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Plunging solar, wind costs means “green” fuel exports could replace coal and gas

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The Australian government is expected to put hydrogen energy near the top of its clean energy investment shopping list, as it looks to tackle issues such as the domestic gas crisis, the increased reliance on transport fuel imports, and an opportunity to establish the country as a renewable energy export powerhouse.

Next week, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency is expected to announce that hydrogen projects will become one of its new investment priorities in the coming year, just as the country is being urged to seize an opportunity to maintain its status as a major energy exporter, but this time with “green” hydrogen fuels rather than coal or gas.

The government is being told that “green fuel” exports – powered by wind and solar – could reach $40 billion a year in the next few decades, a market equivalent in size to the export coal industry, and essential if Australia is to maintain its pivotal position as a major fuel supplier in a decarbonised world.

Hydrogen is also being pushed as an alternative to battery storage and pumped hydro to store “excess” wind and solar output in Australia, particularly in wind and solar rich South Australia, and is also seen as a potential transport alternative to electric vehicles as petrol-fueled internal combustion engines are phased out.

Victoria’s brown coal resources have been the focus of some investigations into hydrogen-based exports, particularly by the likes of Kawasaki, but this is seen as untenable in a carbon constrained world, even if they are dubbed as “carbon neutral” thanks to sequestration.

The main push now is in renewable-based hydrogen, and it is being led by South Australia and the ACT, the two states and territories with the biggest commitment to wind and solar energy.

The ACT, which expects to source the equivalent of 100 per cent of its electricity needs from wind and solar, has facilitated $180 million into hydrogen investments, including an electrolyser, a fuel cell trial and using hydrogen to store excess wind and solar.

South Australia, which is already meeting 50 per cent of its local demand through wind and solar, and could jump to more than 80 per cent within five years, has also commissioned a major study into the hydrogen economy, both for storing excess wind and solar, and as a possible export, as we reported earlier this week.

These two states are being supported by various private groups that are urging Australia to seize the opportunity to become an exporter of “green fuels” – using the nation’s huge solar and wind resources to produce hydrogen and meet huge demand for clean fuels from Japan, South Korea and other growing Asian economies.

It is also being painted as a significant military and energy security issue for Australia, given the country’s huge reliance on imported fuels, most of which comes through south-east Asia. And it is being touted as a complement to battery storage and pumped hydro to provide long-term storage to ensure there is enough energy supply for the local grid.

The push for hydrogen fuels is not new; the likes of Ross Garnaut, ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation have been pushing the idea for several years – but the plunging cost of solar and wind energy is creating what Siemens Australia head of strategy Martin Hablutzel says is a potential “tipping point” for the concept.

Siemens last month held a series of hydrogen roadshows in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, attracting hundreds of energy industry participants, consultants and senior government officials to their analysis of the big three opportunities in hydrogen for Australia.

“The catalyst to this being topical is the big reduction in wind and solar costs, and the whole conversation about storage,” Hablutzel told RenewEconomy in a phone interview. “If you go back 10 years, the economics didn’t stack up.  But we are now reaching a tipping point.”

Australia, he says, needs to seize the opportunity, given the huge interest in clean fuels from the likes of Japan, Korea and other economies. “We can maintain role as a major global power exporter – beyond coal and gas. But we need to start thinking about how we can continue to be a major supplier” in a carbon constrained world.

Siemens sees three big opportunities for hydrogen.

The first is within electricity grids, where using it as storage could be an answer to the excess output of wind and solar that cannot be readily used in the local grid, or exported to neighbouring states through interconnectors.

gremany curtailment“South Australia will be the first state to encounter this,” he says. And, as if on cue, South Australia on Anzac Day reached record output of 1,540MW on Tuesday, getting close to the level where some analysts suggest that wind farms will need to be curtailed, because there is not enough capacity on the interconnector to export all the capacity surplus to the state’s needs.

Hablutzel says curtailment is already happening  in Germany, where some 4,722GWh of wind was curtailed in 2015, with forecasts suggesting 28,000GWh could be curtailed by 2020.

