David Bidstrup guest post. Hydrogen hopes.

A few days ago the local Adelaide paper ran a story about SA Labor’s plans for a hydrogen fuelled future. Apparently a hydrogen fuelled power station will “cut electricity bills and create thousands of jobs”. The objective of the plan, costed at $593 million, is to “harness South Australia’s wind and solar energy to generate clean power”. As an extra it would also create “at least another 10,000 jobs through kick-starting projects from a $20 billion pipeline of proposed renewable investments in SA”

It sounds good: get rid of nasty “emissions” and save the planet as well as give the proles some cheaper electricity and jobs. It is an energy free lunch – what could go wrong?

GE has a paper on running gas turbines on hydrogen and it can be found at https://www.ge.com (paper GEA 33861). In this paper I found some interesting information about the energy costs involved in turning water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis and it seems that the free lunch is quite expensive from an energy perspective.

The Labor plan is to build a power station capable of putting out 200 MW. “Excess” renewable energy” would be used to produce the hydrogen that would then be used to generate electricity.

Using the GE data I did the numbers for a nearly 200 MW power plant using 6 of their TM 2500 gas turbines, (actually 204 MW). The table below gives the numbers. Note this is based on one hours running, (A TM 2500 is rated at 34 MW).

The 204 MW station uses 15.6 tonnes of hydrogen per hour and the energy needed to electrolyse that hydrogen is 1,128 MWh giving an overall loss of 924 MWh. Using a cost of $6.00 per Kg for hydrogen, (quoted in a number of places as the current cost), the cost of hydrogen per MWh is $460.00.

I suspect this idea is partly driven by the proposal to curtail domestic solar when the sun is shining too much so some means of utilising the excess capacity. It  would stop the need to dud the proles yet again after they have spent their hard earned cash to help save the planet and perhaps get some money back, (if they were fortunate enough to get a good feed in tariff when governments were spending like drunken sailors).

The “plan” has been developed with the advice of economists and at the risk of upsetting the plethora of economists at Catallaxy this is probably its major flaw – other than it is a monumentally stupid idea. All this stuff sounds simple but the details are more complex. In the numbers above there is no allowance for the energy used to liquefy the hydrogen so it can be stored or the modifications needed to get regular gas turbines that use natural gas to be able to use hydrogen, (it is not as simple as it seems – read the GE paper). The juggling that would be needed to ensure hydrogen could be made when needed while trying to keep everyone’s lights on would be immense and prone to failure when nature does not cooperate. Also, SA is a bit short of water in case anyone has not noticed. This does not bother the advising economist, we could just use the de-sal plant.

If the above was not sufficient to give this idea the flick we need to remember that it is being promoted by the folk who applauded when Port Augusta power station was destroyed, along with 500 livelihoods, spent millions on diesel powered turbines to keep the lights on and gave us the “big battery”. The sad thing is that Mr Marshall and his mob think this stuff is marvellous and so does Morrison, so we are stuffed either way.

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48 Responses to David Bidstrup guest post. Hydrogen hopes.

  1. Baa Humbug says:

    To be clear, the process involves splitting H2O into hydrogen and water, only then to turn that hydrogen into H2O by burning it?
    How is this any different to using electricity to pump water uphill, only then to let it run back down to generate electricity?

    In both cases, the only way to make it worthwhile would be to have access to very cheap excess electricity in one phase, then use that electricity when it’s expensive in the other phase.
    About as close to a perpetual motion machine as we’ll ever get.

  2. Squirrel says:

    So we should be stocking up on candles until Bunnings are selling do-it-yourself modular reactors.

  3. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    It sounds good

    It’s sounds so bonkers that insane asylum inmates would say it’s madder than they are.

    We used to get guys come in to our R&D office from time to time with proposals and ideas. We would gently tell them why they wouldn’t work whereupon they’d wander off and try the idea on some other corporate sugar daddy. Sometimes we’d do a bit of testwork if we weren’t sure they wouldn’t work.

    But these days the stuff I am seeing being touted is so absolutely bat guano crazy, even on paper with the most rudimentary arithmetic, that I am bemused. And they get vast amounts of money for it.

  4. RealWorld says:

    So they cost it at $593 million
    If it goes over budget and they agree it can all come out of their super then, maybe

  5. Biota says:

    Another one for the nothing green ever works collection.

  6. Bruce says:

    Let’s cut to the chase:

    We are dealing with brain-dead cretins who believe in perpetual motion machines.

    Sociopaths and psychotics who seek absolute power over EVERYTHING.

