The green hydrogen bubble.

No, not PerryWilliams.

“Night wind hawkers” sold stock on the streets during the South Sea Bubble. (The Great Picture of Folly, 1720)

Remember the South Sea Bubble?  The Tulip Mania?  No, a bit before my time. Read about them in  Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds a history of panics and stampedes promoted by fake news and media sensationalism. No reason for us to be smug about these things, wait until a dispassionate history of climate alarmism is written.

Read about the hydrogen bubble spelled out by our contemporary night wind hawker.

Hunter Valley_ Green strategy for coal country

The first three-year phase of the scheme running out to 2024 would produce green hydrogen — where energy used to split hydrogen from water is from renewable energy sources — in the heart of coal country at Muswellbrook. Japan’s Idemitsu aims to repurpose an old coalmine once owned by Kerry Packer into a major energy hub as it looks to develop green ammonia.

Hydrogen would be transported by pipeline from Muswellbrook to the site of AGL Energy’s Liddell coal power plant, due to close in 2023, while one of Australia’s biggest renewable and storage projects at Walcha in New England could also provide supplies via a WalchaLink pipeline.

A second stage running from 2022 through 2026 would develop a pipeline from Liddell to Newcastle and incorporate a hydrogen gas power station with both the federal government’s Snowy Hydro project at Kurri Kurri or AGL’s Newcastle plant among options included as part of a clean energy precinct.

Australia’s largest aluminium smelter, Tomago, could be powered by renewables and firmed up with supplies from the power station as its owners seek a cheaper, low emissions contract to ensure the long-term future of the plant.

A third stage could see the expansion of a hydrogen pipeline to central west and New England renewable energy zones where the NSW government wants to generate $4.5bn of investment as part of a policy to incentivise the replacement of all coal-fired power with renewable energy by 2042.

The Hunter hydrogen plan has been devised by Energy Estate, an advisory business to the renewables industry, which is working with the Beyond Zero Emissions think-tank backed by Atlassian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes.

By way of a rejoinder, a note drafted for circulation by the Energy Realists of Australia.

21.9 Green hydrogen corrected

Despite the media hype  for green hydrogen around the world, there is still virtually no significant volume of green hydrogen produced. Almost all the hydrogen in use comes from the traditional hydrogen extraction method relying on steam and natural gas. And for good reason – this is the cheapest way of extracting hydrogen.

Huge amounts of electricity are required for the electrolytic process and states that are struggling to keep the lights on will have to upgrade their nuclear capacity and/or expand RE exponentially.

Most of the energy is lost in the chain from production, storage and transport to final use. Green hydrogen is the most inefficient form of energy storage known to man.

Another factor that is particularly significant in Australia is the need for large quantities of very clean water for the electrolysis. This may not be an issue for the small pilot projects that will be funded by Government grants but it will preclude large-scale commercial production.

And there is more. Alan Finkel on Getting to Zero. 

I picked up Finkel’s Quarterly Essay as an impulse buy because it was near the cash register at the newsagent. A bit different from the usual temptations but this is not your usual newsagent because they stock The Spectator. My copy did not turn up in the letterbox, hence the trip to the newsagent. The quarterly essay people publish long comments in the following edition so I will take a punt…

Finkel rejoinder

BONUS. This is the article that Alan Moran described as the leader of the worldwide coal industry hauling up the white flag.

With technology, coal can be part of the energy future

 

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46 Responses to The green hydrogen bubble.

  1. stevem says:

    Green ammonia? no such thing. To make this green ammonia they need to make hydrogen – an expensive process. They then need to use energy to compress it to > 1500 PSI. It then gets heated to 500°, cooled, heated to 500°, cooled, heated to 500°.
    Lots of energy required to compress it and heat it three times. Unless they use their own “renewable” energy, all they’ll end up doing is sucking coal fired energy from an already threatened grid.

  2. Baa Humbug says:

    I refuse to believe ALL of these people are fucking morons.
    Therefore I must believe they are ALL in it to enrich themselves one way or another.

