GREY, BLUE, GREEN; THE COLOURS OF HYDROGEN
By Andrew Marsh
Since this is linked to incentives (tax cash) – for instance, Ofgem via HM Gov have already made it legal to bank wind turbine power, and then sell the same energy that’s already been paid for to the public again ‘via some other means’.
1. Wind turbine and solar farm energy investors get subsidies to assist with build, and 3x to 4x the prevailing power generation price over a 10-plus-year period for every single kWh sold into the National Grid. in the UK In the case of wind turbines, they also get paid compensation for the days when there is no wind, or too much wind. When the wind speed exceeds or falls below the optimum speed for the turbine, it uses an electrically activated disc brake to prevent damage. The generators also get compensated on the rare occasions power could flow into the grid but is not required.
2. There are few economic ways to allow a wind turbine or solar farm to produce energy and store it. One route is batteries, which are notoriously expensive, and for the moment, another way is to use the otherwise wasted power to create pure hydrogen – so-called ‘green’ hydrogen, to indicate it is made with renewable power. Hydrogen made with other forms of electricity gain other colours – for instance, when using electricity fuelled by lignite, it becomes ‘brown’ hydrogen.
3. How can this hydrogen be used – apart from existing processes such as creating fertiliser? There are several competing ideas, almost none of which has reached the commercial market. For instance, it can be combined with captured CO2, to create a form of synthesised hydrocarbon fuel (‘e-fuel’).
The advantage is, ignoring the significant tax investment, the product is made from components which already have a ‘carbon footprint’, and again, ignoring the additional energy investment, is ‘green’, somehow. Another idea is to blend natural gas with some hydrogen to offset the ‘carbon footprint’.
4. Hydrogen does exist in abundance but is normally linked to other molecules such as oxygen or carbon. To strip hydrogen away requires energy, and that is achieved via chemical reaction/capture or via electrolysis of a fluid – such as water. ‘Capture’ from such processes includes the harvesting and compression of the pure hydrogen for future use.
The generation of hydrogen beyond current industrial applications is embryonic.
How does this fit with the carbon capture schemes which are proposed, and the few such as the Ineos prototype project in the North Sea, that has just started?
The primary aim of the Ineos prototype project, for example, is to mitigate the amount of CO2 emitted from its European plants, and so reduce its tax liability. If the prototype works, Ineos and others will invest in much bigger scale schemes. Other companies with major industrial manufacturing process CO2 tax liabilities, could also use the same technology to store CO2. The logic is if the CO2 is captured, it is not emitted, so the tax liability is reduced.
The Ineos project seems to be one way – gather the CO2 and store it. However, once it is gathered, the store could dispense CO2 for use in further processes, such as combining it with, for example, hydrogen. All of the above works because of mitigating tax, or tax funded subsidies. The whole sector is not yet at the point of commercial viability, but as legislators tighten operation conditions relating to the emission of carbon dioxide so commercial viability becomes more likely.
How does this impact assessors or collision repairers?
Vehicle technology is adapting, as is the gas supply for things such as paint booths.
Make no mistake, all of the above is a net increase in cost.