And while storage options such as batteries and pumped hydro were being considered, hydrogen could store bigger quantities and for longer periods, for weeks at a time rather than seconds, minutes, hours or days. It removes the prospect of excess wind and solar generation becoming a “stranded asset”.

siemens

The second element is using Australia’s vast resources of wind and solar – and taking advantage of their plunging production costs to supplant fossil fuels as the main means to create exportable “green fuels”, first using electrolysis to produce hydrogen (which can be used in a variety of ways), and then into chemicals such as ammonia for transport and delivery.

“Energy conversion technology (electrolysers) are still relatively early on the technology cost curve,” Hablutzel says.

green ammonia

“Trends suggest that production of renewably produced chemicals could be done commercially by around 2025. For some niche markets that point has been already reached today, but Australia’s objective should be to position itself as an exporter at scale.”

The big industrial giants in Japan and South Korea are already exploring such technologies, and have developed innovation and master plans to do so, and both those two countries remain among Australia’s biggest coal and gas customers.

“Renewable energy export builds on our historical role as a global energy superpower and will support the transition of our energy trading relationships beyond coal and gas into an increasingly carbon constrained global economy for decades to come,” Hablutzel says.

hydrogen coal gas

Another group advocating for hydrogen fuels as a significant opportunity for Australia is RenewableH2, which says Australia has huge solar and land assets that would deliver world-leading competitive advantage for solar (and wind) hydrogen production.

“Australia’s ‘stranded’ solar and wind assets have immense domestic, export and strategic value,” the company says in presentations to government and business interests earlier this year.

hydrogen fuels

Source: Renewable Hydrogen

It says that total solar and wind hydrogen fuel exports could be worth $40 billion a year by 2045 – equivalent to the current value of coal exports.

“Japan, Korea, Europe and the US are all implementing hydrogen infrastructure and mobility (vehicle) programs. There is now major industrial, as well as policy, weight behind the hydrogen industry among our key strategic partners.”

But it also warns that Australia is as reliant on imported diesel and liquid fuels as Japan and Korea, and this reliance on imports could be an “Achilles heel” for the country’s energy security, particularly the military.

“Renewable hydrogen and ammonia production capacity is modular,” it says. “Scale-up can be progressive, located to support grid, market and defence security objectives, and aligned to demand growth.”

But, another advocate says, the potential is enormous: “We could power half of south east Asia with solar from the desert,” Geoff Walker, from the Queensland University of Technology, told a recent conference. “We have done it with LNG, why not do it with the green version?”

hydrogen achilles heel

 The third element is in hydrogen fuel cell cars and other vehicles. The arrival of electric vehicles has raised a question mark about how fuel cells will compete in the retail market, but Hablutzel says there remain big opportunities in large vehicles, like buses, and “back-to-base” vehicles such as taxis and private and government car fleets.
The ACT, as part of its auctions for wind and next generation renewable energy, attracted commitments for $180 million of hydrogen energy infrastructure, including from Siemens, which is building its first electrolyser for the territory that will be available later this year.
Initially, this will cater for a 20-strong Hyundai hydrogen fuel cell car fleet, but Hablutzel says the pilot plant will have considerable more capacity.

“The question is, how do you get to zero tailpipe emissions? There will be a portfolio of technologies, just as now there are choices between petrol, diesel, EVs and hybrids.”

  

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  • George Darroch

    I can see this as a technology that has some application – in shipping, for example.

    But by 2025-2030 battery electric technology will have moved a long way too, and will be a mature technology.

    • solarguy

      Yep hearing you George. To turn RE electricity into H2 60% efficient, to store it at moderate compression? Then energy to turn it into ammonia and then back again. Umm………………..

      • Catprog

        I can see a use for this if they can get the cost of the equipment down to a low price, then when the batteries are full and lots of power is being generated they can use cheap power to make the hydrogen.

        • solarguy

          Yeah maybe, but the efficiency of compressed air is 75% v’s 60% for H2. So why use H2?

          • Catprog

            Ease of storage/transport? (I don’t know)

          • solarguy

            I’m only talking about stationary storage.