  3. Richard says:

    Remember the South Sea Bubble? The Tulip Mania? No, a bit before my time. Read about them in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds a history of panics and stampedes promoted by fake news and media sensationalism.

    I’m going to make a lot of people angry here, but I present a difficult, albeit entertaining challenge:-

    I challenge you to read through the details of the South Sea Company bubble, the Mississippi Company bubble, and the Dutch tulip mania, without once thinking of Bitcoin.

  4. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Green hydrogen is vastly expensive and vastly inefficient. Anyone spruiking it has never done electrochemistry for a start: there’s this thing called overpotential that eats about a 20% of your electricity on a good day.

    Then once you compress the hydrogen that’s another 30%, transmission losses from the widely distributed renewable energy sources may add 10 or 20% more, and shutting down on days when there’s no wind and nights when there’s no sunshine will mean the capital spend has to be up to four times the capital spend of a hydrolysis plant which gets always-on electricity. It’s crazy.

  5. Dr Faustus says:

    Green hydrogen is vastly expensive and vastly inefficient. […]

    Agree with all this – none of it is ‘matter of opinion’ stuff.
    However none of it appears to be stopping the Japanese Government and Japan Inc from charging ahead with hydrogen, despite daily evidence that it’s apparently crazy.

    So I’m not about to bet that something doesn’t happen at Muswellbrook.
    Or that we don’t end up paying for a lot of it.

  6. lotocoti says:

    Wolkenkuckucksheim.

  7. Colin Suttie says:

    Hydrogen transport in pipelines, presumably over long distances? Good luck with that. Hydrogen attacks carbon steel (and most other metals) over time, so you’ll need more exotic materials (i.e. even more subsidies). I’m sure the renewable lobby will have some hand-wave ready (the Wiki page for Hydrogen Transport already claims hydrogen doesn’t cause embrittlement in pipelines – a source for this claim is notable by its absence).

  8. Bruce J says:

    None of these dreams or comments mentions the major problem with hydrogen – Safety. As the “Hindenberg” disaster demonstrated, hydrogen is almost impossible to handle safely. We consider petrol is “Highly inflammable” when it is a flammable vapour mixture with air in the range of about 2% to 12% by volume, yet hydrogen is flammable in the range of 1% to 94%. In the same way petrol is relatively easy to contain as a liquid, yet as a gas, hydrogen will leak through almost any containing material, especially if it is a flexible material like a plastic (as in a hose or tube). Given these two basic properties, if a leak does occur it is almost certain to catch fire, many hundreds of times more likely than a petrol spill.

    With all the restrictions imposed on the handling of flammable liquids in high volumes and the cost of compliance to transport and store products like petrol, how can the same level of safety be achieved in handling hydrogen without imposing massive costs on the consumer?

  9. incoherent rambler says:

    This mess will be cleaned up not long after there is a bright flash and glow on the horizon (in the direction of the Hydrogen plant)

  10. Lee says:

    Greens, climate change doomsayers and RE carpetbaggers ignore the laws of physics and electrical engineering.
    And they claim that sceptics are the “deniers”!

  11. duncanm says:

    Good luck running tomago 24/7 on renewballs.

  12. Zyconoclast says:

    Who knew it was so easy to build all these pipelines.

  13. RobK says:

    Further to BoNs points:
    Academics have been toying with electrolysis by direct sunlight for many decades now (particularly the Japanese, from memory). To the best of my knowledge nothing has been commercialised. Not for want of trying is my point. The cheaper versions lack durability.
    Conversion back to electricity on demand is also still problematic as the most efficient fuel cells operate at higher temperatures and are less able to load follow so you’re back to baseload supply and the difficulty of integrating it with RE, aside from purity issues and poisoning of the membrane stacks, of course. Burning H2 direct has its own issues but also gets you back to baseload generation if chasing efficiency, or you need more redundancy.
    As a feedstock for the chemical industry it will push costs up unless there is a breakthrough unforeseen. Again this is a fantasy world experiment on a grand scale.
    There’s no escaping the futility of this pursuit.
    If there was a place for H2 in storage and/or buffering then it would have been exploited for baseload long ago. Same argument for batteries, predictable short cycle storage works at treat for baseload, as demonstrated by suitable pumped storage sites.

