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Why all the hype about hydrogen?

Return to the chemistry class. Do you remember Remember? It is the simplest element in the earth, consisting of one proton and one electron.

Well, humble hydrogen has suddenly become the cheapest energy topic in the world.

This is because the simplicity and versatility of hydrogen can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an ever-increasing amount of energy while promoting the uptake and distribution of renewable energy.

The relatively high cost of adding hydrogen to the value chain has led some skeptics to question how large-scale its role will be, but proponents say the economies of scale, coupled with high government spending, will result in at least partially hydrogen-absorbing energy.

“It ‘s just starting to catch the attention of investors, like other industrial players,” said Dave Edwards, a hydrogen ombudsman who works for French multinational Air Liquide USA. “The average citizen is not yet thinking about hydrogen in his energy future, although it will play an absolute role.”

What can hydrogen do?

Unlike, say, natural gas or solar production, hydrogen is not a source of energy. Instead, it is an energy carrier that can store and deliver the energy used.

When hydrogen is mixed with oxygen in a fuel cell, it burns clean. And, possibly, the element can be used in different areas.

For example, manufacturing industries such as steel and cement require huge amounts of heat to make their products. Hydrogen can burn hot enough to power a stove. The element can be injected into natural gas, which is used as an appetizer in these plants, resulting in a small carbon footprint.

Hydrogen can be used to hydrocarbon the transportation sector, which accounts for more than half of California’s carbon pollution.

Hydrogen ion fuel cell vehicle combines hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity that runs on a motor. For fuel, the driver pulls on a pump like a regular gas station and pumps hydrogen into the tank. It takes about three to five minutes to fill, and the only discharge is a few drops of water coming out of the tailpipe.

Nearly 9,000 California hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, such as the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity, are on the roads of California, and state policymakers plan to move 200 of the state’s nearly 40 hydrogen fuel stations to 200 within the next four years. ,

But when the electric vehicle sector takes action, a more immediate possibility of hydrogen can be found in larger vehicles. Buses և medium և heavy trucks that run on fuel cells do not need the heavier battery systems required in electric vehicles և they work well in cold weather. Rogen fuel cells can be used for unloading stations, ports for unloading, moving, replacing gasoline and diesel.

Hydrogen is also seen as a stimulus for the development of energy storage sites.

The production of gold is abundant during the day when the gold comes out but disappears after entering the mother of gold. When there is a large supply of gold during the day, network operators sometimes have to limit the production of gold or send the surplus to neighboring countries.

Energy storage systems save on surplus production and then discharge electricity when demand is high in the grid, such as between 16 and 21 in the evening, when electricity is more expensive.

Battery life helps, but it is designed for short-term, hour-to-hour use. Hydrogen, however, can store energy for months.

“If you want to save electricity for a long time, battery storage is getting more expensive,” Paul Browning, chief executive of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas, told CNBC. “However, in the case of hydrogen, we can store it for a long time in large salt domes at a very low cost.”

This is what Mitsubishi is doing with fuel storage company Magnum Development at the Delta Utah Power Plant, which operates the Los Angeles Department of Water and Energy. The accumulated electricity will be released to electric gas turbines at the power plant.

When the project begins in 2025, Browning said the turbines will use 30% hydrogen and 70% natural gas instead of coal. By 2045, it is planned to use 100% hydrogen, which is fed from renewable sources.

Hydrogen can also be used for residential and commercial energy. Work is underway to mix the element into a natural gas transmission and distribution system.

Combined thermal energy systems, or CHP, can result in emissions reductions of 35% to 50% by conventional means, and the US Department of Energy has calculated reductions of more than 80% if hydrogen from low or zero carbon sources is used. in the fuel cell.

How do you cook?

Because hydrogen does not usually exist on its own, it must be made from compounds that contain it. The element can be produced using a wide range of resources that use different production methods.

Given the emphasis that policymakers have placed on clean energy, much of the focus has been on making ‘blue hydrogen’ or ‘green hydrogen’.

The natural gas in blue hydrogen, which contains hydrogen as a component of natural gas methane, is usually put into a steam methane converter. The reformer isolates hydrogen but leaves behind carbon dioxide or CO2. Because CO2 is a greenhouse gas, it is captured and stored instead of being released into the atmosphere. It is estimated that the process could halve the amount of carbon produced.

In green hydrogen, the element is produced using renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, hydropower or even biomass. One of the essential attention processes is electrolysis, in which electricity from carbon sources is sent to the electrolyzer, in which water is pumped: hydrogen, oxygen, water, H2O. Hydrogen’s emissions do not emit carbon emissions, hence the term “green hydrogen”.

