The Anonymous Widower

Solving The Electrification Conundrum

The title of this post, is the same as an article in the July 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the introductory sub-heading.

Regional and rural railways poses a huge problem for the railway to decarbonise.

Lorna McDonald of Hitachi Rail and Jay Mehta of Hitachi ABB Power Grids tell Andy Roden why they believe they have the answer.

These are my thoughts on what is said.

Battery-Electric Trains

The article starts by giving a review of battery-electric trains and their use on routes of moderate but important length.

  • Some short routes can be handled with just a charge on an electrified main line.
  • Some will need a recharge at the termini.
  • Other routes might need a recharge at some intermediate stations, with a possible increase in dwell times.

It was in February 2015, that I wrote Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?, after a ride in public service on Bombardier’s test battery-electric train based on a Class 379 train.

I also wrote this in the related post.

Returning from Harwich, I travelled with the train’s on-board test engineer, who was monitoring the train performance in battery mode on a laptop. He told me that acceleration in this mode was the same as a standard train, that the range was up to sixty miles and that only minimal instruction was needed to convert a driver familiar to the Class 379 to this battery variant.

It was an impressive demonstration, of how a full-size train could be run in normal service without connection to a power supply. I also suspect that the partners in the project must be very confident about the train and its technology to allow paying passengers to travel on their only test train.

A couple of years later, I met a lady on another train, who’d used the test train virtually every day during the trial and she and her fellow travellers felt that it was as good if not better than the normal service from a Class 360 train or a Class 321 train.

So why if the engineering, customer acceptance and reliability were proven six years ago, do we not have several battery electric trains in service?

  • There is a proven need for battery-electric trains on the Marshlink Line and the Uckfield Branch in Sussex.
  • The current Class 171 trains are needed elsewhere, so why are no plans in place for replacement trains?
  • The government is pushing electric cars and buses, but why is there such little political support for battery-electric trains?

It’s almost as if, an important civil servant in the decision process has the naive belief that battery-electric trains won’t work and if they do, they will be phenomenally expensive. So the answer is an inevitable no!

Only in the South Wales Metro, are battery-electric trains considered to be part of the solution to create a more efficient and affordable electric railway.

But as I have constantly pointed out since February 2015 in this blog, battery-electric trains should be one of the innovations we use to build a better railway.

Hydrogen Powered Trains

The article says this about hydrogen powered trains.

Hybrid hydrogen fuel cells can potentially solve the range problem, but at the cost of the fuel eating up internal capacity that would ideally be used for passengers. (and as Industry and Technology Editor Roger Ford points out, at present hydrogen is a rather dirty fuel). By contrast, there is no loss of seating or capacity in a Hitachi battery train.

I suspect the article is referring to the Alstom train, which is based on the technology of the Alstom Coradia iLint.

I have ridden this train.

  • It works reliably.
  • It runs on a 100 km route.
  • The route is partially electrified, but the train doesn’t have a pantograph.
  • It has a very noisy mechanical transmission.

Having spoken to passengers at length, no-one seemed bothered by the Hindenburg possibilities.

It is certainly doing some things right, as nearly fifty trains have been ordered for train operating companies in Germany.

Alstom’s train for the UK is the Class 600 train, which will be converted from a four-car Class 321 train.

Note.

  1. Half of both driver cars is taken up by a hydrogen tank.
  2. Trains will be three-cars.
  3. Trains will be able to carry as many passengers as a two-car Class 156 train.

It is an inefficient design that can be improved upon.

Porterbrook and Birmingham University appear to have done that with their Class 799 train.

  • It can use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • The hydrogen tanks, fuel cell and other hydrogen gubbins are under the floor.

This picture from Network Rail shows how the train will appear at COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Now that’s what I call a train! Let alone a hydrogen train!

Without doubt, Porterbrook and their academic friends in Birmingham will be laying down a strong marker for hydrogen at COP26!

I know my hydrogen, as my first job on leaving Liverpool University with my Control Engineering degree in 1968 was for ICI at Runcorn, where I worked in a plant that electrolysed brine into hydrogen, sodium hydroxide and chlorine.

My life went full circle last week, when I rode this hydrogen powered bus in London.

The hydrogen is currently supplied from the same chemical works in Runcorn, where I worked. But plans have been made at Runcorn, to produce the hydrogen from renewable energy, which would make the hydrogen as green hydrogen of the highest standard. So sorry Roger, but totally carbon-free hydrogen is available.

The bus is a Wightbus Hydroliner FCEV and this page on the Wrightbus web site gives the specification. The specification also gives a series of cutaway drawings, which show how they fit 86 passengers, all the hydrogen gubbins and a driver into a standard size double-deck bus.

I believe that Alstom’s current proposal is not a viable design, but I wouldn’t say that about the Porterbrook/Birmingham University design.

Any Alternative To Full Electrification Must Meet Operator And Customer Expectations

This is a paragraph from the article.

It’s essential that an alternative traction solution offers the same levels of performance and frequency, while providing an increase in capacity and being economically viable.