  14. Zyconoclast says:

    And they claim that sceptics are the “deniers”!

    They fear denial of their filthy lucre.

  15. RobertS says:

    Michelle Manook says in her article:
    “The joint Japanese/Australian Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) is producing hydrogen from coal in Victoria and exporting it to Japan.”
    The ship that’s supposed to be doing the exporting is sitting at dock in Kobe and yet to make its maiden voyage.
    So how is this liquid H2 being exported?

  16. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    The con people have been around for milenia ,pyramid salesmen ,in aEgypt ,Wall sellers in China ,Tower sales in London bridge sellers in Sydney .
    They actually had something to sell ,the carpet baggers are selling air,bugger all to show potential buyers . Must admit they seem to be having greater success than to conmen of history . For Gods sake elected uni “educated”polymuppets are lining up to give them other peoples money making the world greediest bastards even richer .
    Like the third world USA where the top one percent own 40 percent pf the wealth leaving 60 percent for the other 99 percent,AmeriaadfEquaity!yeah right

  17. duncanm says:

    A question – probably for the BoN types amongst us.

    Is there some (commercial) way to synthesise Ammonia direct from water without an intermediate H2 step?

    There are papers that suggest that the process exists,
    eg: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep01145

  18. H B Bear says:

    Who needs tulips? It’s Twiggy and the Ch!nks all the way baby.

  19. Karabar says:

    May 17, 2021 at 11:58 am
    Colin Suttie is perfectly correct.
    There is ample literature regarding hydrogen embrittlement, and in high pressure natural gas piplines in particular.
    The other issue is that the LHV (lower heating value) of hydrogen is abysmal.

  20. TBH says:

    I’m interested in hydrogen as a fuel source but the more I look into it the less I can see how it can be done commercially with current technology. I’ll know we’re serious about moving away from fossil fuels when next generation nuclear becomes politically viable. It’s already technologically feasible and we have a LOT of the right kind of raw material for fuel right here in WA.

  21. Dr Faustus says:

    “The joint Japanese/Australian Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) is producing hydrogen from coal in Victoria and exporting it to Japan.”
    The ship that’s supposed to be doing the exporting is sitting at dock in Kobe and yet to make its maiden voyage.
    So how is this liquid H2 being exported?

    Good question.
    HESC is small scale pilot project. It started up hydrogen production in January and plans to produced between one and three tonnes of hydrogen from 150 tonnes of brown coal over 12 months. So possibly one tonne produced to date.

    The full HESC annual production, liquified, would occupy about 43m3. Just enough to wet the inside of the 1,250m3 Suiso Frontier.

    All part of the very strange economics.

  22. RobK says:

    Re: Rejoinder.

    He sketches a scenario where 13GW of coal capacity will be replaced by 34GW of solar and wind capacity. Adjusting for capacity factors, 20GW of wind (30%) becomes 7 in round figures and 14GW of solar (25%) becomes almost 4. The total is close to 13GW of coal capacity at 90% but due diligence demands a check on the situation in the worst possible case, that is the capacity at the lowest point of supply of wind and sun on windless nights.

    To adjust the figure only taking into account the capacity factor experienced at current relatively low penetration overlooks a massive issue unfolding. That issue is is a mix of redundancy (capital cost), curtailment (peak surges-what capex do you have to mitigate capacity factor at high output). The point here is that gluts of energy are not capable of being captured to any great extent and reduce capacity factor, so overbuild will need to be greater still.(you decrease capacity factor the more you overbuild).
    It’s a choke-point at the other end of the scale to wind drought. There’s winges galore already about curtailment and the need to build more and heavier transmission lines. See how things go when you quadruple or go to seven fold the RE to replace what we have.
    https://reneweconomy.com.au/a-radical-idea-to-get-a-high-renewable-grid-build-way-more-solar-and-wind-than-needed-99842/
    If it was a comic book it’d be funny.

