Hydrogen Talk with Petteri Laaksonen

Petteri Laaksonen

What roles will hydrogen and electricity play in power generation on the path to decarbonization? This is one of several questions that were explored during the March 31 webinar, Hydrogen Talk with Petteri Laaksonen.

This webinar is the first in the Path to 100’s Community of Experts Networking Call Series, also known as the Expert Exchange, which serves as a forum for experts to share knowledge on the best ways to decarbonize electricity to speed the transition to 100% renewable energy.

Jussi Heikkinen

Jussi Heikkinen

Featured speakers for the inaugural Community of Experts webinar were Petteri Laaksonen, Research Director in the School of Energy Systems at LUT University in Lappeenranta, Finland, and Jussi Heikkinen, Director, Wärtsilä Growth and Development, who also moderated the webinar.

The focus of Laaksonen’s presentation was green electrification and the hydrogen economy. He opened by discussing some of the ways in which electricity and hydrogen are produced and used for energy in different sectors of industry, in transportation, and in buildings. Central to this discussion was the efficiency of electricity versus hydrogen for use in applications and the infrastructure that is needed to support their use.

According to Laaksonen, “Hydrogen is not as efficient as electricity when it comes to transportation and the transport sector does not have the infrastructure and vehicles to support hydrogen’s use. However, hydrogen’s potential lies in its ability to be synthesized into different products, such as synthetic fuels.”

The focus of the presentation then shifted to a discussion of the location-related competitive advantages of hydrogen and electricity. One of the big advantages of producing and storing hydrogen and electricity as fuels onsite is cost, specifically the costs of shipping and lost efficiency when transporting from one location to another.

“When it comes to choosing which fuel, hydrogen or electricity, to use in an application, there are no clear winners. Each location will have its advantages,” said Laaksonen.

After Laaksonen’s presentation, Heikkinen spoke about the role of hydrogen in the optimal decarbonization path using a California modelling case study. Central to the discussion was a new approach to electricity storage that utilizes both short- and long-term storage strategies. He emphasized that on the optimal path, hydrogen in long-term storage can be tapped into as a fuel to help with seasonal system balancing and managing extreme weather.

Said Heikkinen, “Having seasonal storage in the form of fuel and flexible power plants can result in cost reductions from 126 to 50 dollars per megawatt hour and enable firm capacity that can be tapped into when there’s a heat wave or cloud cover.”

Missed the webinar? Watch the recording here. Want to learn more about the California case study’s modeling and results? Download the whitepaper.

 

 

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Toyota Motor North America: Committed to hydrogen fuel cell electric technology

At-a-Glance:

In light of mounting global environmental issues, Toyota Motor North America is continuing to take measures to achieve net zero carbon emissions and make a positive environmental impact. The Mirai, a signature innovation for the company, is just one development at the heart of such commitment, with Toyota openly expressing its passion and commitment for hydrogen. To learn more, read Toyota Motor North America: Committed to hydrogen fuel cell electric technology.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • Toyota is committed to hydrogen fuel cell-electric technology because it is a clean, versatile, and scalable electrification platform that can meet a broad range of customers’ mobility needs with zero emissions.
  • Since 2015, over 6,600 Mirai have been sold or leased in California making it the most popular fuel cell vehicle on the road today.
  • A new, second-generation fuel cell system along with the additional hydrogen capacity gives the second generation Mirai a range of over 400 miles – as much, or more, range than a traditional gas-powered car.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen has a high potential of becoming the fuel of the future, helping societies move towards decarbonization. So far, the market for hydrogen engines has been limited, but the need for them is beginning to emerge as the use of fossil fuels is gradually reduced and finally banned. Because hydrogen was not used as a power generation fuel in the past, the technologies to combust and use it in different applications need to be developed. Wärtsilä is testing concepts for both blending hydrogen into natural gas as well as pure hydrogen operation. The R&D process will continue, testing the fuel first on a small scale to define optimal dimensions and parameters for hydrogen engines.

Photo by Christina Telep on Unsplash

Yes, America can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s how.

At-a-Glance:

The loss of life and economic costs stemming from the recent crisis in Texas have demonstrated that electric power is a necessity, not an ordinary commodity. While fact finding has just begun, it’s clear that policy makers must take a hard look at the economic rules and incentives governing the power sector and assess the resilience of a vast array of critical infrastructure. To learn more read,  Yes, America can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Here’s how.”

