle distillates (often using whole residue as feedstock, rather than vacuum distillate), and so there is less low octane cat cracked gasoline that needs blending with higher octane components. Also, gasoline average octane is now much lower than it used to be, with engines now being designed to cope, pushed by the ban on tetra-ethyl lead in most parts of the world.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  It doesnot add up
January 22, 2023 2:46 pm

Footnote: TEL is still permitted in Avgas, but octane is now usually just 100 instead of 115. Aircraft engines have had to accommodate lower octanes too – and of course at altitude the effective octane falls anyway.

cuddywhiffer
January 22, 2023 11:17 am

There are no hydrogen mines. Hydrogen must be manufactured and the energy input (and costs) are greater than the energy you will get out of it. It is a non starter, but as long as government subsidizes it in their ignorance, it will chew up a lot of money. Gas companies stand to make a lot of money out of the folly, so they will go along with it. Money, for jam!

stinkerp
Reply to  cuddywhiffer
January 22, 2023 4:59 pm

Ultimately most of the energy we produce comes from a “stored” form of it. Hydrocarbons like coal, petroleum, and natural gas are just stored energy conveniently packaged for us by nature but they are not limitless resources. They require energy to extract the stored energy: drilling, mining, refining, transporting, etc. Sabine explains in the beginning that a hydrogen economy essentially stores the energy in hydrogen for later use, a lot like batteries. It may be inefficient, but theoretically it’s clean and emits no pollution. But there are other drawbacks as was explained. And there are deleterious side effects to burning hydrocarbons like air pollution and particulates. At some point decades in the future, perhps longer, we will probably run out of easily extractable hydrocarbons and will need another way to store energy as densely and conveniently for transportation. We could create our own hydrocarbons, or compress hydrogen, or store it in batteries. We live in a serendipitous time when most of the work of producing energy is extracting it from pre-packaged sources. Someday we’ll have to package it ourselves.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  stinkerp
January 23, 2023 7:59 pm

The population that the earth can support will be much much smaller when that happens. Everything will be different. Too far in the future for us to think much about it.

sturmudgeon
Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
January 24, 2023 12:51 pm

“the earth” can support a much greater population than it now (partially) does… IF governments remove much of the regulations involved… and effectively distribute to those in need, what is now thrown away… imho

nutmeg
Reply to  cuddywhiffer
January 23, 2023 1:03 pm

Batteries can’t be manufactured in sufficient quantities to power most vehicles. Hydrogen would be very useful as a method for using solar to provide the energy for vehicles if solar ever became cheap as advertised.

Leslie MacMillan
January 22, 2023 11:18 am

My only quibbles with Hossenfelder’s video are:

1) She doesn’t make it clear that most of the world’s current production of hydrogen, which is almost all black and grey, is to obtain it as a feedstock for making ammonia for fertilizer (and a few other niche applications), not as a transport fuel or as grid electricity storage. Currently produced from methane by steam reforming, the process emits CO2 from the chemical reaction itself, and also from the fuel burned to make the steam. It would make no sense to make hydrogen as motor fuel, space heating, or grid storage this way as you would be going to the effort of turning methane into hydrogen to burn, instead of just burning the methane in the first place.

It is important to note that attempting to capture CO2 from the black or grey hydrogen process, thus making it “blue hydrogen”, doesn’t work all that well and might not be worth the effort. Note Jacobsen cited in the first paper at 9:00 is a wind advocate who believes the whole grid can be run with only wind and solar with no fossil fuels or storage at all. He has motivated reasoning for dissing fossil hydrogen.

2) Using hydrogen as transport fuel (or to generate electricity) doesn’t eliminate NOx production. All high-temperature combustion in air generates NOx. Only if the hydrogen is burned with pure oxygen (as in spacecraft fuel cells) is the process NOx-free. Only a minor quibble because her video clearly shows that fuel cells for earthly transport are not going to happen, nor is the rest of the “hydrogen economy.”

What is interesting is that electrolyzing hydrogen with electricity from “green” power (e.g., for grid storage) has a certain theoretical efficiency from the stoichiometry of electrolysis. But she points out that like all idealized processes, you approach the thermodynamic limit of efficiency only in steady-state processes where entropy production is minimized. If electrolysis was rendered intermittent (because solar electricity is intermittent) then the efficiency would fall off, just as your car’s gas mileage falls if you don’t keep a steady speed. This means you would need more solar panels to generate a given amount of hydrogen than if the sun shone continuously, increasing both the capital expense and the emissions cost of building and shipping the solar panels. It’s not just that you are electrolyzing only when the sun shines. It’s also that the efficiency of electrolysis falls when you do it in a herky-jerky fashion.