  23. duncanm says:

    Dr Faustus says:
    May 17, 2021 at 2:49 pm
    ..
    HESC is small scale pilot project. It started up hydrogen production in January and plans to produced between one and three tonnes of hydrogen from 150 tonnes of brown coal over 12 months. So possibly one tonne produced to date.

    150 tonne brown coal (lignite) – 2.25 TJ @ 15MJ/kg
    3 tonne hydrogen – 425 GJ @ 142 MJ/kg

    .. that’s a conversion efficiency of less than 20% before you talk about storage losses (see BoN above).

  24. Dr Faustus says:

    The point here is that gluts of energy are not capable of being captured to any great extent and reduce capacity factor, so overbuild will need to be greater still.(you decrease capacity factor the more you overbuild).

    As I understand it, the Idemitsu Muswellbrook pumped storage project relies on using cheap (or negatively priced) ‘glut power’ to move water, to later recover as renewable, electrolysed hydrogen. (Some of which will be coal-fired – at least until the grid goes 100% unreliable.)

    With the market gamed (hello AGL) so that the overbuild capacity still earns a huge ROI from peak pricing, this is a cunning way to extract and export value from the Australian economy.

  25. TBH says:

    All this talk about alternative energy has over the years caused me to reach back into the physics and mathematics I did in school and at uni and in doing so I’ve come to admire how much of a miracle fossil fuels are. Have we yet discovered anything as cheap, portable and energy dense as oil, gas or coal? Fissionable materials are also incredible, of course, but in terms of being able to spend a couple of minutes filling my car with diesel and then driving 1000kms is just remarkable.

  26. RobK says:

    The point here is that gluts of energy are not capable of being captured to any great extent and reduce capacity factor, so overbuild will need to be greater still.
    If the answer is H2, then how much do you spend to catch the sporadic surges? Which ever way you dice it, it’s going to be very expensive and unreliable in real returns ( other than subsidies).
    In any industrial process the aim is to have steady feeds. RE is the antithesis.

  27. RobK says:

    this is a cunning way to extract and export value from the Australian economy.
    Indeed.

  28. Mark M says:

    “John Kerry: US climate envoy John Kerry has been ridiculed for saying technologies that don’t exist will play a huge role in stabilising the climate.”

    https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57135506

    >> I would have been ridiculing Kerry for thinking he can stabilise the climate.

  29. TFX says:

    There are some significant technical issues to be resolved before hydrogen can be used in everyday applications. Hydrogen H2 is the smallest molecule in the universe. As the smallest molecule it can permeate through the various metallic wall containers it is carried in. NASA use liquid hydrogen in their booster rockets for launching satellites. Every day’s delay in launch after fuelling the boosters leads to a loss of about 2% of the fuel through the metal container walls. I have no doubt that NASA would be using the best technology and probably not the cheapest.
    Another issue is the nature and bulkiness of hydrogen as a liquid fuel. It has to be frozen to near 0° Kelvin to be liquefied and 5 kg of liquid hydrogen requires 75 L of container.
    I have not seen these issues addressed.

  30. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    A question – probably for the BoN types amongst us.

    Duncann – The Faraday efficiency was 2% at best. So 98% of the electrons were going into something else, either heat or another H2/N2 reaction. Also the yield at best was 1 mole (17 g) per sq metre in 3 hours. So 1 tonne per hour would require about 170,000 sq metres of membrane. Which is a huge amount for an ammonia plant producing only about 8000 tonnes per annum.

    Very very far from practical, but their work is interesting otherwise. Not for producing anhydrous ammonia, since theirs is an aqueous cell. Once you mix water with ammonia you can’t easily unmix it again.