Key Takeaways:

3 areas for collaboration:

Current incentives create restraints on rapid change, but can overcome to meet climate goals with effective public-private collaboration in three areas:

  • Support for innovation. The federal government should invest big to help new technologies make the leap from laboratory to marketplace.
  • Inclusive policies. Indulging preferences for some solutions over others might be tenable if there was plenty of time, but getting there will require a massive increase of renewable energy; breakthroughs in energy storage technologies, such as batteries, and in new energy carriers, such as hydrogen.
  • The ability to build big and build fast. To tackle our interrelated climate and energy challenges, America must rediscover the moonshot ambition and collective sense of urgency that allowed us to put a man on the moon in less than 10 years. A century earlier we built the transcontinental railroad in just six years.

Path to 100% Perspective:

As each government and organizational leader considers the landscape of the decade of consequence for the global climate, a clear line of sight to achieve decarbonization has been set by science. 3,000 GW of installed renewable capacity is required by 2030 to achieve the lower Paris target of 2°C5. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA, said in June 2020 that world leaders have six months to put policies in place to prevent a rebound in emissions that could put that target permanently out of reach. Leaders now face a clear choice: either be shaped by the inherent shocks of a worsening climate emergency or take action to shape the energy system around the needs and impact of a net-zero future.

 

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Experts explain why green hydrogen costs have fallen and will keep falling

At-a-Glance:

As electric and gas utilities contemplate investing in low-carbon hydrogen and the technology to produce it, the high price of today’s supplies and equipment – and the potential for cost declines – are major considerations. At the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference, hydrogen experts and stakeholders expressed confidence that the cost curve will indeed bend in the coming years. The March 2 panel on low-carbon hydrogen production and technologies offered a detailed breakdown of the forces behind the price trend. To learn more, read Experts explain why green hydrogen costs have fallen and will keep falling.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Norwegian electroyzer-maker Nel ASA in January announced a goal of producing green hydrogen at $1.50 per kilogram by 2025. Malaysian oil and gas giant Petronas is targeting hydrogen production costs from the nation’s hydropower and solar resources in a range of $1-2/kg.
  • Green hydrogen produced with renewable resources costs between about $3/kg and $6.55/kg, according to the European Commission’s July 2020 hydrogen strategy. Fossil-based hydrogen costs about $1.80/kg, and the commission estimated the cost of blue hydrogen at about $2.40/kg.
  • Access to low-cost renewable electricity will be the most important factor in driving green hydrogen costs down to $1.50/kg, according to Everett Anderson, vice president for advanced product development at NEL Hydrogen AS.
  • The hydrogen production process of methane pyrolysis is attracting attention and investment for its ability to decompose methane at high temperatures to produce solid carbon rather than carbon dioxide. This could allow hydrogen production at nodes between natural gas lines and distribution systems.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Power-to-hydrogen is an alternate Power-to-Gas pathway. Power-to-hydrogen requires only electrolysis, where electrolyzers use excess renewable energy to produce hydrogen (from water) for direct use as a fuel. In addition, hydrogen as a fuel is carbon free. Complexities arise as there is, unlike the existing infrastructure for methane, no comparable hydrogen infrastructure. Still, hydrogen is an efficient and carbon-free alternative to renewable synthetic hydrocarbons and is worth investigating. Power plant technology manufacturers seem to understand this as many of them are in the process of developing technologies that are fueled by 100% hydrogen.

 

Photo by Neenu Vimalkumar on Unsplash

North America’s largest green hydrogen production facility to be located in New York

At-a-Glance:

Plug Power has unveiled major plans to develop North America’s largest green hydrogen production facility in New York, which once operational, will be capable of producing 45 metric tons of green hydrogen a day. To learn more, read North America’s largest green hydrogen production facility to be located in New York.” Reading this article may require a subscription from the news outlet.

Key Takeaways:

  • The New York facility will complement the company’s Tennessee plant, and will use 120 MW of Plug Power’s state-of-the-art polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzers to make the hydrogen using clean New York hydropower.
  • Investment in the hydrogen production site is valued at $290m and the facility is expected to create more than 60 green-energy jobs.
  • It is hoped that Plug Power’s efforts will help lead the way to decarbonizing freight-transportation and logistics, while supporting the Empire State’s path to achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050.
  • Plug Power has also confirmed that it will develop a 450 MW electric substation in the New York Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park, 1250-acre mega site located at the center of upstate New York’s largest population, research and workforce training hubs.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Hydrogen has a high potential of becoming the fuel of the future, helping societies move towards decarbonization. So far, the market for hydrogen has been limited, but the need is expected to increase in the years to come as the use of fossil fuels is gradually reduced and finally banned. Because hydrogen was not used as a power generation fuel in the past, the technologies to combust and use it in different applications need to be developed. However, the growing investment, interest and commitment to hydrogen technology is certain to offer breakthroughs and clarity.

