In what is popping into an ongoing sequence of amuse bouche articles between my full course meals on issues like iron projections by way of 2100 and supercritical CO2 hype, I’ve been having enjoyable highlighting hydrogen-for-energy failures. This week is a tapas bar meal filled with them. And there’s a bonus aspect dish of small modular nuclear reactors too.
My most up-to-date entry was simply this week, once I wrote concerning the Maersk APM Terminals research the place the group was pressured but once more to dig by way of the numbers and show that hydrogen automobiles can be much more costly to purchase and much more costly to function than battery electrical automobiles. That research wasn’t only a research by somebody like me, that research was executed by the group which owns and operates about 8% of the most important business cargo terminals on the planet, beneath the auspices of their director of worldwide decarbonization, Sahar Rashidbeigi, who I’ll have the pleasure of chatting with once more subsequent week.
With 8% of the ports, that implies that they personal and function one thing like 8,000–10,000 container dealing with automobiles, cranes, and gantries. The untethered ones burn diesel, and APM’s lower of that’s within the million tons of greenhouse gases a 12 months, only for transferring containers.
They’re sufficiently big to maneuver the dial on port decarbonization by themselves, and they’re massive and influential sufficient to maneuver all ports.
Nice information, and particularly nice as a result of they didn’t fall into a standard entice and take numerous governmental cash to run a hydrogen trial which failed.
In contrast to the commune of Pau in France. For North Individuals, commune is simply the French model of township, so don’t get all squicky about what they’re getting as much as. They aren’t all communists, hippies, Breatharians, or free love practitioners — though, in any group of 70,000 there are doubtless a few of the above, maybe a bit extra so in France, however maybe not. It’s only a city with about 70,000 residents.
In 2019, they stated to themselves:
“Hey, let’s not hassle to have a look at trials and research on hydrogen gas cell buses around the globe that failed miserably each time! What can be the enjoyable in that! As a substitute, let’s pay attention to those good individuals claiming hydrogen is the reply to all of our issues, purchase a bunch of first-of-a-kind hydrogen buses, and hope the nationwide authorities offers us sufficient cash to gas them!”
They appreciated, apparently, to assert that they had been pioneering hydrogen buses, which is nonsense. Hydrogen gas cell bus trials have been undertaken for the reason that 2000s and have all the time failed. Even ones in Whistler, BC, the place Ballard executives prefer to ski and dine because it’s simply up the freeway from their Vancouver-area campus, couldn’t be made to work and had been deserted.
What occurred with the commune filled with hydrogen buses? Properly, they had been an entire ache to maintain operating, they had been extremely costly to run, and nationwide hydrogen subsidies had been drying up. They’d managed to get two-thirds of the very excessive capital price of €15 million lined by the EU and France, however the 80% inexperienced hydrogen was very costly and the nation’s and area’s purse strings had been being drawn closed.
Why had been they a ache to maintain operating? Properly, hydrogen gas cell automobiles are vastly extra advanced than both diesel or battery electrical ones. They’ve all the identical stuff as battery electrical automobiles, together with batteries. In addition they have ultra-high-tech, ultra-high-pressure hydrogen tanks. They’ve numerous thermal administration gear, as hydrogen will get very chilly when compressed and highly regarded when decompressed — the alternative of regular gases as a result of hydrogen — and compression ranges are very excessive, so temperature variances are very excessive. One can weld elements collectively chilly and soften issues sizzling. In addition they have gas cells, that are sort of like one-way batteries that flip hydrogen into water and electrical energy. They’ve numerous mechanical, electrical, and digital elements which monitor and management all that complexity.
Principally, each hydrogen gas cell car is a Rube Goldberg machine, and so they have numerous failure modes. Appears as if Pau’s transit individuals discovered all of them over 4 years.
And so, the commune pulled the plug. Err … plugged in electrical buses. They’ve deserted the trial that they by no means ought to have began. They deserted the trial that merely elevating their parochial rural heads a bit and gazing past their commune’s borders at different trials would have stopped useless in its tracks.
They may have appeared so far as China, which in spite of everything is just a few Google clicks away for this type of factor, and seen that there are maybe 600,000 electrical buses on the roads of the nation and no gas cell buses.
That is similar to what the close by German state of Decrease Saxony did in comparison with its sibling state of Baden-Württemberg. Decrease Saxony determined it actually wanted to see for itself if hydrogen trains had been a silly concept and acquired a bunch, then deserted them when the apparent actuality sunk in. Baden-Württemberg merely put collectively a easy spreadsheet, validated the assumptions, and stated, “Nein danke, wassersstof, you might be thrice as costly as batteries and overhead wires.”
Which a type of German states wasted numerous money and time, as Pau did? Which one did the slightest of study up entrance and requested an honest spreadsheet jockey to run up slightly price comparability?
