Hydrogen is seen by some as a great opportunity for Australia. It can readily fit into so many different parts of the economy, and it may also find a ready export market. It has the potential to change how consumers see and use energy in many different ways.
Hydrogen can fuel electric vehicles, it can be used as an alternate storage for energy, used in minerals processing, for heat energy and to replace natural gas.
It seems to have favour with the Federal Govt. Energy Minister Angus Taylor and PM Scott Morrison seem to be keen to promote it, and a technology roadmap.
A strategy on a hydrogen future already has the support of the CSIRO who provided a roadmap late last year. That “roadmap” word again.
For anyone wondering about being at the front of the consumer hydrogen revolution (bleeding edge). It can be done, although there are no CEC home hydrogen installers. There are also rules and regulations to consider, but it looks possible.
One way to provide an alternate home electrical supply other than solar and battery is to couple a hydrogen fuel cell to a 24/240v inverter.
Around $6,600 AUD for 1,000W output.
While that doesn’t sound like much, over 24hrs it will produce 50% more electricity than most homes use in a day. Perhaps great when combined with a home battery. Smaller capacity battery required.
It may be evident why for now hydrogen as an energy source needs to be considered differently to rechargeable storage batteries. There is no hydrogen equivalent in the consumer home energy market competing with a Tesla Powerwall.
Japan strategy is interesting as it is investing heavily into research to reduce the cost of non-fossil fuel based hydrogen and has targets to make it cost compatible with traditional fossil fuels (e.g. petroleum based products) in the medium term. When this occurs, it will be a significant game changer for hydrogen and how the energy is used.
There are some who are highly negative of hydrogen, a good example of Eton Musk (Telsa) who is highly critical of hydrogen…as it directly competes and potentially out competes with li-ion and other battery technologies especially if the Japanese price points are achieved) with battery systems.
Hydrogen also has the potential to be made from nuclear and renewable generators, when there is excess generation capacity to the demand (such as off peak times). At such times energy prices are low and the resukting costs of hydrogen generation is also low.
The CSIRO focus on reducing the cost of hydrogen production (electrolysis) also considered the capital costs and efficiency of the technology.
To maximise the benefit of the high capital investment in hydrogen production would Electrolyzers run 24x7? In that instance production would be subject to the daily electricity price demand cycle.
The CSIRO has a Tornado chart which illustrates the complexity of the investment decisions. It is easier to look at the following graphic which followed. The potential for lower electricity costs to reduce the cost of hydrogen production by $1.17/kg or $1.27/kg best case.(20-25%)
The cost model is based on known and forecast electrical energy costs applicable to Australia.
Producing hydrogen only from daytime solar or after hours surplus wind is an option. The CSIRO has not costed that option. At a rough estimate it could double the cost of the hydrogen produced. Which may be economical compared to hydrocarbons as a fuel, given the high efficiency of fuel cells compared to ICE.
Japan says it wants to reduce the cost of hydrogen to the consumer by 90% to achieve it’s goals. It’s not clear what science this ambition is based on? A long term target price of 30Yen or about $0.40 per kg.
Hydrogen is currently an essential part of delivering lower carbon solutions to industry. It is also readily transported and provides an alternate energy storage source to battery technology. As you suggest, the cost of production appears to be a hurdle, similar in constraint to the high cost of lithium storage batteries.
As a source of raw energy hydrogen is often compared with the value of gas, LNG and CNG. Thermal coal is valued on a similar basis.
Australia currently exports LNG at contract prices around $10/GigaJoule. Spot prices vary from less than $6/GJ with past peaks of up to $20/GJ.
In comparison hydrogen at a nominal energy density of 120MJ/kg, compares unfavourably.
Approx $21/GJ at the $2.54 CSIRO best case future production cost.
The current cost of hydrogen from green electricity is not economically comparable.
Bloomberg provided an interesting assessment of the hydrogen economy and it’s future. Note: Paid viewing once you use up your first few free views.
Hydrogen is nowhere near being an economic choice at the moment, and all the talk of the price plummeting reminds me of the talk of battery prices doing the same, something I’ve been hearing for decades. It is yet to happen.
Our government is keen on Hydrogen, I suspect mainly as a way of keeping the (hopefully soon to be dying) fossil fuel industry alive.
Producing Hydrogen for energy storage is still extremely inefficient compared with other storage methods such as Lithium batteries or pumped hydroelectric energy storage, so unless there really are going to be huge changes in production efficiency and cost, I can’t see it taking off for quite a while.
Most of the more serious pilot work relevant to Australia appears to be targeting industrial usage as a replacement for high carbon industries.
In respect of Australia becoming a major green Hydrogen energy exporter, it seems these days in government everything is commercial in confidence. It’s conceivable the first public evidence of any progress may be long after all the deals have been done.
And there are those seeking green “street cred” through vehicle trials.
I haven’t seen an indicative price for the hydrogen supply for the Qld Q-Fleet trial. One source referenced the EU retail filling station price of approx AU$16/kg. With a solar and green energy mix the Bulwar Island trial plant has potential to deliver hydrogen at a lower cost.
I think the relevant Aussie comparison point might be an ICE petrol vehicle (7l/100km @$1.40/l) vs a Toyota Mirai or Hyundai Nexo (1kg H2/100km @$10.00/kg retail at the fueling station). The cost/efficiency relative to a BEV I think we covered in the Electric and alternate vehicle fuels topic.