 

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Hydrogen advocates look to capitalize on California’s goal to replace diesel for back-up generation

At-a-Glance:

California regulators are on the lookout for cleaner alternatives to replace the widespread use of back-up diesel generation – particularly among data centers in Silicon Valley and other areas of the state – and some industry players think hydrogen could be the answer. To learn more, read “Hydrogen advocates look to capitalize on California’s goal to replace diesel for back-up generation.”

Key Takeaways:

  • Hydrogen fuel cells are advantageous for several reasons: they occupy less space than batteries, possess long-term storage capability, are quiet, reliable, and 100% zero-emission.
  • The key draw of hydrogen is its cost effectiveness at longer durations.
    • For a completely resilient, 100% renewable data center with zero emissions, using hydrogen would translate to a levelized cost of electricity amounting to $119 per MWh.
    • Batteries would lead to over $4,000 per MWh levelized cost to ensure 48 hours of backup power.
  • Taking a step back from the issue of replacing diesel back-up generators, environmental advocates are urging the state to prioritize the adoption of renewable, zero emissions technologies.
  • Ben Schwartz, policy manager at Clean Coalition, said California could adopt policies to promote the efficiency of solar and storage alternatives to diesel generation.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Renewable fuels, such as hydrogen, can help utilities overcome the variability challenges posed by seasonal conditions and extreme weather. One approach that can be leveraged in the transition to a 100% renewable energy system is power-to-gas (PtG). PtG technology uses excess energy from wind and solar to produce synthetic hydrogen and methane. The combination of stored fuel potential and thermal capacity yields a long-term energy storage system that acts like a gigantic distributed “battery.” Coupled with traditional, shorter-term storage technologies, this system can help meet seasonal energy demands when renewables are variable, and provide a reliable and secure supply of electricity during periods of extreme weather.

 

Photo by Clayton Cardinalli on Unsplash

Shell Says Hydrogen Is Heavy Transport’s Future. What Now For Biofuels?

At-a-Glance:

Hydrogen will be the key energy source for global road freight, according to a new report commissioned by European oil major Shell. Electrification is the most economic and environmental solution for smaller delivery vehicles. The study, carried out by global accountancy firm Deloitte on Shell’s behalf, questioned 158 executives in the road freight sector in 22 different countries. To learn more, read Shell Says Hydrogen Is Heavy Transport’s Future. What Now For Biofuels?”

Key Takeaways:

  • Of those interviewed for the report, 70% ranked decarbonization as a top-three concern for their business and many said they expect hydrogen to be commercially viable in just five to 10 years.
  • Carlos Maurer, EVP of sectors and decarbonization at Shell, stated, “We believe that once produced at scale, hydrogen will likely be the most cost-effective and viable pathway to net-zero emissions for heavy-duty and long-route medium-duty vehicles, and electric mobility will do the same for light-duty and short-route medium-duty vehicles.”
  • Major truck manufacturers in Europe have accelerated the target date for their diesel engine phase-out from 2050 to 2040. Hydrogen and electrification are the low-carbon technology options of choice.
  • Biofuels are more likely to play their largest role in the short term when it comes to the transportation sector; however, there are other transport end markets where biofuels hold a strong advantage.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Decarbonizing the transportation sector will be a key step in realizing a 100% renewable energy future. Investments in hydrogen production, both in policies and infrastructure, will accelerate the timeline for commercial viability.