Lately, Boston Consulting Group and Oxford World Initiatives produced a little bit of a paper on the right way to do power-to-x initiatives higher. Probably the most attention-grabbing components for me had been the charts that made it clear that nearly no hydrogen initiatives had been attending to last funding determination, by no means thoughts into operation. About 12% of the proposed crops made it into operation, however they had been the tiniest ones, represented 0.2% of the proposed volumes.
The paper’s prescriptions sort of missed the purpose, because the framing was incorrect. The authors assumed that hydrogen for power can be aggressive, and it gained’t be. That’s why solely 0.2% by kilotons made it by way of to operation. The remainder had been uncompetitive with issues like batteries, grid ties, biofuels, and warmth pumps. Clearly. Numerous delusion in hydrogen proposal land, and that delusion feeds the affirmation biases of hydrogen for power followers.
Sufficient with hydrogen-for-energy failures. Let’s pivot to nuclear power failures, particularly the additionally inflated bubble of small modular reactors. As I stated a few years in the past:
“Small modular reactors gained’t obtain economies of producing scale, gained’t be quicker to assemble, forego effectivity of vertical scaling, gained’t be cheaper, aren’t appropriate for distant or brownfield coal websites, nonetheless face very giant safety prices, will nonetheless be expensive and sluggish to decommission, and nonetheless require legal responsibility insurance coverage caps. They don’t clear up any of the issues that they purport to whereas deliberately selecting to be much less environment friendly than they could possibly be. They’ve existed for the reason that Nineteen Fifties and so they aren’t any higher now than they had been then.”
However nonetheless, within the courageous US state of Utah — whose motto is “Business” however whose high financial sectors had been monetary exercise and commerce, transportation, and utilities in 2021 — they determined they needed to have a few of that good quaint nuclear electrical energy. That is regardless of not having any nuclear energy crops of any measurement or form within the state and having numerous wind, photo voltaic, and hydro era in addition to much more useful resource to use in its extensive open, sparsely populated areas.
A bunch of communes … errr, townships … and the Division of Power determined that constructing a promise of SMRs on the DOE’s Idaho Nationwide Laboratory analysis facility can be an excellent concept. Sure, on the finish of this, Utah nonetheless wouldn’t have had any nuclear reactors, as they might have been within the neighboring state.
What’s that? A “promise of SMRs”? That’s the collective noun for a set of small nuclear reactors I’ve simply coined. I’m positive the SMR crowd gained’t discover it humorous, however I feel it’s applicable.
As I famous a couple of months in the past, the Wright’s Legislation wishful considering of plummeting SMR prices with manufacturing numerous them doesn’t stand as much as the slightest scrutiny. In an absurdly greatest case state of affairs, they nonetheless would have been costlier than present wind and photo voltaic in 2040 after hundreds of them had been constructed. The prices had been going up and the variety of Utah townships remaining dedicated to the hassle was happening.
The US DOE had already assured near $1.4 billion and given the agency $600–900 million of it. Frankly, I used to be shocked NuScale hadn’t managed to blow greater than a billion of presidency cash but.
And now NuScale and the Utah townships that had been going to purchase its electrical energy have parted methods. The electrical energy was going to be too costly and the townships undoubtedly had stopped believing the clear lies about schedule and finances. So the effort has been dissolved, and a decade of time and some huge cash that might have been spent constructing wind, photo voltaic, transmission, and storage is behind Utah.
That is only the start of the cancellations for small modular reactors globally. They don’t make fiscal sense, in order that they gained’t be constructed. It’s fairly simple.
Utah, by the best way, can also be house to a different full nonsense-burger of a DOE-funded venture. There’s a coal plant that feeds transmission to LA that unsurprisingly goes to be closed. There’s a city of three,000 individuals there that can be with out its main supply of soot-stained salaries and pin cash. Consequently, Utah and a bunch of people that in all probability ought to know higher put collectively a deal the place they might construct a pure gasoline pipeline and a bunch extra transmission to the city, a bunch of “hydrogen prepared” pure gasoline era items, a bunch of wind and photo voltaic and photo voltaic farms within the surrounding area, then electrolyze water to make inexperienced hydrogen and put it in salt caverns beneath the city.
Then, in spite of everything of this huge infrastructure buildout targeted on a city with no future, they might reuse the transmission over the mountains to LA. Yeah, that’s infrastructure reuse within the USA today. The DOE, naturally, gave them $504 million in assured loans for this small city preservation graft, a venture that can finish very badly.
Small modular nuclear reactor and hydrogen-for-energy proposals and trials are all zombie proposals sucking time, effort, and willpower away from the required decarbonization of our economic system. This little roundup is simply an appetizer course for the absurd feast of riches to return with canceled initiatives and crashing goals. Many nest eggs had been counted earlier than they had been hatched. Now they are going to be crushed.
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