The paper cited at 10:32 in the video is hard to catch on the screen but this is it:
Palmer, G., Roberts, A., Hoadley, A., Dargaville, R., & Honnery, D. (2021). Life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions and net energy assessment of large-scale hydrogen production via electrolysis and solar PV. Energy and Environmental Science14(10), 5113-5131. https://doi.org/10.1039/d1ee01288f 
https://research.monash.edu/en/publications/life-cycle-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-net-energy-assessment-of-
Abstract only unless you subscribe to the journal.

Last edited 16 days ago by Leslie MacMillan
It doesnot add up
Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
January 22, 2023 11:54 am

I think that now refinery hydrogen eclipses ammonia production.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)1, in 2018 demand for pure hydrogen was about 74 million tonnes (Mt), of which 38.2 Mt was used in oil refining and 31.5 Mt in ammonia production. There was a further 42 Mt of demand for hydrogen mixed with other gases such as carbon monoxide. Of this, 12 Mt was used in methanol production and 4 Mt in direct-reduced iron (DRI) for steel.

The much tighter standards on sulphur content, particularly for marine fuels will be behind the majority of the increase in annual direct hydrogen use to 94m tonnes last year.

RobK
Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
January 22, 2023 3:25 pm

“ If electrolysis was rendered intermittent (because solar electricity is intermittent) then the efficiency would fall off,”
Additionally, the dilemma of curtailment due to overbuild, versus appalling capacity factor is a capex can kicked down the road. There’s no escaping the intermittency demon, nor the low energy density scourge.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Leslie MacMillan
January 23, 2023 11:32 am

One nit – your gas car’s mileage falls if you don’t keep a steady throttle position (NOT “speed,” unless you’re operating under conditions that make a steady throttle position produce a steady speed).

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
January 23, 2023 6:42 pm

Right you are, AGW. As soon as I typed it I realized I should have said throttle position, for exactly the reason you say. But then I thought, yeah, but if you keep the same throttle position uphill and down there would be efficiency losses from the faster speed going downhill (more air resistance as the square of the speed.) So I decided to leave it. The correct statement is, same throttle position under conditions that, like level ground, produce constant speed.

AGW is Not Science
January 22, 2023 11:20 am

The notion of Hydrogen as a “fuel” is, always has been, and always will be IDIOTIC.

Hydrogen is the “Elizabeth Taylor of elements;” it is always ” married” to something else. The energy required for the “divorce” will always ultimately rely on fossil fuels in any event, and will likely exceed (considering the additional energy requulired for compression) the energy that can be released by burning it. Compression (required due to lack of energy density) and issues with storage (leakage from just about any container) represent major problems, which I’m sure you touch on in your essay.

Even IF (unlikely at best) Hydrogen is not a net energy SINK as opposed to a SOURCE, the lack of energy density, risks presented by pressurized storage, risk presented by leakage, and it’s own tailpipe emissions render it completely impractical.

Aka another non-solution to an imaginary “problem.”

slowroll
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
January 22, 2023 11:28 am

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” … Groucho Marx

stinkerp
Reply to  slowroll
January 22, 2023 5:07 pm

Sir Ernest Benn.

Don’t believe everything you hear on the Internet –Abraham Lincoln

stinkerp
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
January 22, 2023 5:06 pm

Sabine never said hydrogen was fuel. She explained that it’s simply a way to store energy in a form that can be reused, mostly for transportation. All those hydrocarbons are also stored energy, conveniently packaged for us by nature. We didn’t have to put the energy in to create it. But our currently abundant hydrocarbons probably will not remain so. We will need to come up with ways to store (excess) energy we produce in ways that can power transportation. The problem is real, but in the future.

Last edited 15 days ago by stinkerp
AGW is Not Science
Reply to  stinkerp
January 23, 2023 11:43 am

Humanity will probably see the next glaciation (which will probably kill off 3/4 of the human population) before we see the ‘end of oil.’