          • howardpatr

            What did happen with the compressed air vehicles?

          • solarguy

            Hell, don’t know. May be they were crap.

          • howardpatr

            No it did not blow up and seems it is not crap.

          • Just_Chris

            Define “not crap” – Whilst watching this I asked myself “What’s wrong with walking”

          • Richard

            Maybe they popped 🙂

          • Mark Roest

            Something about adiabatic losses (I forget the details) and the law of diminishing returns.

          • howardpatr
          • Just_Chris

            because you might want to drive 600 km at 100 km/hr rather than 60 km at 30 km/hr. You also have regenerative breaking in a FCEV which is harder and less efficient in a compressed air vehicle meaning the losses are pretty much minimal.

    • Ian

      I wonder could they charge ‘flow’ battery electrolyte for export in massive ships?

      • solarguy

        Ah, now there’s an idea, beautiful baby, positive ideas man.

        • riley222

          Not quite sure of the realities of it, but you could have a bloody big flow battery in a ship. Maybe a ‘top up’ ship like they have for military aircraft.

          • solarguy

            Yes a bloody good idea old son. Perhaps we could simply have an undersea cable to them and they could store it in which ever medium they liked to. Either way we win. Perhaps the later idea is for the more distant future.

    • Mark Roest

      Actually, by 2021.

      • George Darroch

        Yes, certainly. I only meant that the article indicated that hydrogen would be ‘ready’ by the mid-late 2020s. I’d argue that for most personal transport use-cases battery is mature and applicable.

  • Radbug

    Methanol is miles better than ammonia.

    • solarguy

      Ever been close to an ammonia leak? I have and it takes your breath away.

      • George Darroch

        You’ve earwormed me, solarguy. :/

        • solarguy

          Do you mean you have experienced the joy of ammonia too?

          • George Darroch

            I’ve been in unventilated chicken sheds, and feel sorry for those poor hens.

          • solarguy

            Ok, can imagine the scale of disaster a mega ammonia gas leak would cause to a population and the environment.

          • Malcolm Green

            Yes and no. The good thing regarding ammonia is that it does stink therefore it is easily detected. I’ve experienced breathing ammonia too, at a dairy processing plant in Gloucester NSW and nasty as it is, it is however not super toxic. I think ammonia would be a good transport for energy.

          • solarguy

            Mal, it may not be super toxic, but let me tell you, you will have trouble breathing with pure ammonia, big time!

          • Just_Chris

            ammonia is nasty but then again LNG isn’t exactly “nice”.

            Australia already exports a lot of ammonia. The ammonia plants in this country are as big as ammonia plants get so I don’t think we are going to see any increased risk switching from natural gas to renewable hydrogen. Ammonia has been made from renewable hydrogen in Zimbabwe as long as I have been alive, the only reason it’s not made from renewable hydrogen here is because we don’t have a massive excess of renewable energy sitting idle for large parts of the year…… we’ll not yet. If the price of natural gas stays high and renewable energy gets cheap hydrogen from water will be cheaper than hydrogen from NG.

    • Bungarra

      Anhydrous Ammonia has been used as a nitrogen fertilizer in broad acre Ag. The product was injected into furrows in the soil. While potentially nasty to manage, the farming community managed OK re handling the product.

      There are considerable problems nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere, and when overused. Nitrogen pollution of water ways (nitrates etc) is also a problem re excessive use of N in Ag.

      Ammonia has also been used as a fuel in internal combustion vehicles, but again there are serous issue re some of the by products from the vehicle exhausts.

      • Radbug

        Hello Bungarra,
        On an energy-density, pro-rata basis, per given volume, hydrogen is 10, ammonia is 14.5, methanol is 19.5 … and gasoline is 40! Also, and this is very important in light of the financial troubles in Curtis Island, ammonia hasn’t moved on from BIG TECHNOLOGY to really cool nano-technology catalysis, whereas methanol has. This means that to go with methanol nowadays, you don’t need Syngas, you can start small and test the water. This is not yet the case with NH3.