In performance, I would include reliability. As the on-board engineer indicated on the Bombardier  test train on the Harwich branch, overhead electrification is not totally reliable, when there are winds and/or criminals about.

Easy Wins

Hitachi’s five-car Class 800 trains and Class 802 trains each have three diesel engines and run the following short routes.

  • Kings Cross and Middlesbrough- 21 miles not electrified – Changeover in Northallerton station
  • Kings Cross and Lincoln – 16.6 miles not electrified – Changeover in Newark Northgate station
  • Paddington and Bedwyn – 13.3 miles not electrified – Changeover in Newbury station
  • Paddington and Oxford – 10.3 miles not electrified – Changeover in Didcot Parkway station

Some of these routes could surely be run with a train, where one diesel engine was replaced by a battery-pack.

As I’m someone, who was designing, building and testing plug-compatible transistorised electronics in the 1960s to replace  older valve-based equipment in a heavy engineering factory, I suspect that creating a plug-compatible battery-pack that does what a diesel engine does in terms of power and performance is not impossible.

What would be the reaction to passengers, once they had been told, they had run all the way to or from London without using any diesel?

Hopefully, they’d come again and tell their friends, which is what a train operator wants and needs.

Solving The Electrification Conundrum

This section is from the article.

Where electrification isn’t likely to be a viable proposition, this presents a real conundrum to train operators and rolling stock leasing companies.

This is why Hitachi Rail and Hitachi ABB Power Grids are joining together to present a combined battery train and charging solution to solve this conundrum. In 2020, Hitachi and ABB’s Power Grids business, came together in a joint venture, and an early outcome of this is confidence that bringing together their expertise in rail, power and grid management, they can work together to make electrification simpler cheaper and quicker.

I agree strongly with the second paragraph, as several times, I’ve been the mathematician and simulation expert in a large multi-disciplinary engineering project, that went on to be very successful.

The Heart Of The Proposition

This is a paragraph from the article.

The proposition is conceptually simple. Rather than have extended dwell times at stations for battery-powered trains, why not have a short stretch of 25 KVAC overhead catenary (the exact length will depend on the types of train and the route) which can charge trains at linespeed on the move via a conventional pantograph?

The article also mentions ABB’s related expertise.

  • Charging buses all over Europe.
  • Creating the power grid for the Great Western Electrification to Cardiff.

I like the concept, but then it’s very similar to what I wrote in The Concept Of Electrification Islands in April 2020.

But as they are electrical power engineers and I’m not, they’d know how to create the system.

Collaboration With Hyperdrive Innovation

The article has nothing negative to say about the the collaboration with Hyperdrive Innovation to produce the battery-packs.

Route Modelling

Hitachi appear to have developed a sophisticated route modelling system, so that routes and charging positions can be planned.

I would be very surprised if they hadn’t developed such a system.

Modular And Scalable

This is a paragraph from the article.

In the heart of the system is a containerised modular solution containing everything needed to power a stretch of overhead catenary to charge trains. A three-car battery train might need one of these, but the great advantage is that it is scalable to capacity and speed requirements.

This all sounds very sensible and can surely cope with a variety of lines and traffic levels.

It also has the great advantage , that if a line is eventually electrified, the equipment can be moved on to another line.

Financing Trains And Chargers

The article talks about the flexibility of the system from an operator’s point of view with respect to finance.

I’ve had some good mentors in the area of finance and I know innovative finance contributed to the success of Metier Management Systems, the project management company I started with three others in 1977.

After selling Metier, I formed an innovative finance company, which would certainly have liked the proposition put forward in the article.

No Compromise, Little Risk

I would agree with this heading of the penultimate section of the article.

In February 2015, when I rode that Class 379 train between Manningtree and Harwich, no compromise had been made by Bombardier and it charged in the electrified bay platform at Manningtree.

But why was that train not put through an extensive route-proving exercise in the UK after the successful trial at Manningtree?

  • Was it the financial state of Bombardier?
  • Was it a lack of belief on the part of politicians, who were too preoccupied with Brexit?
  • Was it that an unnamed civil servant didn’t like the concept and stopped the project?

Whatever the reason, we have wasted several years in getting electric trains accepted on UK railways.

If no compromise needs to be made to create a battery-electric train, that is equivalent to the best-in-class diesel or electric multiple units, then what about the risk?

The beauty of Hitachi’s battery-electric train project is that it can be done in phases designed to minimise risk.

Phase 1 – Initial Battery Testing 

Obviously, there will be a lot of bench testing in a laboratory.

But I also believe that if the Class 803 trains are fitted with a similar battery from Hyperdrive Innovation, then this small fleet of five trains can be used to test a lot of the functionality of the batteries initially in a test environment and later in a real service environment.

The picture shows a Class 803 train under test through Oakleigh Park station.

This phase would be very low risk, especially where passengers are concerned.

Phase 2 – Battery Traction Testing And Route Proving

I am a devious bastard, when it comes to software development. The next set of features would always be available for me to test earlier, than anybody else knew.

I doubt that the engineers at Hyperdrive Innovation will be any different.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the batteries in the Class 803 trains can also be used for traction, if you have the right authority.

