Wednesday 17 February 2021

Fun and Games with Hydrogen in ... Germany

The whole hydrogen thing is very interesting in loads of dimensions.  We've debated several of them, above and below the line, in a number of posts over the past several months, this one being quite recent.

For present purposes, some definitions:

  • 'Grey' hydrogen is what almost all past and current industrial hydrogen has been: manufactured essentially from unabated fossil fuels, = lots of CO2 as a by-product
  • 'Blue' H is currently a fanatsy - manufactured, more-or-less conventionally or with some newer technologies, from natural gas AND with the resultant CO2 sequestered
  • 'Green' H is currently uneconomic - manufactured from water by electrolysis: no CO2 at all
  • I won't detain you with 'Turquoise' H (sic

As noted before, the gas industries of the world, petrified by the prospect of asset stranding on an humungous scale, are piling - with deadly serious intent - into hydrogen as their putative saviour, thinking that (a) in many cases it can utilise their existing infrastructure downstream (distribution, storage); (b) it plays readily to their existing engineering skills; (c) everyone loves them for it; (d) in due course there will be some subsidy-dosh on offer; (e) whisper it quietly, but while we are waiting for Green H to become a serious economic proposition, there might be a big role for Blue, or even ...Grey! 

Which brings us to Germany, our old friends with the fine words, *noble aspirations*, and demented policies.  They are dead keen to be at the forefront of the H-revolution, and are Absolutely Adamant it must be Green H and nothing else.  They have also been solemnly told by their scentific advisers (a panel of government and industry types) that there is no way in Hell that there will be economic Green H possible by 2030**.  But they don't want to be sitting on the sidelines while the pragmatic Brits get started with Grey (as we are doing already) and Blue.  So ... "we may have to import it to get started".  Hahahah!

And where might it come from?  And might it be, errrr, Grey? 

Germany in talks with Russia over hydrogen importsbut coy about 'colour' (RechargeNews). Germany is in talks about the import of “CO2-neutral” hydrogen from Russia, energy minister Peter Altmaier said during a virtual conference on bilateral relations. The minister was, however, unclear whether discussions concerned imports of green hydrogen produced via electrolysis from renewable electricity, or blue hydrogen from natural gas linked to carbon capture and storage (CCS) from a nation that is already Germany's biggest gas supplier.  

Yup, I think we may be sure that'll be a deep shade of Grey.  If not, *ahem*, Red ...  Did CU mention schadenfreude?



** They may be wrong about that: the technology is really motoring


Anonymous said...

There was a discussion about this on BBC R4 the other day. Now I can see gas is good stuff for cooking, better control which is why chefs use it - but they were discussing replacing all our methane with H2 created by electricity.

Quite apart from the fact that H2 is a much smaller molecule than methane, and probably all the gas pipework (certainly domestic) might need replacing to stop leaks, what the hell is the point? Why not at that stage heat your house with electricity? Why lose energy splitting water?

And btw, if this is happening on a global scale, where's all the extra oxygen going to end up? Have they thought this thing through? What would a world be like with extra oxygen in the atmosphere? Fiery?

The reason people use gas or oil rather than electricity for heating is IT'S CHEAP. I guess the idea is to take that option away from us. I suppose our children won't need so much heating, what with them all living in pods and eating bugs. Our new green globalised world's gonna be great!

Nick Drew said...

I can tell you the "theory-of-the-vision", anon

> solar PV becomes so cheap that in some locations you have almost-free electricity

> in other locations, wind ditto ditto, especially at night

> electricity is a pig to store, and not so great for long-distance transmission

> H is quite easy to store, and fairly easy to transmit (in PVC pipes)

As the footnote suggested, there have been pre-conceptions that electrolysis is just prohibitively costly: but I definitely wouldn't bet my shirt on that. It's the sort of blind a priori assumption that periodically gets blown out of the water by some new piece of clever engineering: I've met many of them in my time

You are right about oxygen, it has very limited industrial applications and even the medical uses are fairly easily met at present. The very many people looking at H right now see it as a waste product! (and they've tried hard to think of uses for it)

andrew said...

Somewhere there is a spreadsheet that incorrectly accounts for
a rainbow of h2 + your existing boiler / cooker
electricity + many new cookers / gas boilers

My aga hopes we choose H2 of a suitable colour.

I agree that green H2 may well be possible quite soon. Consider what all those solar cells are doing on a sunny day / wind farms are doing on a windy day when the grid has >100% of demand being fed in.
An increasing amount of 'leccy will be 'flared'. Someone will make good use of that.

On what to do with the green O2 left over... ...hyperoxegenating the water in a fish farm springs to mind.

DJK said...

No problem using the surplus 'leccy. Just use it to mine Bitcoin.

Anonymous said...

"What would a world be like with extra oxygen in the atmosphere? Fiery?"

Given that we are splitting water to produce hydrogen, in order to oxidize it again. That presumably will solve the excess oxygen problem.

By the way, wind power is simply extracting energy from our atmosphere. Here is the next 'Green' scare, we're taking too much energy from the atmosphere and consequently we're headed for a new ice age.

Coz for the 'eco' fascists, it's not about CO2, it really isn't.

Nick Drew said...