  • Arjan Wilkie SSE

    its seems like a technology that has missed it chance. Electric storage is here and rapidly improving so what liquid/solid fuel niches are there that are safe from inevitable electrification? shipping is mentioned and perhaps add aviation to that. Given the enormous cost of replication of infrastructure, unless you get widespread adoption I think this industry will be stillborn.

    • Catprog

      Hydrogen + carbon dioxide = Carbon monoxide + water +
      carbon monoxide + hydrogen = hydrocarbons = plastic.

      • Mark Roest

        THIS is another VERY good idea! But don’t let people like the current fossil fuel industry heads who are happy to save money by cutting corners for short term profit participate, causing methane and oil leaks and flaring methane all over the planet — only people who care about the natural world enough to make absolutely sure that carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and/or hydrocarbons cannot escape during production.

  • Bungarra

    At what point do we export aluminum metal rather than bauxite?

    This could be a good little earner for some where like WA where the solar / wind / wave potential is fairly high along the West Coast. The PM sea breeze is fairly constant from Nth of Geraldton to Eucla with Solar away from the South Coast fairly good to
    excellent in Summer. Of course it would help if the production units
    could be varied to match the actual power supply.

    Can we make aluminum metal from bauxite using systems which do not require
    continuous high levels of electricity supply. That would act a de facto
    battery converting available power to value but allowing reductions in demand
    in times of reduced power availability. We could perhaps get some benefit from having a few PhD’s on the topic at CSIRO etc and even looking at the reduction of Al to metal at low temperatures via a gas or solvent reduction system. We should also look at other metals as well.

    • Catprog

      The problem is the Aluminum oxygen bond is very strong. Even stronger then carbon oxygen. As far as I am aware you need electricity, nothing else will work. (in regards to your gas or solvent reduction system idea)

      The other points are a good idea though.

      • trackdaze

        Aluminium production is so energy intensive it is considered to be congealed electricity.

      • Mark Roest

        The point about aluminum is not to use it as an aluminum battery, it’s to use it as a primary material revenue source, because it’s energy-intensive, and the energy needed to refine it is cheaper and cleaner (if solar and wind) in Australia than in the destination countries.
        The key issue is whether it is impacting important natural habitat, or cultural resources for the First Nations.

        • Chris A

          Certainly mass renewable penetration and excess energy will be interesting for our Aluminium smelters…… if we support them through the energy transition so they are around to see it. I suspect that we they will all close in the next 10 years though as there is little appetite and we want them to pay the same for electricity as everyone else and cry about multinational “subsidies”. The reality is there is no Aluminium smelter that pays the market rate for electricity. Using multi-billion dollar assets that we already have to monetize cheap electricity is much more efficient than trying to invent a new “hydrogen” industry to do something similar.

    • Tom

      Bloody good idea!

      I wonder how aluminium refineries work – if they can be modified to produce a little bit of aluminium in the morning, and then heaps of aluminium in the afternoon.

    • Mark Roest

      This is a really good idea!
      A moderate amount of battery capacity could buffer solar or wind production near the aluminum plant, to maintain constant output. The aluminum could be used in place of steel for vehicles and other applications in Australia, as well as exported as a feedstock for manufacturing in other nations.
      I don’t see anything in the article stating that hydrogen can be produced and ‘burned’ for less than $100/kWh capacity, or 2 cents per kWh levelized cost of storage, by 2020; batteries will be there by then.

    • Radbug

      Bungarra, I came across some really cool work where the research team combined solar energy/electricity (ideally, in conjunction with some natural gas) at 730degC, lithium carbonate as electrolyte, bubble (atmospheric) CO2 through & you get carbon fibre. Cost = 25% of the energy cost of aluminium. Carbon fibre replaces aluminium.

  • Keith

    The thing is that a hydrogen powered vehicle is an electric vehicle, with a hydrogen fuel cell …. like another engine: expense, maintenance etc all not needed if the battery has capacity.

    I think the game is over and battery electric vehicles have already won. https://seekingalpha.com/article/4061822-new-twist-big-battery-electric-vehicles-going-happen-much-faster-anyone-expected

  • Askgerbil Now

    Power to gas and liquids is useful for rapid conversion of existing vehicles to renewable energy (reducing the need to import transport fuels), to replace natural gas that will continue to be needed as a raw material for chemical production, and to allow the export of renewable energy.