We might even see Class 803 trains turning up in some unusual places to test the traction abilities of the batteries.

As East Coast Trains, Great Western Railway and Hull Trains are all First Group companies, I can’t see any problems.

I’m also sure that Hitachi could convert some Class 800 or Class 802 trains and add these to the test fleet, if East Coast Trains need their Class 803 trains to start service.

This phase would be very low risk, especially where passengers are concerned.

Possibly, the worse thing, that could happen would be a battery failure, which would need the train to be rescued.

Phase 3 – Service Testing On Short Routes

As I indicated earlier, there are some easy routes between London and places like Bedwyn, Lincoln, Middlesbrough and Oxford, that should be possible with a Class 800 or Class 802 train fitted with the appropriate number of batteries.

Once the trains have shown, the required level of performance and reliability, I can see converted Class 800, 801 and Class 802 trains entering services on these and other routes.

Another low risk phase, although passengers are involved, but they are probably subject to the same risks, as on an unmodified train.

Various combinations of diesel generators and batteries could be used to find out, what is the optimum combination for the typical diagrams that train operators use.

Hitachi didn’t commit to any dates, but I can see battery-electric trains running on the Great Western Railway earlier than anybody thinks.

Phase 4 – Service Testing On Medium Routes With A Terminal Charger System

It is my view that the ideal test route for battery-electric trains with a terminal charger system would be the Hull Trains service between London Kings Cross and Hull and Beverley.

The route is effectively in three sections.

  • London Kings Cross and Temple Hirst junction – 169.2 miles – Full Electrification
  • Temple Hirst junction and Hull station – 36.1 miles – No Electrification
  • Hull station and Beverley station – 8.3 miles – No Electrification

Two things would be needed to run zero-carbon electric trains on this route.

  • Sufficient battery capacity in Hull Trains’s Class 802 trains to reliably handle the 36.1 miles between Temple Hirst junction and Hull station.
  • A charging system in Hull station.

As Hull station also handles other Class 800 and Class 802 trains, there will probably be a need to put a charging system in more than one platform.

Note.

  1. Hull station has plenty of space.
  2. No other infrastructure work would be needed.
  3. There is a large bus interchange next door, so I suspect the power supply to Hull station is good.

Hull would be a very good first destination for a battery-electric InterCity train.

Others would include Bristol, Cheltenham, Chester, Scarborough, Sunderland and Swansea.

The risk would be very low, if the trains still had some diesel generator capacity.

Phase 5 – Service Testing On Long Routes With Multiple Charger Systems

Once the performance and reliability of the charger systems have been proven in single installations like perhaps Hull and Swansea stations, longer routes can be prepared for electric trains.

This press release from Hitachi is entitled Hitachi And Eversholt Rail To Develop GWR Intercity Battery Hybrid Train – Offering Fuel Savings Of More Than 20%.

The press release talks about Penzance and London, so would that be a suitable route for discontinuous electrification using multiple chargers?

These are the distances between major points on the route between Penzance and London Paddington.

  • Penzance and Truro – 35.8 miles
  • Truro and Bodmin Parkway – 26.8 miles
  • Bodmin Parkway and Plymouth – 26.9 miles
  • Plymouth and Newton Abbot – 31,9 miles
  • Newton Abbot and Exeter – 20.2 miles
  • Exeter and Taunton – 30.8 miles
  • Taunton and Westbury – 47.2 miles
  • Westbury and Newbury – 42.5 miles
  • Newbury and Paddington – 53 miles

Note.

  1. Only Newbury and Paddington is electrified.
  2. Trains generally stop at Plymouth, Newton Abbott, Exeter and Taunton.
  3. Services between Paddington and Exeter, Okehampton, Paignton, Penzance, Plymouth and Torquay wouldn’t use diesel.
  4. Okehampton would be served by a reverse at Exeter.
  5. As Paignton is just 8.1 miles from Newton Abbot, it probably wouldn’t need a charger.
  6. Bodmin is another possible destination, as Great Western Railway have helped to finance a new platform at Bodmin General station.

It would certainly be good marketing to run zero-carbon electric trains to Devon and Cornwall.

I would class this route as medium risk, but with a high reward for the operator.

In this brief analysis, it does look that Hitachi’s proposed system is of a lower risk.

A Few Questions

I do have a few questions.

Are The Class 803 Trains Fitted With Hyperdrive Innovation Batteries?

East Coast Trains‘s new Class 803 trains are undergoing testing between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh and they can be picked up on Real Time Trains.

Wikipedia says this about the traction system for the trains.

While sharing a bodyshell with the previous UK A-train variants, the Class 803 differs in that it has no diesel engines fitted. They will however be fitted with batteries to enable the train’s on-board services to be maintained, in case the primary electrical supplies have failed.

Will these emergency batteries be made by Hyperdrive Innovation?

My experience of similar systems in other industries, points me to the conclusion, that all Class 80x trains can be fitted with similar, if not identical batteries.

This would give the big advantage of allowing battery testing to be performed on Class 803 trains under test, up and down the East Coast Main Line.

