Demand for hydrogen: and now the contentious disappointments


In part one of this series, I projected and explained the drop in demand for hydrogen from petroleum refining and fertilizers, the biggest sources of demand today, through to 2100. In part two , I explored the flat demand segments and the single source of the increase in demand I see for hydrogen in the next 20 years. In this final report, I look at the big but false hopes of a hydrogen economy: transport, long-term storage and heat.

Hydrogen demand until 2100, by the author.

Transport – 0 increasing to 1 (one) million tonnes H2

It is one of the great hopes of the current fossil fuel industry and of a few automakers who have managed to take over their governments in Korea and Japan. However, there is no significant place for hydrogen or the synthetic fuels made from it in land transportation. Electrification is simply too easy, widespread, cheap and efficient. Hydrogen cannot compete outside of tiny niches like vintage vehicles. For short and medium-haul aviation and maritime transport of short and medium-haul sea freight, the free route is also battery electricity.

That leaves only long-haul shipping and aviation among the areas where hydrogen could play a role. Mark Z. Jacobson and I discussed this on CleanTech Talk a year and a half ago. His view was that to achieve a carbon-free world, hydrogen would have to be used for long-haul shipping and aviation.

His take on shipping was that we needed to get rid of black carbon, with its 100-year global warming potential from 1,055 to 2,240. Afterwards, I spent a few hours chatting with Hadi Akbari, a Doctor of Mechanical Engineering who spent the last years of his fascinating career on two continents building scrubbers for heavy ships. Just as particulates are cleansed of emissions from coal-fired power plants, they can be cleansed of marine emissions, and therefore biofuels with their lower black carbon emissions will work in my opinion. (Note: This is my opinion after chatting with Hadi and doing more research, and not the opinion expressed by Hadi.) Biofuels use nature to do most of the heavy lifting and have come a long way over the course of the years. last decade. There is no value in using them in ground transportation, they no longer consume food sources, and there is little real concern about their competition with agriculture, although there is nonetheless a lot of concerns expressed.

On aviation, Jacobson rightly points out that we need to solve emissions, but it’s a difficult problem, with CO2 emissions, nitrous oxide emissions (whatever is burned in our atmosphere combines the nitrogen and oxygen to nitrous oxide), and water vapor that creates contrails. In a discussion with Paul Martin, it is clear that the hydrogen storage and fuel cells should be in the fuselage, leaving much less room for passengers and baggage or enlarging the fuselage with losses in efficiency. associated, and creating a heavy, excessive heat load. fuel cells, which makes them deeply improbable. From his point of view, the hydrogen would be burnt directly in the jet engines of this model, and that would not remove nitrous oxides or water vapor, therefore contrails.

Once again, low carbon biofuels are likely to be the solution here. After all, certified versions have been around since 2011, when there are exactly no certified hydrogen powered aircraft in the world. And contrails require fairly minimal operational changes, such as a CleanTechnica reader holding my feet the pointed fire (and thanks for doing so, Hazel). These operational changes have yet to be forced on the airlines, but it’s not as big a problem as I initially assumed.

Biofuels are enhanced with hydrogen in some cases, and there will always be extreme cases where hydrogen persists, but my projection for all modes of transport, including the use of biofuels, is still only ‘an increase from 0 tonnes today to one million tonnes per year by 2100.

Long-term storage – 0 increasing to 1 (one) million tonnes

Hydrogen is also projected as a solution for dunkelflaute, long gloomy periods where there is little wind or sun. However, that only fits into the equally managed categories of my projections for network storage, and not the top three technologies.

Projected network storage capacity until 2060 by major categories by author

Even then, he won’t be a big player in the equally raced category, fighting for crumbs with all the other contenders from afar in the peloton. Some of the reasons are the same as always. It’s inefficient, it’s inefficient, and it will be much more expensive. But more than that, the need just isn’t there, unless you assume that a bunch of other solutions don’t already exist.

High voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission has been around since the 1950s, but in 2012 they finally solved a major technical obstacle to its use on a large scale. Despite the presence of several grids on the continents already sharing electricity with asynchronous HVDC connections between synchronized high voltage alternating current (HVAC) grids, despite massive HVDC construction projects underway, planned and proposed, despite electricity already transmitted over long distances today with many more lossy HVACs, many people seem to think that electricity will not be transmitted from renewables between opposite ends of continents and even across continents.

Electricity is already flowing from Africa to Europe through the Bosphorus Strait. Extending this with large HVDC pipes from solar installations and wind farms in North Africa is trivial, as is getting more HVDC pipes to alleviate the North Sea offshore wind congestion in population centers. Europe is simple and under construction.

Renewable energies are inexpensive to build and, like any other form of electricity generation, except nuclear, they will be oversized and undercapacity for part of the year.

Demand management strategies vs V2g projection

Demand management strategies vs V2g projection by author

And the emergence of massive electrification is increasing the ability to handle demand on much larger scales.

The hypothesis of the need for long-term storage assumes narrow geographic boundaries, an archaic concept of energy independence in a world of global commerce and actively hostile neighbors. Liebreich and I started this conversation online, with its opening salute a question of whether Japan would ever accept the proposed HVDC links with China, to which I now respond that China already accounts for 20% of the annual trade of the Japan, so why is electricity different?

Germany will probably be the only exception in this space. They have underground salt deposits that they can turn into caves, they also have a strange love affair with hydrogen, and dunkelflaute being a German word is no coincidence. If anyone is building a large hydrogen storage facility, it probably will be them.

As a result, my projection of the global demand for hydrogen for electricity storage goes from zero tonnes today to one million tonnes in 2100. Someone will waste money, but very little.

Heating – 0 ton going to… 0 (zero) ton

And finally, heat, the beloved hope of natural gas utilities around the world, all of which are pushing to convince governments to let them ship hydrogen into homes and buildings to replace natural gas, and allow them to inject tiny amounts of hydrogen into existing natural gas. gas lines to produce near-zero emission reductions.

There are no certified hydrogen ovens or stoves today. The existing natural gas distribution network should be completely replaced to process hydrogen. The current challenges of natural gas leaks would be greatly multiplied by hydrogen leaks due to the small size of the molecule. SGN in Scotland is trying to modernize 300 homes in Fife with free hydrogen appliances, one of many efforts around the world by utilities whose lives are quickly ending.

No, what will happen is that all this natural gas distribution infrastructure will be turned into mini electric factories to make steel for useful things, and the world will convert to heat pumps and gas stoves. induction.

My projection for the global demand for hydrogen for heating is effectively zero tonnes today, and so far remains less than one million tonnes until 2100 when it rounds off to zero.


And so, this is the projection. It’s imperfect, of course, but not fatally in my opinion. This is my first iteration of the projection, and it resisted me writing 4,000 words across three articles to explain it, so there you go. But as with my projections on Network Attached Storage and the Network Vehicle, I offer it to create a useful discussion of what the world will become, and to embrace the challenges.

The demand for hydrogen is today two thirds for the refining of petroleum and the manufacture of fertilizers. Both of these uses will drop sharply over the next few decades. The only area of ​​growth, steel, will not replace them, in my opinion. Green hydrogen needs to replace only the useful two-thirds of the hydrogen demand seen today and reach 75% of 2021 demand by 2100 to meet all needs.

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