Yes, there’s a big gap between the price of readily available hydrogen gas for small scale scientific and industrial use, vs the costs quoted for the US or by the CSIRO Hydrogen Roadmap. Note the CSIRO costs are production only, excluding transport, distribution and retail margins.
While bottled hydrogen is available these are for low volumes and with high overheads in distribution - Typically $25-$40/kg depending on purity and bottle size, plus bottle rental.
As per the often shown Hindenburg film clip hydrogen gas has risks associated with it’s safe use. In Australia it’s use outside of specific laboratory and industrial users has been rare. There has only been a handful of recent hydrogen vehicle trials.
Australia and Germany have agreed to look into the viability of a hydrogen supply industry
‘Look into’ my emphasis can mean many things.
Although in politics it usually only has one intended purpose.
When there is hard cash on the table and an environmental approval for the development required, time to get a little more excited.
We can only wait for an MP to turn up in Canberra carrying a canister of pure electrolysed hydrogen as a prop for more confidence. Best also check the contents first. Helium could be amusing, or it could be oxygen for life support?
Currently the bench mark efficiency for electrolysis of hydrogen using electricity is around 80%. Coupled to a 20% efficient solar PV panel the result is an overall conversion efficiency from sunlight of 16%. This current real world performance is similar to the maximum performance (in theory) of the direct conversion process. There is established significant ongoing research into improving PV panel performance well past the 20% mark.
All this suggests direct solar electrolysis using the technology discussed requires substantial improvement if it is to become competitive.
There are some things about Hydrogen that appear to be very attractive, in theory. In practice, as a storage potential energy source for electricity production, and as a transportable fuel source, it just doesn’t stack up yet. Like nuclear fusion, there is a long way to go to make Hydrogen as a fuel a general solution to replace hydrocarbons. Also, current commercial methods of producing it involve both use of fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases.
@Gregr The use of FF is probably why our Govt is keen to promote hydrogen is my feeling on it.
@mark_m I guess though that the Solar/Wind/Geothermal energy is "free"ish and without much of the greenhouse gas side effects, so if say only 16% efficient in regards to energy used, who was paying for that energy beyond the infrastructure needs to build the plant but if that is the consideration then the same should be held against the Fossil Fuel used for power & infrastructure cost plus the ongoing GHG emissions in the fossil fuel production of hydrogen…
Err, I’m not sure if I communicated all that effectively.
I’m not suggesting that hydrogen produced by electrolysis is a poor solution. The overall efficiency for now is what it is. And there is a bench mark cost (capital investment and some operating costs) to do so if powered from solar PV panels.
I was considering whether the news item concerning direct production of hydrogen in a photoelectric panel had merit. It may in that it does not require a complex electroliser and does away with needing a separate electrical power source. It does not look that great as it requires a tantalum base structure in the cells and can only offer if it is perfected similar efficiency to today’s PV panels + electrolisers. The latter technology has the opportunity to be further improved and widen that gap. The efficiency is that of conversion of Solar energy to hydrogen in both instances.
On the Hydrogen economy.
The overall benefits of converting hydrocarbons to hydrogen as a GHG mitigation are dubious IMO and delve deeply into political mindset. I’ll leave that well alone.
If by stack up we simply measure the direct cost at the meter box or fuel bowser, that holds true. Of course it also holds true if we ignore the consequences of increased GHG emissions until …?
The option is to accept that for a sustainable future we need to accept certain changes, and that they are going to cost real money. Somethings are going to cost more as a consequence. Perhaps we just have to be smarter so that we do not consume as much or in different ways. Not everything we need to live today is as inexpensive in real terms as it was 30 or 40 or 100 years ago. But we are still all here and mostly better off.
The cost of hydrogen as a fuel option does not need to be lower than diesel or petrol per km for the nation to make that decision. It’s going to take the transport industry at current rate of vehicle replacement 15-20 years to transition. That suggests it may be better to start sooner than simply putting it off.
That includes hydrogen, but not from FF sources.
We are also a long way off from the perfect battery for the BEV revolution. But there are consumers out there already spending up to start that off.
Problem is @mark_m, is that Hydrogen as a fuel source for transport is a problem with storage. It has to be either stored under very high pressure like 300 psi, or liquified and kept very cold at cryogenic temperatures, or a combination of both. Now once you have dealt with that problem, the chemical energy content per amount of the stuff available by oxidation through ‘burning’ or through a fuel cell, is considerably less than the same amount of liquids like petrol or diesel, or more easily storable gases like LPG…
The plus: just water out the exhaust pipe.
The minus: everything else
There is well proven technology for the use of hydrogen. I don’t see the need to start a technical discussion that goes around in circles.
Where hydrogen best fits as a transportable fuel and best use is open ended. It can be relatively easy to handle when converted to ammonia NH3. It can also be transported in pipework similar to natural gas.
While we could use hydrogen in an inefficient direct combustion cycle, the efficiency when used in a fuel cell to power an electrical device is significantly greater. 3.5l per 100km for the Honda Clarity Hydrogen FC vehicle.
On how fuel cells work the electrical output is not generated by converting thermal or heat energy. It is not comparable to direct combustion. The following is worth the science and time to read.
Currently the overall energy conversion efficiency of a hydrogen FC vehicle lags battery technology. It may stay that way or each may find their niche.
Just to clarify @mark_m, I didn’t say anything about thermal or heat energy. I said chemical energy, which is a potential energy to be released by chemical reactions. Whether you burn it through oxidation to produce heat, or run it through a fuel cell to produce electricity, it’s a release of chemical potential energy transformed into another more useful form of energy. In a car or a truck, that is mechanical into kinetic.