Nothing finds faults in the design and manufacture of something used in transport, than to run it up and down in real conditions.

Failure of the catenary can be simulated to check out emergency modes.

Can A Class 801 Train Be Converted Into A Class 803 Train?

If I’d designed the trains, this conversion would be possible.

Currently, the electric Class 801 trains have a single diesel generator. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 800 train about the Class 801 train.

These provide emergency power for limited traction and auxiliaries if the power supply from the overhead line fails.

So it looks like the difference between the powertrain of a Class 801 train and a Class 803 train, is that the Class 801 train has a diesel generator and the Class 803 train has batteries. But the diesel generator and batteries, would appear to serve the same purpose.

Surely removing diesel from a Class 801 train would ease the maintenance of the train!

Will The System Work With Third-Rail Electrification?

There are three routes that if they were electrified would probably be electrified with 750 DC third-rail electrification, as they have this electrification at one or both ends.

  • Basingstoke and Exeter
  • Marshlink Line
  • Uckfield branch

Note.

  1. Basingstoke and Exeter would need a couple of charging systems.
  2. The Marshlink line would need a charging system at Rye station.
  3. The Uckfield branch would need a charging system at Uckfield station.

I am fairly certain as an Electrical Engineer, that the third-rails would only need to be switched on, when a train is connected and needs a charge.

I also feel that on some scenic and other routes, 750 VDC third-rail electrification may be more acceptable , than 25 KVAC  overhead electrification. For example, would the heritage lobby accept overhead wires through a World Heritage Site or on top of a Grade I Listed viaduct?

I do feel that the ability to use third-rail 750 VDC third-rail electrification strategically could be a useful tool in the system.

Will The System Work With Lightweight Catenary?

I like the design of this 25 KVAC overhead electrification, that uses lightweight gantries, which use laminated wood for the overhead structure.

There is also a video.

Electrification doesn’t have to be ugly and out-of-character with the surroundings.

Isuspect that both systems could work together.

 

Would Less Bridges Need To Be Rebuilt For Electrification?

This is always a contentious issue with electrification, as rebuilding bridges causes disruption to both rail and road.

I do wonder though by the use of careful design, that it might be possible to arrange that the sections of electrification and the contentious bridges were kept apart, with the bridges arranged to be in sections, where the trains ran on batteries.

I suspect that over the years as surveyors and engineers get more experienced, better techniques will evolve to satisfy all parties.

Get this right and it could reduce the cost of electrification on some lines, that will be difficult to electrify.

How Secure Are The Containerised Systems?

Consider.

  • I was delayed in East Anglia two years ago, because someone stole the overhead wires at two in the morning.
  • Apparently, overhead wire stealing is getting increasingly common in France and other parts of Europe.

I suspect the containerised systems will need to be more secure than those used for buses, which are not in isolated locations.

Will The Containerised Charging Systems Use Energy Storage?

Consider.

  • I’ve lived in rural locations and the power grids are not as good as in urban areas.
  • Increasingly, batteries of one sort or another are being installed in rural locations to beef up local power supplies.
  • A new generation of small-footprint eco-friendly energy storage systems are being developed.

In some locations, it might be prudent for a containerised charging system to share a battery with the local area.

Will The Containerised Charging Systems Accept Electricity From Local Sources Like Solar Farms?

I ask the question, as I know at least one place on the UK network, where a line without electrification runs through a succession of solar farms.

I also know of an area, where a locally-owned co-operative is planning a solar farm, which they propose would be used to power the local main line.

Will The System Work With Class 385 Trains?

Hitachi’s Class 385 trains are closely related to the Class 80x trains, as they are all members of Hitachi’s A-Train family.

Will the Charging Systems Charge Other Manufacturers Trains?

CAF and Stadler are both proposing to introduce battery-electric trains in the UK.

I also suspect that the new breed of electric parcel trains will include a battery electric variant.

As these trains will be able to use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, I would expect, that they would be able to charge their batteries on the Hitachi ABB  charging systems.

Will The System Work With Freight Trains?

I believe that freight services will split into two.

Heavy freight will probably use powerful hydrogen-electric locomotives.

In Freightliner Secures Government Funding For Dual-Fuel Project, which is based on a Freightliner press release, I detail Freightliner’s decarbonisation strategy, which indicates that in the future they will use hydrogen-powered locomotives.

But not all freight is long and extremely heavy and I believe that a battery-electric freight locomotive will emerge for lighter duties.

There is no reason it could not be designed to be compatible with Hitachi’s charging system.

In Is This The Shape Of Freight To Come?, I talked about the plans for 100 mph parcel services based on redundant electric multiple units. Eversholt Rail Group have said they want a Last-Mile capability for their version of these trains.

Perhaps they need a battery-electric capability, so they can deliver parcels and shop supplies to the remoter parts of these islands?

Where Could Hitachi’s System Be Deployed?

This is the final paragraph from the article.