Wasting what is available chasing non-solutions to an imaginary problem doesn’t assist us with finding “alternatives” to oil for some point far enough into the future to be a non-issue today.

robaustin
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
January 22, 2023 7:04 pm

Hydrogen’s characteristics as an energy dense, easy to handle fuel are hugely enhanced by marrying it to evil carbon.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
January 23, 2023 6:50 pm

Right. Hydrogen, like electricity and (in our bodies) ATP, is an energy carrier, not a fuel. Hydrogen is also used to make things, like ammonia for fertilizer. ATP is also used to make DNA. The “A” in ATP is the same “A” as adenine/adenosine that pairs with thymine in DNA.

Philip Peake
January 22, 2023 11:30 am

Besides being rather fixated on the idea that CO2 is really a problem, the other thing I noticed is that there is an assumption that electric motors are the answer, which leads to the fuel cell problems.

What about just using H2 in the same way that current fuels are used? Just stuff it into a cylinder along with some air and ignite it to drive a piston? Or maybe some sort of turbine?

Or, since the clueless morons running the global warming scare are totally cool with “renewable” carbon … how about combining some of that “renewable” carbon with this “renewable” hydrogen to produce “renewable” gasoline?

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Philip Peake
January 23, 2023 7:05 pm

Hydrogen can already be used as a combustion fuel in some gas turbines with modifications to cope with the lower energy per unit volume and much hotter combustion of hydrogen.
https://www.ge.com/gas-power/future-of-energy/hydrogen-fueled-gas-turbines

This is not commercially feasible at the moment because hydrogen made with low-emission energy is so much more expensive than methane.

There is talk of using abundant nearly-free (/sarc) renewable electricity to indeed make renewable gasoline and kerosene for jet aircraft. You need a magic catalyst, though. Not only is the process highly endergonic (obviously) but the activation energy hill to get over to drive the reaction “backwards” is very high. “They are working on it.”

antigtiff
January 22, 2023 11:31 am

Nuke plants can produce electricity over night that could be used to desalinate seawater…produce hydrogen….produce cheap steel….more stuff. Electric motors are better than IC motors but batteries are the problem – maybe Fuel Cells can be developed to replace batteries in many cases.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  antigtiff
January 22, 2023 12:05 pm

Desalinate->PEM is already throwing away ~50% of the energy. Intermittent operation overnight doesn’t help the economics either. Remember, we are trying to deal with inttermittent wind surpluses and deficits as the basic motivation anyway.

It doesnot add up
January 22, 2023 11:40 am

I would add that the problems with intermittency are considerable. Perhaps even more harebrained are plans to indulge in offshore production using expensive offshore wind as the input, as with the Dutch posHYdon project.

https://poshydon.com/en/home-en/

First, use some energy to filter and desalinate sea water. Then use intermittent wind to run the electrolysers at reduced efficiency. At least they only plan to make the hydrogen a small diluent element in existing natural gas production. Anyone who has been around North Sea pipelines for a long time is aware of the problems of HIC that eventually make a mess of even high specification steels. The REFHYNE project used plastics and low pressures and fed the refinery hydrogen system which is conveniently located on pipe racks for ease of maintenance and replacement.

Surpluses are going to be very intermittent, and very variable in size. That means it will not be viable to try to provide capacity to take all the larger surpluses, and that even the economics of the smaller ones will be stretched by low capacity factors and intermittency reducing plant efficiency. It is argued that surplus wind is “free”, but reduced prices on wind output (zero or negative?) just mean that consumers will have to pay a higher price for the power they do consume if the wind farms are not to go bankrupt. Alternatively, you increase the size of the direct subsidy for hydrogen production in order to ensure a more continuous supply of power at an unsubsidised price – but that does nothing to solve variable surpluses, and only serves to make them bigger because you are adding baseload demand which requires more capacity and hence bigger surpluses and deficits as the wind varies. This mouseover chart showing surplus duration curves for the UK assuming different levels of wind generation illustrates the conundrum.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/nZM72/1/

bobpjones
January 22, 2023 11:53 am

As the saying goes, diesel moves the world. All heavy transportation systems are fuelled by diesel engines. Forget Musk’s hype about a semi-trailer truck, what they claim and what happens in reality are two different things. Just as we have seen with motor manufacturer’s claims on performance/fuel economy, rarely live up to the hype.