 

 

Photo by Marc Rentschler on Unsplash

DOE announces $160m for hydrogen production, transport, storage and utilisation

At-a-Glance:

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has announced plans to make $160m in federal funding available to help develop technologies for the production, transport, storage and utilisation of fossil-based hydrogen. To learn more, read DOE announces $160m for hydrogen production, transport, storage and utilisation.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • In announcing these funds, DOE said its efforts will help recalibrate the nation’s vast fossil-fuel and power infrastructure for decarbonized energy and commodity production.
  • This funding opportunity will be used to solicit applications for research and development in areas of interest that align with the following seven program areas:
    • Net-zero or negative carbon hydrogen production from modular gasification and co-gasification of mixed wastes, biomass, and traditional feedstocks
    • Solid oxide electrolysis cell technology (SOEC) development
    • Carbon capture
    • Advanced turbines
    • Natural gas-based hydrogen production
    • Hydrogen pipeline infrastructure
    • Subsurface hydrogen storage

Path to 100% Perspective:

Renewable fuels, like hydrogen, will play a significant role in transitioning to a 100% renewable energy power system, especially as the market for these fuels continues to grow in the transportation and industrial sectors. Flexible gas power plants can generate electricity from hydrogen produced by Power-to-X facilities out of renewable electricity and CO2 captured from air. Investing in research and development around hydrogen is a strategic move that will advance key technologies and knowledge needed to optimize flexible gas power generation.

 

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

California wastes its extra solar, wind energy. Could hydrogen be the storage key?

At-a-Glance:

No amount of solar panels and wind turbines alone will be enough for California to reach its goal of a clean electrical grid unless the state can solve its energy storage problem. The state already generates an abundance of energy from wind and solar farms, particularly during the sunny and blustery spring and early summer months. But it loses much of that energy because it has nowhere to store it, and unlike fossil fuels, the sun and wind are not dispatchable, and therefore are unable to be called on to generate power 24 hours a day. Utilities must rely on gas-fired power plants to keep up with California’s energy demands during peak demand periods. To learn more, read California wastes its extra solar, wind energy. Could hydrogen be the storage key? Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

  • Some experts and legislators say the missing puzzle piece could be hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, which can be used as a zero-emission fuel for power plants, vehicles and machinery.
  • “I would say it’s almost the missing piece of the puzzle,” said Jussi Heikkinen, Director of Growth and Development at Wärtsilä Energy, a Finnish technology company that has built battery storage systems in California. “We don’t need to get rid of the power plants, but we need to get rid of fossil fuels.”
  • State Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, is carrying a bill, SB18, that specifies the state’s climate and electrical grid plans include “green hydrogen,” or hydrogen gas that is produced using electricity from renewable sources.
  • According to Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center, hydrogen is more effective for longer storage than batteries because it doesn’t lose energy over time and can be stored underground easily and cheaply.
  • Hydrogen advocates say that California ultimately needs a mix of hydrogen and batteries to reduce carbon emissions.

Path to 100% Perspective:

Investing in green hydrogen will be important as California looks to decarbonize its energy system. The state can turn this into a win-win by harnessing the excess power generated by existing wind and solar farms to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen can be stored and turned back into electricity using flexible thermal assets. Policies that enable rapid reductions in fossil fuel use and rapid increases in renewable generation in the electricity sector are a valuable piece to accelerating the decarbonization process. Legislation should steer electricity-sector decisions about investments, infrastructure and technology toward decisions that quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pave the way for a 100% renewable energy future

 

 

Photo by Mike Fox on Unsplash

Hydrogen era no longer a distant mirage

At-a-Glance

For decades oil producers have stored fossil fuels in manmade caverns carved into naturally occurring salt domes, deep below the surface of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Now, this hydrogen infrastructure will form the center of several marquee initiatives launched in 2020 to unlock the much broader potential of the most abundant element in the universe. To learn more, read “Hydrogen era no longer a distant mirage.”

Key Takeaways

  • Hydrogen will power fuel cells to drive passenger vehicles, heavy-duty trucks, ships, airplanes, as well as heat and light buildings. It will enable levels of decarbonization unimaginable using only renewable resources and battery storage.
  • With limited demand and no real scale to date, green hydrogen sourced from renewable energy can cost four times as much as other options, according to the International Energy Agency.
  • “A truly hydrogen-based economy … appears out of reach, at least before 2030,” S&P Global Ratings said in a report released in November. “Energy transitions typically take decades.”

Path to 100% Perspective

Green hydrogen makes up less than 0.1% of the world’s 70 million-metric-ton annual hydrogen supply, according to the Green Hydrogen Coalition, a California-based nonprofit advocacy group. “Gray” hydrogen, produced from natural gas using high-temperature steam methane reforming, and “brown” hydrogen, made by gasifying coal, account for almost all hydrogen in use today. The chief customers are oil refineries, chemical plants and industrial manufacturers such as steel and cement makers. “Blue hydrogen,” a lower-carbon variant, also uses fossil fuels as a source but offsets emissions with carbon capture and storage. Blue and green hydrogen are not widely used at this time.