Hitachi is not committing to any routes yet, but a glance at the railway map shows clear potential for the battery/OLE-technology to be deployed on relatively lightly used rural and regional routes where it will be hard to make a case for electrification. The Cambrian Coast and Central Wales Lines would appear to be worthy candidates, and in Scotland, the West Highland Line and Far North routes are also logical areas for the system to be deployed.

In England, while shorter branch lines could simply be operated by battery trains, longer routes need an alternative. Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy interim business case recommends hydrogen trains for branch lines in Norfolk, as well as Par to Newquay and Exeter to Barnstaple. However, it is also entirely feasible to use the system on routes likely to be electrified much later in the programme, such as the Great Western main line West of Exeter, Swansea to Fishguard and parts of the Cumbrian Coast Line.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and mine would be driven by high collateral benefits and practicality.

These are my thoughts.

Long Rural Lines

The Cambrian, Central Wales (Heart Of Wales), Far North and West Highland Lines may not be connected to each other, but they form a group of rail routes with a lot of shared characteristics.

  • All are rural routes of between 100 and 200 miles.
  • All are mainly single track.
  • They carry occasional freight trains.
  • They carry quite a few tourists, who are there to sample, view or explore the countryside.
  • All trains are diesel.
  • Scotrail have been experimenting with attaching Class 153 trains to the trains on the West Highland Line to act as lounge cars and cycle storage.

Perhaps we need a long-distance rural train with the following characteristics.

  • Four or possibly five cars
  • Battery-electric power
  • Space for a dozen cycles
  • A lounge car
  • Space for a snack trolley
  • Space to provide a parcels service to remote locations.

I should also say, that I’ve used trains on routes in countries like Germany, Poland and Slovenia, where a similar train requirement exists.

Norfolk Branch Lines

Consider.

  • North of the Cambridge and Ipswich, the passenger services on the branch lines and the important commuter routes between Cambridge and Norwich and Ipswich are run by Stadler Class 755 trains, which are designed to be converted to battery-electric trains.
  • Using Hitachi chargers at Beccles, Bury St. Edmunds, Lowestoft, Thetford and Yarmouth and the existing electrification, battery-electric Class 755 trains could provide a zero-carbon train service for Norfolk and Suffolk.
  • With chargers at Dereham and March, two important new branch lines could be added and the Ipswich and Peterborough service could go hourly and zero carbon.
  • Greater Anglia have plans to use the Class 755 trains to run a London and Lowestoft service.
  • Could they be planning a London and Norwich service via Cambridge?
  • Would battery-electric trains running services over Norfolk bring in more visitors by train?

Hitachi may sell a few chargers to Greater Anglia, but I feel they have enough battery-electric trains.

Par And Newquay

The Par and Newquay Line or the Atlantic Coast Line, has been put forward as a Beeching Reversal project, which I wrote about in Beeching Reversal – Transforming The Newquay Line.

In that related post, I said the line needed the following.

  • An improved track layout.
  • An hourly service.
  • An improved Par station.
  • A rebuilt Newquay station with a second platform, so that more through trains can be run.

I do wonder, if after the line were to be improved, that a new three-car battery-electric train shuttling between Par and Newquay stations could be the icing on the cake.

Exeter And Barnstaple

The Tarka Line between Exeter and Barnstaple is one of several local and main lines radiating from Exeter St. David’s station.

  • The Avocet Line to Exmouth
  • The Great Western Main Line to Taunton, Bristol and London
  • The Great Western Main Line to Newton Abbott, Plymouth and Penzance
  • The Riviera Line to Paignton
  • The West of England Line to Salisbury, Basingstoke and London.

Note.

  1. The Dartmoor Line to Okehampton is under development.
  2. Several new stations are planned on the routes.
  3. I have already stated that Exeter could host a charging station between London and Penzance, but it could also be an electrified hub for battery-electric trains running hither and thither.

Exeter could be a city with a battery-electric metro.

Exeter And Penzance

Earlier, I said that I’d trial multiple chargers between Paddington and Penzance to prove the concept worked.

I said this.

I would class this route as medium risk, but with a high reward for the operator.

But it is also an enabling route, as it would enable the following battery-electric services.

  • London and Bodmin
  • London and Okehampton
  • London and Paignton and Torquay

It would also enable the Exeter battery-electric metro.

For these reasons, this route should be electrified using Hitachi’s discontinuous electrification.

Swansea And Fishguard

I mentioned Swansea earlier, as a station, that could be fitted with a charging system, as this would allow battery-electric trains between Paddington and Swansea via Cardiff.

Just as with Exeter, there must be scope at Swansea to add a small number of charging systems to develop a battery-electric metro based on Swansea.

Cumbrian Coast Line

This is a line that needs improvement, mainly for the tourists and employment it could and probably will bring.

These are a few distances.

  • West Coast Main Line (Carnforth) and Barrow-in-Furness – 28.1 miles
  • Barrow-in-Furness and Sellafield – 25 miles
  • Sellafield and Workington – 18 miles
  • Workington and West Coast Main Line (Carlisle) – 33 miles

Note.