    Even after Australia’s energy system completes the transition to renewable energy it will still need to have sufficient capacity to meet the maximum peak demand periods that occur on a relatively small number of days each year.

    On all other days the excess generating capacity could sit idle, as it does now. The cost of this idle investment is a major component of Australia’s high energy prices.

    If instead of sitting idle this reserve generating capacity can convert power to gas and liquids at a profit, this will lower the cost of energy in Australia.

  • howardpatr

    We need some form of authority, separate from the government, to deal with this.

    Labor and the LNP, populated as they are by people without appropriate expertise, (given they are mainly ex lawyers and ex union officials), have demonstrated time and again that they cannot deal with such matters.

    Perhaps it could be a body within ARENA?

    • solarguy

      Perhaps all of us on this forum should get together and I’m sure we could nut this out together. Ian’s idea of charged electrolyte is, to my mind a cracker. Check out his post here on this discussion.

  • Tony Pfitzner

    Apart from the inefficiency of converting solar/wind energy to hydrogen, one thing that is rarely discussed is the potential global warming implications of a hydrogen economy.
    Hydrogen combines with hydroxyl ions in the stratosphere to form water, but these ions are important in breaking down methane. By reducing the atmospheric capacity to breakdown methane, hydrogen leakage will contribute to global warming.
    The extent of this may not be well understood.

    • solarguy

      Tony, if that’s true say, there would have to be a fair leak of H2 on a regular basis. Can you back this up?

      • Tony Pfitzner

        I m not claiming absolutely that there is a problem, only that there is a potential one, and that upper atmosphere hydrogen chemistry is not totally benign.
        It is very expensive to create low leakage hydrogen infrastructure because of the low molecular weight, the seals are expensive. The industry might find it cost effective to tolerate high levels of leakage.
        So the industry may require regulation.

    • riley222

      I sure didn’t think that hydrogen to water would cause problems, well there you go. I had a flash of Oz covered with ways to create renewable energy, converting it to hydrogen and exporting it as we do coal and gas currently.
      And with those exporting energy companies actually paying taxes to keep Oz going as a decent society.
      Jeez Tony you’ve blown my pipedream out of the water in one fell swoop.
      Solarguy tell me it aint true

      • solarguy

        I really can’t confirm or deny Tony’s claim at this stage sorry.

        • riley222

          Seems its on the radar so all these things will be debated by experts. Good to see these ideas coming to the fore, clean coal was plain depressing.

          • solarguy

            No mate, it was a f…king nightmare dreamed up by the mega rich & insane FF industry. Clean coal, my arse, like non toxic arsenic!

        • Askgerbil Now

          Large volumes of hydrogen are made now by converting methane and water into hydrogen and carbon dioxide that is ‘dumped’ into the atmosphere.
          The associated methane leaks and carbon dioxide emissions would be eliminated by replacing this process with hydrogen made with renewable energy.

          • solarguy

            I don’t think that was what Tony was on about. If I’m wrong please point this out.

          • Askgerbil Now

            Tony is referring to a 2006 article on hydrogen production.
            Hydrogen manufacture isn’t new, as that 2006 paper assumes.
            Eliminating its production from fossil fuels will have a positive effect that shouldn’t be ignored.

          • solarguy

            Mate I’m well aware that H2 production isn’t new, he was talking about hydroxyl ions combing in the stratosphere to form water. So I don’t think going by that statement he meant how the H2 was made, just what it was supposed to do when up there.

          • Askgerbil Now

            I should have read the article Tony referred to more closely.
            I found a link in Tony’s identical comment 2 years ago…
            https://disqus.com/by/tonypfitzner/

            It turns out the climate change impact could be 0.6% of the impact of the fossil fuel energy systems hydrogen would replace.

            So a hydrogen economy is a 99.4% solution…

            “If a global hydrogen economy replaced the current fossil fuel-based energy system and exhibited a leakage rate of 1%, then it would produce a climate impact of 0.6% of the current fossil fuel based system.”