A few years ago, JCB made a battery powered mini backhoe, it ran for a couple of hours, then needed to be recharge overnight from a diesel generator. Consequently, they are now investigating a hydrogen powered version.

If the stupid politicians insist on driving us down the nut-zero path, then, market forces will force hydrogen to become the de-facto fuel. Better still, stop the ludicrous charge to nut-zero, and use our existing energy resources, and leave the issue of depleted resources to later generations.

It doesnot add up
January 22, 2023 12:13 pm

One topic she did not touch on was the fact that hydrogen only has a third the energy density of methane at similar temperature and pressure, which makes Power to X solutions to attempted storage routes to solve renewables surpluses and deficits much more difficult. Also no mention of the round trip loss if you use hydrogen to generate electricity, all requiring more input capacity to provide a given output.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/ZmrQw/1/

Ragnaar
January 22, 2023 12:18 pm

She’s an ally. Hydrogen is a boondoggle and she argues that case well. How about trying to win rather than trying to find the impure?

Ragnaar
January 22, 2023 12:26 pm

Short summary: It’s not Green as deployed. It’s too hard to store. If you watch it, she’ll say something like, it’s just not possible. Hydrogen is what it is. There is no fix to make it easier or solve its inherent problem. For all her critics, this is what a winning argument looks like.

doonman
January 22, 2023 12:42 pm

Sabine is great to watch. She pulls no punches. And you should hear her sing!

Bob
January 22, 2023 12:52 pm

I found this very enlightening, presented in plain language and easy to understand. Whether Sabine buys into the CAGW or not is not an issue for me. She is telling us that if we are concerned about CO2 hydrogen is not a substitute for fossil fuels. That works for me.

Tom.1
January 22, 2023 1:14 pm

There are many problems with hydrogen, but hydrogen embrittlement isn’t one of them.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Tom.1
January 22, 2023 2:13 pm

Embrittlement is a problem in that preventing it has costs, and existing infrastructure will need replacing in many instances if you were hoping to use methane pipelines. For example consider National Grid’s methane specification:

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S)content ≤5 mg/m3
Total sulphur content (including H2S) <=50 mg/m3
Hydrogen content ≤0.1% (molar)
Oxygen content ≤0.2% (molar)

which is pretty tight, and driven by pipeline considerations rather than Wobbe index.

michel
Reply to  It doesnot add up
January 23, 2023 12:43 am

Very interesting. A grid which requires these specs safely to carry the gas is going to require almost total replacement to carry hydrogen. And even after you replace the grid, you then have the problem of all that copper and cast iron pipework in the houses. Because there is often old iron pipe going into the house, joining up to the copper that takes it around the building. Terrance houses in London and cities this is common.

You have to imagine how this would be done in practice. It would have to happen one neighborhood at a time – there is no way you can migrate a few houses on a street, you’d have to do the street feed and thus all the houses at once. This means having hydrogen-safe pipework down to a fairly small area level because you are not going to be able to switch over huge areas at once. So its probably not so much rebuild the national pipe grid, its going to be ore like install a new parallel one.

Then you have to make sure all the appliances in the houses are safe for hydrogen. Boilers, hobs. Then you go down the street replacing the in-house copper pipe – but what with? You also have to replace the street feed. Its massive.

Then the magic day comes and you switch the supply. And hope there are no accidents or leaks.

I know that the UK did something like this when it converted from coal gas to natural gas, but in that case the only problem was the appliances, and even that was a huge project. This is many multiples of that because of the pipework problem.

I cannot see it happening. In practice what will happen is that they will have to move people to electricity. But there simply is not enough electricity grid capacity for that.

Madness.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  michel
January 23, 2023 7:19 pm

I don’t see hydrogen being piped around the country, certainly not using such a dangerous gas in people’s homes. (Btw, can they put a trace of H2S in hydrogen the way they do methane so you can smell leaks? I’ve never seen anyone mention that.)

Rather, hydrogen will be used within a few miles of where it is made, transported by special trucks for short distances, either super-cold liquid or highly compressed. The uses will be for ammonia using steam reformation of methane (like now), steel making (maybe) and (probably not) storage of surplus electricity generated from weather-dependent generators. But not in pipelines except for maybe 5% dilution in methane which can be done now.