    Effectively, a DEATH CULT.

  7. Ian Macmillan says:

    The politicians make the engineering decisions, saying ” oh, we just tell them what to do…”
    What could go wrong?

  8. Adelagado says:

    And the good news doesn’t stop the there. We can also export the excess hydrogen to other countries who don’t have any water, wind, or sunlight. SA will become a hydrogen superpower!

  9. Adelagado says:

    Bruce says:
    March 27, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    Let’s cut to the chase: We are dealing with brain-dead cretins who believe in perpetual motion machines. Sociopaths and psychotics who seek absolute power over EVERYTHING.

    Absolutely correct.

    Brittany Higgins said, regarding her rape, “If it can happen here (Parliament house) it can happen anywhere”. She had that completely backwards of course. Parliament house is the MOST LIKELY workplace for that behavior to happen. You would not find a more concentrated collection of sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists, egotists, and deviants under one roof anywhere else in Australia.


    How much longer are we going to have to suffer this nonsense, Mr. Morrison?

    If you really believe the world on the edge of destruction because of climate change (the kind of crap spouted by unshaven and unclean madmen that mutter to themselves), then you MUST know what the solution is.

    The ready made solution. The solution that gives relief to the poor mugs that voted for you by way of cheaper energy prices (you’ll be aware that in this resources rich neck of the woods we pay the highest energy prices on the planet. And utter absurdity).

    The cheapest solution as well – how about that PM? It’s not converting nuclear into diesel, it’s much simpler. IT IS NUCLEAR FFS!!

  11. Rex Anger says:

    The big question is whether the Germans etc can get hydrogen kit costs down enough to meet their current target of $1.20/kg.

    Got some Gorilla Glue and some wings, EllenG?

    I’ve got a guy who can supply you with pigs. All with complimentary lipstick…

  12. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: better you shut up and look a fool than post crap and prove it.


  13. 2dogs says:

    I am not following that table.

    Is the input hydrogen being made by electrolysis, or purchased?

  14. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: you might like to see what the biggest turbine maker say they can do. It’s public info

    Uh-huh. Wake me up when Germany has re-established its energy independence, isn’t mass-importing Natural Gas from Russia to cover its bugman class’ environmental vanities, and has fixed the self-induced spiral of grid unreliability and surging costs of living due to Energiewende…/em>

    Of course I know that you have trouble with facts but in this case you are standing in traffic with your undies on your head.

    Confession by Projection demeans everyone, EllenG. Speaking of which, do you actually know who the Biden 4 are yet? And why their pardoning was actually a good thing?

  15. Rex Anger says:

    I am not following that table.

    Is the input hydrogen being made by electrolysis, or purchased?

    I believe the key of their ambit is that the hydrogen will be electrolysed using the excess of renewable energy at peak times.

  16. David Bidstrup says:

    The table shows hydrogen odtained by electrolysis.

  17. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: the $1.25 is the turbine maker number. You can say that Siemens don’t know the business. But they’re actually expert. So you would of course ignore them.

    I also know, stooge-ilocks, that Companies will say anything in order to part the Customer with its money. Especially when said Customer is Big Daddy Government.

    Remember that time Volkswagen and several other automakers were caught deliberately flouting emissions test rules? By doctoring their test vehicles’ software to produce sexy sexy-low emissions results for the EPA? Then selling vehicles with the actual software applied, and producing emissions well in excess of EPA rules?

  18. Rex Anger says:

    I still have all my own teeth 🤨. Furthermore, it is never a good idea to mock those who choose to retrain into a different career path in later life. I’d happily go to a dentist who had once been a dressmaker, so long as they are good at what they do. Would you?

    It is always awkward, EllenG, to encounter a bigot who believes you are only ever good for a single role in life. So why be one?

    His medical advice comes from a sewage attendant.
    Don’t shit where you eat- Simples.

    . He flies with airlines that use navy divers as pilots
    That’s not fair to Navy Divers. Who are even fitter and more exhaustively trained. It’s only an extra set of rules and a radio language, after all.

    His librarian can’t read but stacks books the way he likes. (Colour coded)
    Do you even know what the Dewey Decimal system is? Let alone that many municipal libraries prefer to add in a colour code by theme to aid in locating books on stacks? Zog me, you are inept…

    Luckily he has enormous certainty about everything.
    I am enormously certain that you are full of shit, little anklebiter…

  19. Boambee John says:

    Kim says:
    March 27, 2021 at 8:06 pm
    Rex: you might like to see what the biggest turbine maker say they can do. It’s public info.