  31. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    I will say though that once you have hydrogen it’s fairly easy to convert it to methanol.

    CO2 + 3H2 = CH3OH + H2O.

    Then handling the methanol is easy, and it can be used as a fuel with only small changes to ICE technology.

    For some reason though the hydrogen people like smelly, toxic, hard-to-handle ammonia and don’t seem to like methanol. Go figure.

  32. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    What the hell is wrong wit reducing pollution like the Japanese are doing using our coal to get cheap reliable power . Surely we can adapt our generation to at least match Japanese standards ,if not improve on them . This would be cheaper than eternal subsidies to foreign carpetbaggers and left union thugs and continualbrown outs .
    We could also take over Adani and use the coal topower our own industries instead of foreigners industries. With all that power we could supply theworld with aluminium etc.
    Build Australia Better !

  33. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    I could design you a plant to convert coal into hydrogen very easily.

    Coal Gas

    Fuel gas for industrial use was made using producer gas technology. Producer gas is made by blowing air through an incandescent fuel bed (commonly coke or coal) in a gas producer. The reaction of fuel with insufficient air for total combustion produces carbon monoxide (CO); this reaction is exothermic and self-sustaining. It was discovered that adding steam to the input air of a gas producer would increase the calorific value of the fuel gas by enriching it with CO and hydrogen (H2) produced by water gas reactions.

    The problem of nitrogen dilution was overcome by the blue water gas (BWG) process, developed in the 1850s by Sir William Siemens. The incandescent fuel bed would be alternately blasted with air followed by steam. The air reactions during the blow cycle are exothermic, heating up the bed, while the steam reactions during the make cycle, are endothermic and cool down the bed. The products from the air cycle contain non-calorific nitrogen and are exhausted out the stack while the products of the steam cycle are kept as blue water gas. This gas is composed almost entirely of CO and H2, and burns with a pale blue flame similar to natural gas. BWG has a calorific value of 11 MJ/m3 (300 BTU/cu ft).

    The composition of coal gas varied according to the type of coal and the temperature of carbonisation. Typical figures were:

    hydrogen 50%
    methane 35%
    carbon monoxide 10%
    ethylene 5%

    This used to be the main process for town gas until natural gas production and associated pipelines were developed.

  34. Gerry says:

    Come on you lot! Open your minds. The Hunter, Newcastle, get it yet? A lick of Kill Rust and the Wave Generator will fix everything😉

  35. Dr Faustus says:

    For some reason though the hydrogen people like smelly, toxic, hard-to-handle ammonia and don’t seem to like methanol. Go figure.

    Goodness me, Bruce, for a smart guy you can be very young and naïve.

    It doesn’t matter how much capex, or what the energy budget is, or how many tedious processes and phase changes stuff has to go through – the end product has to be hydrogen.
    Blameless hydrogen.
    Product of oxidation = guilt free water.
    Tree frogs live in it.
    The very noblest, greenest green stuff.

    Do keep up.

  36. Noodles Romanoff says:

    I’d rather live in the cellar of a nuclear power plant than next door to a hydrogen plant.

  37. Fair Shake says:

    For a small $2billion fee after Hydrogen is separated from water 💦 I shall then separate Oxygen from water.

  38. duncanm says:

    For some reason though the hydrogen people like smelly, toxic, hard-to-handle ammonia and don’t seem to like methanol. Go figure.

    yep – makes absolutely zero sense.

    The only CO2 emitted in the combustion of methanol (assuming you can get a clean burn and avoid nasty CO) would be that which you put into it in the first place!

    Net zero debbil debbil carbons.

  39. Nighthawk the Elder says:

    That pipeline they plan on building. Made from green steel is it? Or does it have just a teensy weensy bit of fossil energy involved along the supply chain, from mining to smelting, forming, shaping, transport, fabrication and installation? Oh, and maintenance over its lifetime. And decommissioning and demolition as well. And of course, recycling of the materials. (Wow, quite an involved life cycle for a bit of pipe).