  1. The West Coast Main Line is fully-electrified.
  2. I suspect that Barrow-in-Furness, Sellafield and Workington have good enough electricity supplies to support charging systems  for the Cumbrian Coast Line.
  3. The more scenic parts of the line would be left without wires.

It certainly is a line, where a good case for running battery-electric trains can be made.

Crewe And Holyhead

In High-Speed Low-Carbon Transport Between Great Britain And Ireland, I looked at zero-carbon travel between the Great Britain and Ireland.

One of the fastest routes would be a Class 805 train between Euston and Holyhead and then a fast catamaran to either Dublin or a suitable rail-connected port in the North.

  • The Class 805 trains could be made battery-electric.
  • The trains could run between Euston and Crewe at speeds of up to 140 mph under digital signalling.
  • Charging systems would probably be needed at Chester, Llandudno Junction and Holyhead.
  • The North Wales Coast Line looks to my untrained eyes, that it could support at least some 100 mph running.

I believe that a time of under three hours could be regularly achieved between London Euston and Holyhead.

Battery-electric trains on this route, would deliver the following benefits.

  • A fast low-carbon route from Birmingham, London and Manchester to the island of Ireland. if coupled with the latest fast catamarans at Holyhead.
  • Substantial reductions in journey times to and from Anglesey and the North-West corner of Wales.
  • Chester could become a hub for battery-electric trains to and from Birmingham, Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester and Shrewsbury.
  • Battery-electric trains could be used on the Conwy Valley Line.
  • It might even be possible to connect the various railways, heritage railways and tourist attractions in the area with zero-carbon shuttle buses.
  • Opening up of the disused railway across Anglesey.

The economics of this corner of Wales could be transformed.

My Priority Routes

To finish this section, I will list my preferred routes for this method of discontinuous electrification.

  • Exeter and Penzance
  • Swansea and Fishguard
  • Crewe and Holyhead

Note.

  1. Some of the trains needed for these routes have been delivered or are on order.
  2. Local battery-electric services could be developed at Chester, Exeter and Swansea by building on the initial systems.
  3. The collateral benefits could be high for Anglesey, West Wales and Devon and Cornwall.

I suspect too, that very little construction work not concerned with the installation of the charging systems will be needed.

Conclusion

Hitachi have come up with a feasible way to electrify Great Britain’s railways.

I would love to see detailed costings for the following.

  • Adding a battery pack to a Class 800 train.
  • Installing five miles of electrification supported by a containerised charging system.

They could be on the right side for the Treasury.

But whatever the costs, it does appear that the Japanese have gone native, with their version of the Great British Compromise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 9, 2021 Posted by | Design, Energy, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

H2 Green, Eversholt Rail To Jointly Develop Hydrogen Supply Solutions In The UK

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on H2 View.

Their co-operation will be for the rail industry and based on green hydrogen, produced by electrolysis.

  • H2 Green is a Scottish company, that were recently taken over by Getech,
  • Eversholt Rail Group is a rolling stock leasing company, who are also backing hydrogen trains, that will be manufactured by Alstom.

This could be the kick up the backside, that hydrogen trains need in the UK.

July 6, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen And The Anglo-Australian Trade Deal

This article on the BBC is entitled UK And Australia In First Post-Brexit Trade Deal.

I can see one very profitable result of this trade deal.

The world has a large and growing need for green hydrogen produced by renewable energy.

Australia is embracing the hydrogen economy and I have posted about Australia hydrogen developments several times.

This post is entitled H2U Eyre Peninsula Gateway Hydrogen Project Begins Largest Green Ammonia Plant and it describes how Australia will convert renewable electricity into liquid green ammonia for export to Japan.

Australia has a lot of sun and can create a lot of green hydrogen and ammonia for South East Asia.

Electrolysers need to be used to convert solar and wind electricity into hydrogen, which would be exported in tankers either as liquid hydrogen or liquid ammonia.

The largest hydrogen electrolyser factory in the world, is owned by ITM Power and is located in Sheffield/Rotherham. It has a capacity to build 1 GW of electrolysers in a year.

Looking at the electrolyser market, I can see the company needing another similar-sized factory.

Australia’s Solar Power Potential

This section in the Wikipedia entry for Solar Power In Australia is called Potential.

These are some points from the section.

  • Typically, in the winter months, a square metre of much of Australia receives 4 kWh of insolation per day.
  • Some areas in the North receive fifty percent more.
  • Australia has the potential to install 179 GW of solar power on roofs across the nation.

Australia used to curse the sun because of all the cancer it brought. Now it could make them the world’s hydrogen powerhouse!

At present ninety percent of Australia’s solar panels are made in China.

But that may not be for ever, if what I wrote in Solar To Hydrogen Efficiency Record Broken By Australian National University Researchers, turns out to lead to an alternative technology to create hydrogen.

An Anglo-Australian Hydrogen Alliance

What better possible place to build a second electrolyser factory is there, than in Australia?

  • The Australian economy can use a lot of hydrogen for transport.
  • Australia is embracing hydrogen technology.
  • Australia is well-placed to export electrolysers to their friends in South East Asia.
  • Australia has the sun to produce massive amounts of green hydrogen.