Rod Evans
Reply to  Tom.1
January 22, 2023 2:19 pm

Well it isn’t a problem until a few years have gone by then things will become interesting. Well interesting if you find joints cracking and hydrogen escaping unexpectedly that is.

nutmeg
Reply to  Tom.1
January 23, 2023 1:23 pm

Unless you plan to use hydrogen for more than a couple of years, in which case hydrogen embrittlement is a significant problem that the DoE is sinking millions of research dollars into.

vinceram
January 22, 2023 2:29 pm

Liquid Hydrogen Carriers, liquid ammonia for example, are more likely to be a fossilf fuel substitute — the novel LOHC that are re-activated, once used, by a catalytic process has enormous promise as well.

Rod Evans
January 22, 2023 2:31 pm

The lady presenting the video does a fair job of staying on side. That is she manages to present a fair amount of information without alienating either the Climate Alarmists or the Climate Realists.
That is a fine line she is walking and full marks to her for that.
The detail about hydrogen is nothing new for most of us but it will be a revelation for those not from the engineering world or scientific background.
I’m not sure how relevant the freezing issue for fuel cells is? Perhaps someone familiar with them could comment. My understanding as a layman was the pure water produced would not freeze without some nucleation process to initiate such .With fuel cells operating successfully in space which is pretty cold, freeze problems on fuel cells seems to be a non issue

Last edited 15 days ago by Rod Evans
Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Rod Evans
January 23, 2023 7:21 pm

In spacecraft, the fuel cells start running in the warm Florida sunshine and then produce enough heat to keep the water they produce in space from freezing…provided they run through the whole mission without stopping.

If it was likely to be frosty the night before launch, they can keep the fuel cells warm, pre-start, with power from the gantry service tower or whatever they call that thing.

Last edited 14 days ago by Leslie MacMillan
Fred Haynie
January 22, 2023 2:43 pm

We burn four hydrogen atoms with one carbon atom when we burn natural gas. We have been doing it successfully for years and we have plenty of it. On top of that we can and have been converting carbon containing waste into natural gas.

observa
January 22, 2023 5:47 pm

Yeah yeah the dream future fuels. Meanwhile standby dispatchables here and now for some climate changing-
https://www.msn.com/en-au/money/news/cold-snap-forces-national-grid-to-put-three-coal-power-plants-on-standby/ar-AA16CFc6

observa
January 22, 2023 6:04 pm

Careful there Bill as there’s some mighty impure thoughts creeping in and straying from the Team mantra-
https://reneweconomy.com.au/household-solar-and-storage-its-time-to-rethink-the-energy-system/

 renewable generators and energy storage are largely fixed cost facilities. They will have to be paid to exist irrespective of their utilisation, otherwise no one will invest in them in the first place.



Kit P
January 22, 2023 8:43 pm

I recommend this video for anyone having trouble sleeping. Put me right to sleep.

First we do not need saving except from those who think storing H2 or electricity is a good idea. Ir will kill people when it gets out.

I know this because I worked at nuke plants.

An industrial society needs a finite amount of energy. When fossil fuels become scarce there are alternatives. Nuclear is one example proven for electricity ans ship propulsion.

Farmers can grow crops with both food value and energy value. Removing the excess energy from corn and soybeans produces a better animal feed.

I am not worried about running out of energy or the climate changing.

Peta of Newark
January 23, 2023 1:25 am

Use Nitrogen instead:

Get your windmill, do not connect it to any grid or battery, get it to power a spark-discharge tube. A you can get for making Ozone (also good high-energy dense stuff)

Push ordinary air through the discharge tube and oxidise Nitrogen.
You’ll get an unpredictable mess of NOx but in reality, only 2 sorts
To get useful stuff, just bubble it through some water. it will do the sorting.

1/ Some of the NOx mixture **will** dissolve in the water to make an (again) unpredictable mess of Nitrous and Nitric Acids
And **that** is your Agricultural fertiliser. That’s all plants need = Water Soluble Nitrogen. They don’t want or need Ammonia – all that happens is the soil bacteria turn it into either Nitrate of Nitrite and let the Hydrogen go.
OK, nitric/nitrous acids are unpleasant stuffs so you neutralise them – Limestone is ready made for the job – that is how Nitrate fertiliser was first created and released to farmers, as Calcium Nitrate.
(There is VERY good reason for that. Will tell you sometime, unless you go find out why first)