@ for the 'eco' fascists, it's not about CO2, it really isn't

I know exactly what you mean, anon - but I'm going to disagree with you on the detail.

The thing they don't care about is the WARMING - which in principle is the beginning and end of the matter. Fixing warming is fairly easy via geo-engineering (or a big volcano eruption), if someone really cared about temperature - which may yet come.

But "their" policy right now is hostile to geo-engineering. They go after CO2 because it is proxy for anti-industrialisation (of the West) which for many funda-greens is what they're all about: living in caves.

I predict a change of policy in the coming years. They are gradually noticing that the anti-CO2 drive is causing a gigantic & gleeful upsurge in classic capitalist activity, to solve the problem industrially / technically; and Greta ain't needed in this effort (see this blog over the past many months)

Eventually, everyone will notice this has no effect on warming (indeed, biomass burning etc make it worse!) - and when warming becomes really serious (as it certainly might), geo-engineering will make it up the agenda. THEN the eco-fascists will team up (again) with the world-government bastards and go "OK, geo-engineering it must be - but only under World Government supervision, because..."

Mark my words!

Anonymous said...


You need to look deeper.
Wind - and so wind energy comes from temperature differentials in different parts of the world.

Some eco fascists will consider it unfair that such differences exist and strive to provide equal temperatures across the planet.

The easiest renewable way to do this is to cut down a tree and send the wood to other places to be burnt.
This will become known dropping a log.

Other eco fascists will seek to control the wind and will seek to share wind fairly between all humanity.
This will become known as passing wind.

andrew said...

you are correct. there are a good number of low grade arts grads who mentally divide the world into 1 acre plots, work out what can be grown there and from that state the world is too full already we should all stop eating meat.

In literally one step you can get to Godwin's law as that was part of the driver for WW2 - lebensraum.

They do not understand the (nearly) limitless power of human ingenuity - and greed - and so if the europeans decide to live in caves, the indians, chinese and americans will do what suits them

- or like the WHO, the chinese take over this 'World Govt'.

Elby the Beserk said...

Roger Tattersall (aka Tallbloke) has his say...

Elby the Beserk said...

BTW, how delighted I was to find you can publish a post without entering Captcha. Please leave it that way!

Bill Quango MP said...

Passing wind.


Old Git Carlisle said...

Maybe I am thick but the oxygen excess is a canard.

The released oxygen will taken up when the hydrogen is burnt.

There should be no ridiculous delay and build up as there is with the wood CO2 fiasco

Anonymous said...

ND - What's your thoughts on what's happening in Texas?

The augments people favour seem to go along ideological lines - those who favour renewables are saying the fault is because Texas isn't interconnected with the rest of the US. Those who don't are saying it's the fault of frozen wind turbines. These don't seem mutually exclusive.

Is such an event ever likely to happen here?

Elby the Beserk said...

"Anonymous said...
ND - What's your thoughts on what's happening in Texas?

The augments people favour seem to go along ideological lines - those who favour renewables are saying the fault is because Texas isn't interconnected with the rest of the US. Those who don't are saying it's the fault of frozen wind turbines. These don't seem mutually exclusive.

Is such an event ever likely to happen here?

12:16 pm"

Suggest do some reading on "Grand Solar Minimum". The last nasty one was 300 years ago. The cycle for such is you got it - 300 years. And a lesser one within of 60 years. Remember 1963. We may have to go out on the streets and hunt climate change crazies...

Don Cox said...

Global warming is additional to any cycles. If you increase the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, the warm periods in such cycles will be warmer than they would otherwise be, and the cold spells will be less cold.

It's the same as a real greenhouse: inside a greenhouse, it's hotter on hot days, and less cold on cold days (and nights).

Remember also that climate is the average weather over the past fifteen years, not the weather this year or in 1963.

Don Cox

rwendland said...

Texas - from what I've read this seems the outcome of commercial/regulatory decisions not to harden the state natural gas distribution network and wind turbines against extended sub-zero conditions, which was seen as only likely every ~50 years. Both natural gas distribution and wind turbines work perfectly well in much, much colder US states with eg heaters protecting critical components against freezing problems. But not bothering to install that saves a bit of money and hassle, which might be a perfectly reasonable decision in a usually warm state. ~50% of power generation is with gas, ~25% from wind, so the gas distribution failure seems to be the bigger problem.

Had Texas chosen to join one of the two US mainland inter-state electricity networks, the Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection, things would have worked out better for them though. Alaska is the only other US state, for practical geography reasons, that didn't join either Interconnection. It's business and politics reasons per usual.

Nick Drew said...

Definitely penny-pinching in Texas. Snow isn't a one-in-50 event there: I was in Houston in January a few years ago when it snowed.

Is the ERCOT zone big enough to represent critical mass? It would seem not. There are arguments on either side: interconnection between neighbouring zones, if cleverly engineered, would generally deliver some measure of diversification (sometimes a lot) that can only be to the good. We have been rather good at this in Europe, BTW.

BUT there have been local blackouts in the highly-connected NE of the USA when deficiencies in the practical arrangements caused catastrophic rolling blackouts - and insulation from that kind of event is something may politicians would insist on. That can rapidly mutate into isolationism

"when the lights go out, the government goes out"

Our old friend Sackers and I have often debated the great question of self-sufficiency vs efficiency