    What they say that they can do might not necessarily match what they actually can do.

    You must be a real sucker for insurance salesmen.

  20. Rex Anger says:

    You must be a real sucker for insurance salesmen.

    Don’t be mean about Mr. EllenG! 🤪

  21. Rex Anger says:

    I have seen dresses smarter than you.

    If your dress is smarting, EllenG, it is too tight.

    I have a dentist friend you might find useful…

  22. 2dogs says:

    The table shows hydrogen odtained by electrolysis.

    What, then, is the$6/kg of Hydrogen for?

  23. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    That’s really good analysis. The big question is whether the Germans etc can get hydrogen kit costs down enough to meet their current target of $1.20/kg.

    LOL. The current retail price for electricity in Germany is 30 euro cents per kWh. The amount of energy required is optimistically 50 kWh per kg of hydrogen. Euro/USD exchange rate is 1.1796. So just the electricity is 50 x 0.3 x 1.1796 = $17.69 per kg.

    A kg of H2 is 143 MJ. Current AEMO price for natural gas is A$6.20 per GJ, so a kg of H2 is equal to 0.143 x 6.20 x 0.764 = US$0.677 worth of natural gas. In other words it costs 26 times more to produce than it’s worth, even before you include all the other production costs, interest and depreciation.

    And we have expensive gas. Hydrogen is so beyond bonkers it’s a joke.

  24. Lee says:

    You must be a real sucker for insurance salesmen.

    A sucker, period.

  25. RobK says:

    Desperate times call for desperate measures for the RE spruikers.
    It won’t be the first time Twiggy and his like has landed on his arse.

  26. duncanm says:

    That is spectacularly inefficient.

    At that to the problems of storage, low energy density (per kg stored) and safety, and it really is completely bonkers.

  27. Bad Samaritan says:

    Kim: You have a fetish for “big is best”, which is why you so love big govt and big corporations. The corruption scandal of the decade, 2008…..

    “Since at least the 1990s, Siemens had organised a global system of corruption to gain market share and increase its price. It was able to get away with this because of big loopholes in the legal systems of a host of countries, including Germany.

    Anti-corruption existed only on paper
    Over many decades bribes became the accepted business norm at Siemens. They were channelled through hidden bank accounts, obscure intermediaries and pseudo “consultants”.

    OK, so Siemens makes good stuff, but now that you know they are not quite so truthful as you would like them to be, you’ll stop with the fawning acceptance of their marketing BS, unless it actually matches reality, won’t you?

  28. Yarpos says:

    The Green fantasy grid is magical. You add complexity and duplication, and it becomes more efficient and cheaper. You would they would have learned in SA, but no

  29. RobK says:

    On the one hand RE spruikers are saying the baseload electricity model is dead, on the other they suggest to make up load following with gas turbines or fuelcells that only operate efficiently if run as baseload machines (i.e. combined cycle gas or high temperature oxide fuelcells, both have thermal inertia like a steam plant). Both systems are expensive. If cheaper alternatives are run, the efficiency plummets. How is this contrived nightmare going to make energy affordable?
    The load following peakers of the standard baseload system make up a tiny portion of the overall load(in both proportion of energy and power capacity). In an RE system, even with many fold redundancy, the backup power supply will need to be able to carry significant, if not full load, at various (random) times. It will need to have a much larger (relatively speaking) energy and power capacity (than baseload peakers) because the fluctuations are larger due to variable supply as well as demand.
    Additionally, baseload peakers operate in a relatively predictable load following environment. RE associated infrastructure cannot know what it’s output is in energy or power in any given period(on any time scale you like), just a farmer won’t know exactly how much rain he will receive next week or next year.
    Ag output varies with the weather so will an RE based economy. Imagine that.

  30. RobK says:

    BoNs argument holds, even though to use retail electricity price is not right.
    A major underlying problem is that any infrastructure associated with RE, (generators, transmission, backup etc) has to be sized for peak demand/ production that occurs sporadically and fluctuates wildly so the utility of the system is diminished ( as the coal plants have discovered). Put in other words; it is gold plated and incredibly expensive.

  31. Eyrie says:

    So we’d better hope the hydrogen option is heading in the right direction since it will be likely the critical choice – esp in the south of the country.

    It isn’t and never will be the right option. Got any science/engineering education or experience? I don’t think so.

    Nukes, dickhead.