If so inclined, you **could** go full bundle on Cardio Vascular health. Mental health too.
How: Neutralise at least some your acid with Magnesium Carbonate. The MG will find its way into folks’ diet – Mg is just as important as Sodium as a neurotransmitter.
Hello hello Brandon, did you get that?
Groan. never mind, too late for you now but not for 100’s millions of others.
That in itself will go a very long way in sorting out ‘climate’ and cutting back the junk science

2/ Some fraction of the NOx from your windmill discharge tubes will not dissolve in water – compress it, bottle it up and use it to power your car. Or as presently used, for making frothy confectionery-cream in cake decorations.
Or for teenagers to get themselves high. Sort out this climate mess and they wouldn’t feel the need to do that. OK?

All the while you’ve built and are using a very simple and basic windmill, direct-drive alternator/rectifier, no gearboxes, no transmission lines, no grid sync and the NOx you’re making is your stored energy and will ‘keep’ for even and ever and ever.
If you wanted to.

Last edited 15 days ago by Peta of Newark
Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 23, 2023 7:28 pm

Nitrous oxide for huffing is not NOx. If you huff NOx you will get a lung burn.
Magnesium is already abundant in your diet (green vegetables and many other sources). You have to work at it to get magnesium-deficient, like living entirely on booze.
If you eat more magnesium than your body needs, your kidneys just pee out the excess.

Paul B
January 23, 2023 3:09 am

Retrieving hydrogen from burnt hydrogen. Yikes! Sounds like making trees from charcoal doesn’t it?

Last edited 15 days ago by Paul B
Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  Paul B
January 23, 2023 8:06 pm

Well, we sort of do make trees from charcoal. I mean, we don’t. Nature does. A seedling sprouts in the ashes, starts making glucose from CO2 and water using the sun’s energy and the residual minerals from the ashes of the tree that burnt. Wait a few years: a tree!

zzebowa
January 23, 2023 4:19 am

Perhaps burning it in an ICE is the solution then?

Denis
January 23, 2023 6:47 am

For those interested in the engineering aspects of a hydrogen economy, search for “The Future of the Hydrogen Economy Bright or Bleak.” This paper reveals that so much energy is required for the handling of hydrogen (compression, shipping and so forth) that in many scenarios most of the energy content of a given amount of hydrogen is used up in the handling.

January 23, 2023 7:58 am

as long as we are getting science from you tube

MarkW
Reply to  Steven Mosher
January 23, 2023 9:48 pm

It doesn’t take much to impress Steve, it’s almost like he’s being paid to distribute this propaganda.

Last edited 14 days ago by MarkW
Dave Andrews
January 23, 2023 8:32 am

There is also the problem of where you produce the hydrogen, at lots of local sites or at remoter but cheaper large production sites.

According to rail engineer.co.uk a typical hydrogen tube trailer carries about 1 tonne of hydrogen equivalent to 130bn joules of energy whereas a diesel tanker carries typically 40,000 litres of diesel which is 1800bn joules. If hydrogen was not produced on site a depot with a fleet of hydrogen trains would require 14 times as many road tanker deliveries than one with the same sized diesel fleet to fuel their trains.

https://www.railengineer.co.uk/scotlands-hydrogen-train-supporting-the-hydrogen-economy/

Kit P
Reply to  Dave Andrews
January 23, 2023 12:46 pm

And what happens if you are in an accident with one of those tankers?

Shortly after my wife died, my son came to help drive the motor home back east. Car parts were flying past from the accident in front and I was standing on the breaks. Just about anyone can stop faster than a motor home except the tanker trucks.

In my mirror, was blue smoke from the tires of the jack knifing tanker. Call that a free cremation.

Hydrogen detonates. You will not feel a thing.

Hydrogen has some chemical properties that require its use, but there are much safer fuels.

Leslie MacMillan
January 23, 2023 7:50 pm

I think a lot of the broad but very shallow support among the general public for the idea of fighting climate change is based on the false hope that there is a whole menu of cheap efficient effective alternatives to fossil fuels out there. They think it’s just the greedy oil companies aren’t letting us have them because they value profits over people or some such. If it sinks in that there aren’t any out there — they will all be really expensive or really unreliable — then people will start saying, “Gee, maybe this isn’t worth doing after all. The costs will be so much higher than I sort of assumed when I said we have to fight climate change.” That’s when they’ll start voting out of office the politicians who want to force this on us. It won’t matter if they still “believe” in climate change or not. They just won’t want to pay for it.