          • riley222

            Thanks, appreciate the research, I couldn’t find it.

            So, we’re a goer are we??

          • Askgerbil Now

            From an environmental point it scores on addressing climate change and eliminating oil spills.
            Australia is coming from behind on the technology. Canada and Germany build wind power to hydrogen plants ( hydrogenics.com ) and renewable energy to transport fuel ( http://www.sunfire.de/en/ ) plants.

          • Tony Pfitzner

            There are many assumptions in the 0.6% impact which are untested. No one has an accurate figure on the amount of hydrogen currently released. (Estimate of 15plus or minus 10 Teragrams per year is extremely rubbery).

            Excellent summary here:

    • Barri Mundee

      Tony,

      Could you please supply a link regarding hydrogen and climate change?

      Thanks

      • Tony Pfitzner

        See the video I have linked to in more recent comments. This is a summary of the current state of knowledge by a grad student who has done a thorough lit survey. (Already linked twice in this comments section, so I won’t do it again.)

  • Richard

    In places with limited renewable energy and high population and energy use, hydrogen may be useful as a source of electricity, although I imagine it will be expensive electricity. Perhaps there is potential industry for Australia here. I hope so, otherwise our economy is going to crash when fossil fuel exports phase out.
    It will be interesting to see how battery technology develops. Because as we have seen from Tesla, lithium ion is a compelling technology. It probably needs another breakthrough in efficiency/safety. But all the ingredients are there and some major battery improvements seem very close to being proven at scale.
    I can’t see Hydrogen winning out in vehicle fuel race. Solid state electric battery is so much simpler

    • solarguy

      Indeed it is Richard, “on your last sentence”

    • nakedChimp

      Then we better start building a tech society no?
      Cause nothing else will help to hold and increase our standard of living long term.

  • DugS

    I really don’t see the point of converting renewable energy into hydrogen and transporting the hydrogen to places that also have renewable energy available. Sun shine and wind are ubiquitous, that is the beauty of tapping into their energy, it is essentially free and infinite. The concept of shipping energy vast distances will cease to be relevant with the demise of the fossil fuel industry and the advancement of solar capture and storage. The only beneficiaries of this concept are those who wish to supplant the current energy manipulators and thereby become rich and powerful at their expense. We should be very sceptical of the intentions of anyone selling us the ‘benefit’ of buying their energy at a ‘gas’ station.

    • riley222

      Mate if they don’t need it they won’t buy it. If they don’t want to pay for it they won’t buy it. If they can’t afford it they won’t buy it. Forget about the buyers.
      I feel sorry for those flogging the product, they’re the ones with the problem.

      • nakedChimp

        To bad that the tax payer will get a big part of the bill for that flogging.

    • Just_Chris

      “I really don’t see the point of converting renewable energy into
      hydrogen and transporting the hydrogen to places that also have
      renewable energy available.”

      I don’t think that is what is being suggested. I think what is being suggested is that we make hydrogen and export it to places where there is not enough RE or we make it and store it when there is lots of renewable energy and then use it to make electricity when there is no enough or we make hydrogen for an industrial process that already requires hydrogen but using RE rather than NG.

      I really dislike the term “hydrogen economy” or the idea that we are going to replace the oil and gas industry with an identical industry of equal size. In my opinion, wind, solar PV, solar thermal, pumped hydro, bio-mass, batteries, electric vehicles, demand management, increased efficiency, etc. will not 100% replace anything but will all fill a space, mostly a space currently filled by a fossil fuel or mixture of fossil fuels. Hydrogen, in exactly the same way as the above will not 100% displace coal, oil and LNG. It will fill a space, if there are cheaper alternatives to fill that space those will be used instead.

      It is not immediately obvious what is the best solution is for every application but I think we can expect a lot of different trials of different technologies in places where people haven’t traditionally used those technologies. I am very confident of that mainly because there is no way we can keep doing exactly what we have done in the past and expect the lights to stay on and the jobs to stay.