If the UK and Australia developed hydrogen together, it would be good for both countries.

  • Australia can develop massive levels of renewable electricity from solar.
  • The UK can develop massive levels of renewable electricity from wind and possibly other sources.
  • Both countries are researching the ways to create and use hydrogen.
  • Both countries could produce hydrogen for nearby economies needing large amounts of hydrogen.
  • Many UK and Australian companies operate in both countries.

But above all, we haven’t had a major fall-out with Australia since the Bodyline Tour in 1932-1933.

June 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do BP And The Germans Have A Cunning Plan For European Energy Domination?

The headline of this post may be slightly tongue in cheek, but I believe that a plan is being hatched.

Preamble

I’ll start with a preamble, where I’ll outline some of the factors behind what may be happening.

Decarbonisation

It is generally accepted by most people that there is a need to decarbonise everything we do.

And large oil companies like Shell, BP and others are starting to move in the same direction.

Hydrogen

Using hydrogen instead of fossil fuels is becoming one of the major routes to decarbonisation.

Hydrogen can be used for the following.

  • Provide power for cars, buses, trucks, trains, locomotives and ships.
  • Hydrogen can be used in steelmaking instead of coking coal.
  • As a chemical feedstock to make ammonia, fertiliser and a large range of petrochemicals.
  • I believe that hydrogen could be a viable fuel to power aircraft over thousands of miles.

Hydrogen will become the most common zero-carbon fuel.

Hydrogen  And Natural Gas

In many applications hydrogen can replace natural gas, so for large users of natural gas, hydrogen offers a route to decarbonisation.

But hydrogen can also be mixed up to a level of around twenty percent in natural gas for partial decarbonisation of applications like space heating. Most industrial uses, boilers and appliances can be made to work very successfully with this mixture.

I grew up in the 1950s with coal gas, which according to Wikipedia had this composition.

  • hydrogen 50%
  • methane 35%
  • carbon monoxide 10%
  • ethylene 5%
  • When we changed over in the 1970s, all my appliances were converted.

This is the UK government description of natural gas.

It contains primarily methane, along with small amounts of ethane, butane, pentane, and propane. Natural gas does not contain carbon monoxide. The by-products of burning natural gas are primarily carbon dioxide and water vapour. Natural gas is colourless, tasteless and odourless.

As with the conversion from coal-gas to natural gas, conversion from Natural gas to a hydrogen/natural  gas mixture and eventually to hydrogen, will be a relatively painless process.

Note that carbon monoxide is a nasty poison and is not contained in either natural gas or hydrogen.

Green Hydrogen And Electrolysis Of Water

Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced exclusively from renewable energy sources.

Typically green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water using electricity produced by hydro, solar, tidal or wind.

The largest factory building electrolysers is owned by ITM Power.

  • It is located in Rotherham.
  • The factory has the capacity to build 1 GW of electrolysers in a year.
  • Typical electrolysers have a capacity of several MW.

Ryse Hydrogen are building an electrolyser at Herne Bay, that  will consume 23 MW of solar and wind power and produce ten tonnes of hydrogen per day.

Blue Hydrogen

‘Blue hydrogen is produced through a production process where carbon dioxide is also produced then subsequently captured via carbon capture and storage. In many cases the carbon dioxide is stored in depleted gas fields, of which we have plenty in the North Sea. Over the last few years, research has been ongoing into using the carbon dioxide. Applications in horticulture and agriculture, carbon structures and sustainable aviation fuel are being developed.

Shell have also developed the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process, where the carbon is extracted from methane as carbon dioxide and then stored or used.

CO2 In Greenhouse Horticulture

This paper from The Netherlands is called CO2 In Greenhouse Horticulture.

Read it and you might believe me, when I say, we’ll eat a lot of carbon in the form of tomatoes, salads and soft fruit. We’ll also buy flowers grown in a carbon-dioxide rich atmosphere.

Hydrogen As An Energy Transfer Medium

Every kilogram of natural gas when it burns releases energy, as it does in your boiler or gas hob. So it transfers energy in the form of gas from the gas well or storage tank to your house.

Electricity can also be transferred from the power station to your house using wires instead of pipes.

Hydrogen is being put forward as a means of transferring energy over hundreds of miles.

  • Electricity is converted to hydrogen, probably using an electrolyser, which would be powered by zero-carbon electricity.
  • The hydrogen is transferred using a steel pipe.
  • At the destination, the hydrogen is either distributed to end-users, stored or used in a gas-fired power station, that has been modified to run on hydrogen, to generate electricity.

It sounds inefficient, but it has advantages.

  • Long underwater cables have energy losses.
  • Electrical connections use a lot of expensive copper.
  • Re-use of existing gas pipes is possible.
  • Oil and gas companies like BP and their contractors have been laying gas pipes on land and under water for decades.

If hydrogen has a problem as an energy transfer medium, it is that it us difficult to liquify, as this statement from Air Liquide illustrates.

Hydrogen turns into a liquid when it is cooled to a temperature below -252,87 °C. At -252.87°C and 1.013 bar, liquid hydrogen has a density of close to 71 kg/m3. At this pressure, 5 kg of hydrogen can be stored in a 75-liter tank.