That’s why I like Hossenfelder’s videos on this. Even if she does, like me, accept the mainstream scientific consensus that the earth is warming to some degree due to us and will continue to, she is effectively showing it doesn’t matter. There is nothing we can do about it that anyone is going to put up with. For most people, if there is no cheap fix, there is no fix at all. Africans can die for all we care. If “climate refugees” invade our shores we’ll sink their boats. People are sensible most of the time once they see the money going out of their wallets.

The dangerous people are the ones who are just irrational zealots bent on destruction. They still have a hold on the politicians and policy executors who kind of like the idea themselves.

RobPotter
January 24, 2023 8:55 am

Sorry for being late on this discussion, but I would like to know why methanol has been dropped as a source of hydrogen for fuel cells.

It wasn’t too long go that Toshiba were prototyping a PC with a fuel cell power supply using methanol. I understood that there had to be a rectifier to produce H2 from the methanol, but as a liquid fuel it would have much better economics than hydrogen gas and it isn’t all that difficult to produce through fermentation.

I have no issues with fossil fuels, but given that fuel cells have very low tailpipe emissions, a way to use them for transport would have certain advantages as long as the method for getting/storing the hydrogen was economically (and energetically) feasible.

I have seen nothing more on this for a few years now and I wonder if anyone knows why. Is there some underlying reason why it won’t work?

Thanks for the help.

Leslie MacMillan
Reply to  RobPotter
January 24, 2023 9:20 pm

I’m confused. Do you mean on-board generation of H2 from methanol stored in the vehicle’s fuel tank, and the hydrogen is reacted in a fuel cell in the usual way?
Three barriers I can think of:

1).Methanol is a serious poison. You don’t want people drinking gasoline either but it’s not so acutely dangerously toxic IMO. Spills that got into the water supply would be dangerous. A European industry blurb says it is no more toxic than gasoline but I am skeptical of that. We see methanol poisoning because it gets into beverage alcohol accidentally or is drunk intentionally when a binge drinker runs out of liquor. They get very sick and go blind. The flame is invisible in sunlight so you don’t know your car is on fire.

2) Generating H2 from methanol leaves formaldehyde behind. The formaldehyde can’t just be gassed out into the atmosphere as the engine operates because it is poisonous too. It has to be recovered and compressed into a vessel on board the vehicle and “traded in” for methanol at the refueling station where it has to be pumped under pressure into the receiving tank. Some market would have to be found for all this waste formaldehyde, if it was cheaper than formaldehyde already made for embalming, etc. If there was no market the refueling stations would have to dispose of this toxic gas safely. Some might just vent their storage tanks into the atmosphere when no one was looking. It could happen that you wouldn’t be able to refuel your vehicle if the formaldehyde storage tank at the “gas” station was full and the truck that was supposed to come to transfer it hadn’t shown up as scheduled. But in any case it doubles the supply chain for fueling stations. Methanol in, formaldehyde out. Two different containment vessels on the trucks (edit): and two different hook-up operations for the driver, one into a pressure vessel like maybe a propane tank? Tunnels and other enclosed spaces don’t want vehicles with pressure vessels full of toxic gasses.

3) Remember you are getting only one molecule of hydrogen (H2) from one molecule of the starting carbohydrate usually pectin. This is not very efficient in terms of land area you need for whatever crop provides the carbohydrate. (A molecule of glucose fermented gives you a molecule of ethanol, all of which can be burned, not just one H2 molecule.) Grain like corn doesn’t have pectin. You need fruits like plums and cherries. There are other ways to make methanol industrially but they might emit carbon dioxide or need input of other energy — I can’t be arsed to find out since you implied abundance from fermentation.

Last edited 13 days ago by Leslie MacMillan
Hatter Eggburn
January 25, 2023 4:16 pm

Hydrogen won’t save us because we’re all idiots and not worth saving

Barnes Moore
January 31, 2023 11:28 am

A little late commenting. Does anyone use or know anything about

https://www.yahoo.com/now/linde-increase-green-hydrogen-production-113000621.html

Their website touts green hydrogen with all the usual fanfare and they look like a very successful industrial gasses company. How does their Green Hydrogen product work? Is it economical and scaleable?

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