 

Photo by Isravel Raj on Unsplash

New Energy Outlook Projects Massive Energy Sector Shift Through 2050

At-a-Glance:

BloombergNEF (BNEF) published its New Energy Outlook 2020 (NEO) in October. The NEO projects the evolution of the global energy system over the next 30 years. This report is widely utilized by planners, strategic thinkers, and investors in developing long-term forecasts and plans. One of the NEO’s most notable projections is that the sharp drop in energy demand from the Covid-19 pandemic will remove about 2.5 years’ worth of energy sector emissions between now and 2050. To learn more, read New Energy Outlook Projects Massive Energy Sector Shift Through 2050.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

Other notables from the report:

  • Electric vehicles (EVs) reach upfront price parity with Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles before 2025.
  • Gas is the only fossil fuel to grow continuously through the outlook, gaining 0.5% year-on-year to 2050.
  • Coal demand peaked in 2018 and collapses to 18% of primary energy by mid-century, from 26% today.
  • In the NEO Climate Scenario, the clean electricity and hydrogen pathway requires 100,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) of power generation by 2050. This power system is 6-8 times bigger than today’s and generates five times the electricity.
  • Green hydrogen provides just under a quarter of total final energy in 2050 under the Climate Scenario.
  • Reducing emissions well below two degrees under the clean electricity and green hydrogen pathway requires between $78 trillion and $130 trillion of new investment between now and 2050.

Path to 100% Perspective:

The dramatic fall in once-expensive renewable and flexible capacity costs has transformed energy investment over the last decade and the pace of change in accelerating. The cost of offshore wind, for example, has fallen by 63% since 2012. With a renewed focus on future-proofing their business models, utilities have increased renewable energy investments, taking advantage of the certainty that clean energy brings to the balance sheet. In effect, adopting renewable energy, coupled with flexible generation and storage for system balancing, is akin to purchasing unlimited power up-front, as opposed to placing bets on fluctuating oil prices and exposure to narrowing environmental regulation.

 

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

CEOs outline 3 trends hitting electricity

At-a-Glance:

Major power companies held earnings calls in recent weeks to share their focus on issues such as expanding renewables and the role of hydrogen under a national push for 100 percent clean electricity. Additionally, CEO’s discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to delay solar projects and defer grid maintenance. To learn more, read “CEOs outline 3 trends hitting electricity.” Reading this article may require a subscription.

Key Takeaways:

Here are the issues that major electric companies are focused on as 2020 winds down:

  • One effect of the coronavirus pandemic may impact renewable energy development. NRG Energy Inc. CEO Mauricio Gutierrez said a chunk of the pending purchased power in Texas may be delayed six to eight months because of supply chain and financing issues related to the virus.
  • CenterPoint Energy Inc. CEO David Lesar said the company will work on renewable natural gas and hydrogen renewables in Minnesota plus possible new transmission infrastructure to connect to renewable sources in Texas.
  • CEO John Ketchum of NextEra Energy Resources LLC said hydrogen will come into play if federal policy accelerates a zero-carbon goal by 2035.
  • Vistra Corp CEO Curt Morgan said Vistra has “a portfolio of highly efficient, low-emitting natural gas assets that can provide reliable, dispatchable power and complement the intermittent nature of renewable resources.” He explained a diverse portfolio enables renewable products that can ensure reliability and an affordable price. “Every reputable and objective study on the changing power generation landscape has natural gas playing a significant role for several years to come, especially as we electrify the economy,” Morgan said.

Path to 100% Perspective:

These are exciting times as the renewable energy future is a focus for so many organizations and governments around the world. Emerging technologies are moving closer to reality, which makes ambitious energy goals more realistic and the path to 100 percent renewable energy is now within reach. The big challenge facing power generators around the world is how to integrate renewables into the grid while building security of supply and a sustainable power system with an affordable plan for everyone involved. Renewable carbon neutral fuels such as hydrogen and synthetic methane are being explored as solutions for sustainable and reliable power systems. Curtailed renewable electricity is used in the process with water to produce Hydrogen, and carbon is captured from air to produce synthetic methane with hydrogen. These fuels are used in flexible power plants to provide a long term energy storage for seasonal and weather management needs.

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash