The Hydrogen Dream

The Hydrogen Dream

There has suddenly been the realization it will be impossible to decarbonize the world without using hydrogen.

Steel cannot be produced without using hydrogen to replace coal, while limestone gives off CO2 when producing cement. Natural gas is actually methane that is a greenhouse gas, so it cannot be used to generate electricity or heat homes if full decarbonization is to be achieved.

Europe has published a manifesto for using hydrogen. See, A Hydrogen Fantasy 

But, what are the facts about producing Hydrogen without using methane, CH4, for its production?

Electrolysis to extract hydrogen from water is the most likely process when fossil fuels are eliminated as the source.

This requires large quantities of electricity, but the real question is how many new power plants will have to be built to generate the required amount of electricity?

This figure from the EIA shows how many BTUs were consumed from petroleum and natural gas in 2018. This data can be converted to show the amount of electricity required to produce the hydrogen needed to eliminate the use of petroleum and natural gas in the United States.

The accompanying table shows the pertinent data and conversions. It begins with determining how many of the 101.3 BTUs were derived from petroleum and natural gas.

I’ve ignored coal on the assumption that renewables can double in size. While a doubling of renewables is highly unlikely, it accommodates the current vision for wind and solar increasing from 3% of total BTUs, to 21% of the total by replacing coal with wind and solar.

The required total capacity required to generate enough electricity to produce the hydrogen required to decarbonize the United States is 2,270,759 Megawatts.

This is nearly twice the existing generating capacity serving the country now.

Presumably, some of the existing capacity can be used for producing hydrogen, but, at a minimum, over one-million MW of new generating capacity will have to be built.

Most likely, this new capacity will be from new gas turbine combined cycle power plants, designed to use hydrogen.

New nuclear plants could also be used, but, according to the Department of Energy (DOE), it would require around 1,800 new nuclear power plants to supply all the needed electricity for producing all the hydrogen that’s needed. 

DOE estimates that a 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant could produce 200,000 tons of hydrogen per year, but, referencing the table, we need over 397,000,000 tons of hydrogen to decarbonize the United States.

Given that we have great difficulty building any new nuclear power plants, it’s doubtful we will be able to build anywhere near a thousand new nuclear power plants.

Conclusion

Without even considering the cost involved or the technical issues concerning the use of hydrogen, e.g., hydrogen embrittlement and damage to existing copper pipelines, it’s obvious that hydrogen is not a realistic solution for decarbonizing the world, let alone the United States.

One can also conclude that decarbonization isn’t realistic under any scenario.

While some people are hysterical, almost sobbing, over climate change, e.g., Greta Thunberg, the Paris Accord is an impossible fantasy that’s best forgotten.

Greta Thunberg is a tragic, pathetic child who has been brainwashed by the adults around her. No child should be subject to the fear induced by such manipulation.

. . .

 

2 Replies to “The Hydrogen Dream”

  1. Don,
    Interesting article on hydrogen. What heat rate figure did you use to convert BTU to kWh? Also, why would one build combined cycle hydrogen fueled generating plants to make hydrogen? Doesn’t seem very efficient.

    • I used the conversions noted in the table. For example 55kWh per kg, etc.
      If electrolysis is to be used to extract hydrogen from water, there is a need to generate electricity. The most efficient way to generate electricity is to use gas turbines or coal. I didn’t use coal because it is now being phased out, and besides, it and gas turbines arrive at approximately the same costs to generate electricity. I didn’t use wind or solar because they are intermittent and more expensive. As intimated in the article I suspect wind and solar are going to have a very hard time replacing coal-fired power plants. I also mentioned nuclear power but, as noted, it’s not likely we will build very many new nuclear power plants, which is unfortunate. The cheapest way to produce hydrogen is from Methane using reforming. That produces CO2, which is what everyone is worried about and initiated the search for hydrogen.
      The whole exercise is very inefficient, costly and unnecessary, and probably not feasible, which was the purpose behind the article.
      Thanks for asking.

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