Barriers, incentives և skeptics

But the process used to produce hydrogen is expensive; the cleaner the version, the more expensive it is. Hydrogen now accounts for less than 5% of the world’s energy supply, so it will be expensive to build and expand its availability.

By failing to meet its climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, the European Union was soon driven by hydrogen stimulation. Last summer, the EU prepared a roadmap to spend up to $ 569 billion (€ 470 billion) on green hydrogen investment by 2050.

President Biden’s $ 2 trillion climate change plan includes hydrogen, but its clean energy campaign, announced during the campaign, did not include a specific dollar figure.

Hydrogen’s advocates are hoping to reduce costs as hydrogen becomes more common. It is like an economy of scale, which has led to a sharp drop in the cost of air, wind and battery. Of course, there is no guarantee that hydrogen can duplicate this, but IHS Markit analysts predict that green hydrogen production could become competitive in nine years.

There are problems with the hydrogen compatibility of the pipelines in the natural gas system by the infrastructure. Over time, some types of steel pipes can become brittle under the influence of hydrogen.

San Diego Gas & Electric և Southern California Gas has partnered with UC Irvine National Center for Fuel Cell Research to develop a mixing project in which hydrogen is injected into plastic pipes to see how it works. The initial level of the mixture will be 1% և may increase to և 20%.

“Steel pipes do not do well. Plastic does better, ”said Kevin Sagara, chairman of SDG & E մայր SoCalGas’s parent company Sempra Energy. “So we’re going to start with plastic, see how it goes, and then slowly scale it up to other types of pipes.”

The project is one of seven hydrogen projects involving Sempra companies. Earlier this month, SoCalGas announced that it would spend $ 1.3 million to fund the development of hydrogen refueling stations at seaport locomotives.

California recently pledged to get 100% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045. But while Sempra defends the largest natural gas privilege in the Western Hemisphere, Sagara says the Fortune 500 is “completely” hydrogen.

“We want to be a leader in this area,” Sagara said. “Our network will be the backbone not only to continue this path of electrification, but also to supply renewable electricity, pure hydrogen-like molecules, to hydrocarbonize those other parts.”

When versatile, hydrogen can also be liquefied, which could amount to the millions of dollars Sempra has invested in liquefied natural gas or LNG facilities. “You can see a lot of hydrogen in Texas, from Texas, where there’s a lot of storage, very low-cost renewable sources, both solar and wind,” Sagara said. “It’s one of the best places to produce hydrogen.”

The rumors are fueled by Matt Wespa, an advocate for Earthjustice environmental group staff, who says fossil fuel companies are squeezing hydrogen as a lifeline.

“I think there is a wider game on the part of the gas industry to suggest that there is a St. Grail that will allow us to run the gas system as it is now, just with a different fuel,” Vespa said.

For some, he is skeptical that hydrogen can be safely injected into gas pipelines to the extent that it significantly improves the environment. “In fact, you can not do much without the existing pipeline structure without completely replacing the gas pipelines and equipment that are currently running on gas,” said Vespa.

Many environmentalists want resources to be spent on green hydrogen projects that use electrolyzers rather than blue hydrogen, which uses natural gas or other fossil fuels as raw materials.

“Let’s focus on that, target projects where (hydrogen) has the maximum greenhouse gas benefit,” Vespa said.

In the California Legislature, Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, introduced Senate Bill 18, which requires states to designate green hydrogen as the primary source of energy for all renewable energy uses and long-term storage to boost investment and technology.

When he introduced the bill, Skinner called hydrogen “the only renewable energy source that has the potential to hydrocarbonize all aspects of our economy.” Simply put. “Maybe without it we would not be in a world without carbon.”

Globally, investments in hydrogen will increase by more than $ 700 million over the next two years, and it is unlikely that a week will pass without news of another hydrogen investment, initiative or research project.

Air Liquide, a 50-year-old hydrogen business, is building a $ 150 million plant near Las Vegas that will convert biogas from organic waste to hydrogen and then sell it in California to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, trucks and power supplies. other programs.

Last month, the company announced plans to build the world’s largest electrolyzer using a hydroelectric plant in Quebec to produce hydrogen.

“When does hydrogen completely replace gasoline, diesel and natural gas?” “It will definitely play a role in replacing them,” said Edwards of Air Liquide. “You will see it as transport fuel, as household fuel, as industrial fuel. You will see it in all these places over time և 50 years from now, I think it will be very common in all those areas. ”


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