    Or does that all get ignored in the whole of life greenhouse accounting these days? (Remember when that was trendy all those years ago, until someone proved gas guzzling Humvees were more environmentally friendly that a hybrid car?).

  40. Aethelred says:

    Blameless hydrogen.
    Product of oxidation = guilt free water.
    Tree frogs live in it.
    The very noblest, greenest green stuff.

    The reason there isn’t much hydrogen in the atmosphere is because, being the lightest element, it is loss to space.

    So presumably large scale hydrogen production should, over time, lead to a net loss of water from planet earth

  41. Baa Humbug says:

    This is how the left always win. They lose you in the reeds.
    They put forward a stupid, near enough unworkable idea, and all the smart “sceptics” debate the pros and cons of the stupid idea.
    Exact same process as the “CO2 will fry the Planet” fraudulent science. Instead of telling them to fuck off and laugh at them, “sceptics” debated about the “Climate Sensitivity” to a doubling of CO2 and other silly nonsense.

    Meaning………..they won on the question of something needing to be done, anything needing to be done because our emissions warm the planet. That’s been conceded and should never have been. There has been ZERO evidence put forward to support the claim.

    Once you agree to the fraud, then all sorts of main chancers, carpetbaggers and three card sharks rush in for a slice of the loot made available by the “we must do something” politicians.
    Sceptics are then so overwhelmed, nothing they say, no amount of evidence they produce gets a look in. Too many interested people and institutions involved.
    See how that Bjorn Lomborg is going. Totally reasonable and intelligent man who also believes CO2 warms the planet. Yet nothing he says about the efficacy of mitigation gets through. He is as irrelevant as you or me.

  42. Kneel says:

    “…in terms of being able to spend a couple of minutes filling my car with diesel and then driving 1000kms is just remarkable.”

    Not to mention how many poor people have been lifted out of poverty – in 1820, 90% of the population world-wide lived in poverty. In 2020, it’s 10%. The vast majority of that fall happened after WWII, and is accelerating. Poverty is pretty much inversely related to anthropogenic CO2 production.

  43. Tim Neilson says:

    I could design you a plant to convert coal into hydrogen very easily.

    World class trolling Bruce!

    This gas is composed almost entirely of CO and H2, and burns with a pale blue flame similar to natural gas.

    Let’s combat greenhouse gasses by burning CO!

  44. Mark M says:

    Fossil fuels to the rescue …

    Hyundai Nexo hydrogen car sets distance record from Melbourne to Broken Hill , comes back on trailer

    “The car was transported on the back of a trailer because, unlike Toyota, Hyundai does not have a Mobil hydrogen re-fueler on the back of a (fossil fuelled) truck.

    https://www.drive.com.au/news/hyundai-nexo-hydrogen-car-sets-distance-record-from-melbourne-to-broken-hill-comes-back-on-a-trailer/?utm_campaign=syndication&utm_source=smh.com.au&utm_content=article_3&utm_medium=partner

  45. Ceres says:

    This is how the left always win. They lose you in the reeds.
    What a great post Baa Humbug.
    So many times these days I have to ask myself why a particular subject is even being discussed. Surrounded by absurdity, day in day out.

  46. Terry says:

    ‘in 1820, 90% of the population world-wide lived in poverty. In 2020, it’s 10%.’

    …which is why we “need” the Great Reset! (“You will own nothing and you will be happy”)

    Pretty soon the self-appointed Klepto-klass are going to run out of “the poor” and “the disadvantaged” and “the oppressed” (for which they have so much concern and compassion) as an excuse for pilfering funds from public treasuries (past, present, and future) – all “legal” and in plain sight of those they are ripping off (except for those that are not born yet).

    There is not a tax, regulation, subsidy, or fine these people do not get totally orgasmic over. Their fetish is feasting on the fruits of the productive class.

    Social Parasites; dangerous, harmful, useless. Western Civilization does not need a “Great Reset”, it needs a very, very large dose of Ivermectin.

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