      As for being skeptical of someone selling the benefit of buying energy at a gas station – that really depends on what the alternative is. If the alternative is buy from a gas station or don’t have access to it I’d like the option.

  • Tony Pfitzner

    Excellent summary of hydrogen potential to affect atmosphere:

    • riley222

      Thanks Tony, food for thought. I’ll leave it to more scientific minds to debate pros and cons, but as a general observation it appears to be a risk that could be minimised and controlled.
      Forewarned is forearmed. Hydrogen sounds like it’s more risky than commonly assumed and strict controls to prevent leakage would be part of its common use.

      • Just_Chris

        That was a great presentation I was aware there was some atmospheric effects but never really looked in too much detail at these effects – mainly because I don’t understand atmospheric chemistry. Interesting to see that the effect is linked to methane emissions so if we are replacing methane and/or poor combustion in ICE then the net effect would be a reduction in CO2e levels.

        Anyway, using the numbers he has in his presentation producing 1 kWh of electricity in a fuel cell from hydrogen with a 3% leakage rate across the whole supply chain would give a CO2e value of about 12 g/CO2/kWh (i.e. it would take 70g of hydrogen to make 1 kWh of electricity 3% would give 2 g which is equivalent to 12 g CO2). This is about 1.5% as much as coal or 3% as much as natural gas. My personal opinion is that 3% loss well to wheel is very high but even so as a greenhouse gas it should be minimized where possible. The “15% is economically viable” comment sounds like an academic not thinking straight or a miss quote. If you synthetically produce a fuel from first principles then it is going to be more expensive than just digging it out the ground. If your fuel starts more expensive you ain’t going to want to waste a drop. Even if people go down a cryogenic path any boil off gas would be utilized for something.

  • Dennis Abbott..

    Abbott, Keeping the Energy Debate Clean: How Do We Supply the World’s Energy Needs?
    A 2009 paper authored by my brother Derek suggests a solar / hydrogen economy.
    (sorry, you will need to google it as I do not know how to include a link)
    This paper may answer a lot of the questions listed in these comments.

  • Allan Barr

    Hydrogen is a highly inefficient means of energy storage, but the fossil fuel interests are pushing it hard so they can utilize their gas deposits. Kinda surprised its being described as a green option when battery prices are falling and more than cost competitive.

  • Ian

    The round trip efficiency of hydrogen as a storage medium for electricity is at best 25%. It needs to be stored in pressurised containers of 200bar or more or cryogenic containers at minus 250’c. I wonder if this is the renewables version of the old FF myth of Carbon capture and storage? By the way Australia has already signed an agreement with Japan to gasefy Latrobe Valley Coal to hydrogen. Is the hydrogen economy not just Fossil Fuels by stealth ?

  • Robert Comerford

    Any use of fossil fuels for generating H2 is just a con … just like the idea of sequestration.
    Would I like to live above such a CO2 well waiting to leak? The next Bhopal type disaster waiting to happen.
    I’ll take living next to a spent reactor store in preference.

    I’m certain that H2 will have its uses when there is surplus electricity to generate it, however it would be better transported and used as Ammonia.

    Stop importing oil and other [email protected] and get back to making things here would be a better long term fix for our economy.

    • riley222

      Robert,the research paper by Derek Abbott (see my and Dennis Abbott’s earlier posts) dismisses using fossil fuels to produce hydrogen, advocating the use of solar thermal power to produce elecricity, with some of that electricity being used to produce hydrogen, which can be stored and used as a fuel instead of oil and coal based products.
      Although there are more “efficient” ways of producing and using electricity, solar thermal and hydrogen could be used for a billion years and not have a detrimental effect on the planet.
      If like me you’ve looked at the RE live generation chart and wondered what realistically could replace fossil fuels, the paper by Derek Abbott is worth a read and points to a way forward.

      • Robert Comerford

        Thanks, I picked up your link from an earlier post and have been reading it.
        I agree that for many uses H2 will be an uncompetitive energy carrier but in some instances it may still prove a viable option. There are many renewable options that can currently be used to remove reliance on fossil fuels for transport and electricity generation. We just need to embrace them.