  32. RobK says:

    I think it’s inevitable given the policies.
    There in lies the problem

  33. Dr Faustus says:

    So we’d better hope the hydrogen option is heading in the right direction since it will be likely the critical choice – esp in the south of the country.

    The “right direction” is summed up in the McKinsey 2021 Hydrogen Insights report to the Hydrogen Council (which is where the Siemens number appears to have come from).

    It involves:

    • Heroic technical gain assumptions for electrolysis, transportation, and renewable energy;
    • “Strong government commitment to deep decarbonization, backed by financial support, regulation and clear hydrogen strategies and targets…”;
    • A global carbon price of between US$70 and US$200/tCO2e.

    A rent seeker bully ambit claim of breathtaking scale, with so much fast money invoked that everybody in the energy sector has to be involved, somewhere, out of commercial prudence.

  34. RobK says:

    Gas isn’t going to be much of an option because bass strait will run down in that time and there’s no serious option for pipeline gas on the east coast that would replace that gas.
    Australia is a major exporter of gas.
    Regulatory constraints are a major determinant of gas supply .
    Again, it’s policy at work.

  35. RobK says:

    That’s it in a nutshell Dr Faustus.

  36. Rex Anger says:

    To repeat: I’m not arguing for it. I think it’s inevitable given the policies.

    ***Internationale Intensifies***

  37. Rex Anger says:

    The tine frame for coal in power in Australia is probably less than 20 years and might be a decade

    Yet it’s perfectly OK to export our solid minerals for China, Asian nations and other ‘poor’ people to burn?

  38. Cynic of A says:

    I note this gem…
    Apparently a hydrogen fuelled power station will “cut electricity bills and create thousands of jobs
    Ummm, so where does the money come from to pay these thousands of workers making hydrogen? Could it be from the electricity consumers? I guess so. They’re paying for everything else.
    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. An education with bits of paper and letters after their name to show it, in no way, whatsoever, guarantees any smidgen of cleverness or intelligence.
    It wouldn’t be so bad if this hypothesis wasn’t so firmly proved, every fucking day!

  39. Rex Anger says:

    EllenG, for one, welcomes her poverty-inducing overlords…

  40. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Which is why I think hydrogen will be the eventual firming fuel.

    Why not unicorns on treadmills attached to generators?
    Just about as practical and economic.
    I showed you why H2 is stupid.
    “Policy” is not reality.
    Nor are myths.

  41. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: you are very predictable. And I think you just love overlords- Putin, Trump etc?

    We’ve been through this before, EllenG.

    Confession by projection demeans everyone…

  42. Boambee John says:


    Because the policy agenda isn’t supporting other options

    The policy agenda can be changed more easily than the laws of physics (apologies to a former PM who thought the laws of mathematics could be over ruled by the Australian Parliament).

    If you wish to continue to be effluent, you should hope that the agenda does change.

  43. Can we invite Kim to the next Catallaxy drinkies?
    It would be a hoot, and cheap to boot!

  44. Rex Anger says:

    Our years of inaction might well be expensive, especially as the Chinese will yet turn the screws further on trade.

    So, impoverishing the cluntry further on the basis of oligarchs’ pipe dreams and globalists FOMO?

    And justifying it on the lies of a fascist power known for its mendacity?

    Who is it has the hard-on for domineering overlords again?

    Winston: I suspect there a couple here I’d cross the street to avoid. Certainly some very violent language.

    An acid tongue and a glass jaw? Well, lose one of my shoes and call me Julia…

  45. Boambee John says:

    Kim says:
    March 28, 2021 at 6:34 pm
    Boambee: you possibly haven’t been watching but the money has already been placed.

    Then you may kiss any ideas of a comfortable retirement goodbye (unless you are in on, and personally benefitting from, the scam).

  46. Kneel says:

    ” I have seen dresses smarter than you.”

    It’s a matter of personal taste I guess, but I prefer the Fawlty Towers line: “I’ve seen more intelligent creatures than you peering at me from the bottom of a pond”.

  47. Kneel says:

    “Why not unicorns on treadmills attached to generators?”

    As a more practical matter, what about methane from sewage? Only new infrastructure is the plant and associated gas network connection, and you can use “fossil” gas if you can’t make enough. Plus you get to stop dumping sewage in the ocean, and the left-overs make a saleable plant fertiliser. If burning wood is “carbon neutral”, then this should be too…

  48. Tel says:

    His medical advice comes from a sewage attendant.
    Don’t shit where you eat- Simple

    Plumbers have saved more human lives by far than the entire medical industry … a fact which no doubt befuddles are Grigs.

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