To transport, larger quantities of hydrogen by ship, it is probably better to convert the hydrogen into ammonia, which is much easier to handle.

The Germans and others are experimenting with using liquid ammonia to power large ships.

Hydrogen As An Energy Storage Medium

The UK has a comprehensive National Transmission System for natural gas with large amounts of different types of storage.

This section of the Wikipedia entry is entitled Natural Gas Storage and lists ten large storage facilities in salt caverns and depleted onshore gas fields. In addition, several depleted offshore gas fields have been proposed for the storage of natural gas. Rough was used successfully for some years.

I can certainly see a network of hydrogen storage sites being developed both onshore and offshore around the UK.

Iceland

With its large amount of hydro-electric and geothermal energy, Iceland can generate much more electricity, than it needs and has been looking to export it.

The UK is probably the only country close enough to be connected to Iceland to buy some of the country’s surplus electricity.

There has been a proposal called Icelink, that would build an electrical interconnector with a capacity of around a GW between Iceland at the UK.

But the project seems to have stalled since I first heard about it on my trip to Iceland in 2014.

Could the engineering problems just be too difficult?

The Waters Around The Northern Parts Of Great Britain

Look at a map of the UK and particularly Great Britain and there is a massive area of water, which is not short of wind.

Between Norway, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, the East Coast of England, the Northern Coasts of Scotland and Iceland, there are only a few islands.

  • The Faroes
  • The Orkneys
  • The Shetlands

To be complete we probably must include hundreds of oil and gas rigs and platforms and the Dogger Bank.

  • Oil and gas companies probably know most there is to know about these waters.
  • Gas pipelines connect the production platforms to terminals at Sullom Voe and along the East Coast from St. Fergus near Aberdeen to Bacton in Norfolk.
  • Many of the oil and gas fields are coming to the end of their working lives.

I believe that all this infrastructure could be repurposed to support the offshore wind industry.

The Dutch Are Invading The Dogger Bank

The Dogger Bank sits in the middle of the North Sea.

  • It is roughly equidistant from Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK.
  • The Western part is in UK territorial waters.
  • The Eastern part is mainly in Dutch territorial waters.

On the UK part, the Dogger Bank Wind Farm is being developed.

  • The turbines will be between 78 and 180 miles from the shore.
  • It could have a capacity of up to 5 GW.
  • It would be connected to East Yorkshire or Teesside.

On their side of the Dogger Bank, the Dutch are proposing the North Sea Wind Power Hub.

  • It is a collaboration between the Dutch, Germans, and Danes.
  • There have been reports, that up to 110 GW of turbines could be installed.
  • It will be connected to the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, as well as The Netherlands.

It is also planned that the connections to the Dogger Bank will create another interconnector between the UK and the Continent.

The Shetland Islands

The Shetland Islands are the only natural islands with a large oil and gas infrastructure in the waters to the North of Great Britain.

They have a large gas and oil terminal at Sullom Voe.

  • Oil is transported to the terminal by pipelines and tanker.
  • Oil is exported by tanker.
  • Gas is imported from oil and gas fields to the West of the islands through the West of Shetland Pipeline.
  • The gas-fired Sullom Voe power station provide about 80 MW of power to the islands.

This document on the APSE web site is entitled Future Hydrogen Production In Shetland.

It describes how the Shetland Islands can decarbonise and reposition themselves in the energy industry to be a major producer of hydrogen.

It gives these two facts about carbon emissions in the Shetlands Islands and Scotland.

  • Annual per capita CO2 emissions in the Shetland Islands are 17 tonnes.
  • In Scotland they are just 5.3 tonnes.

By comparison, the UK average is 5.55 and Qatar is 37.29.

Currently, the annual local market for road, marine and domestic fuel calculated
at around £50 million.

These are the objectives of the Shetland’s plan for future hydrogen production.

  • Supply 32TWh of low carbon hydrogen annually, 12% of the expected UK total requirement, by 2050
  • Provide more than 3GW of wind generated electrical power to Shetland, the UK grid, generating green hydrogen and electrification of the offshore oil and gas sector
  • Enable all West of Shetland hydrocarbon assets to be net zero by 2030 and abate 8Mt/year CO2 by 2050
  • Generate £5bn in annual revenue by 2050 and contribute significantly to the UK Exchequer.

They also envisage removing the topsides of platforms, during decommissioning of mature East of Shetland
oil fields and repurposing them for hydrogen production using offshore wind.

That is certainly a powerful set of ambitions.

This diagram from the report shows the flow of electricity and hydrogen around the islands, terminals and platforms.

Note these points about what the Shetlanders call the Orion Project.

  1. Offshore installations are electrified.
  2. There are wind turbines on the islands
  3. Hydrogen is provided for local energy uses like transport and shipping.
  4. Oxygen is provided for the fish farms and a future space centre.
  5. There is tidal power between the islands.
  6. There are armadas of floating wind turbines to the East of the islands.
  7. Repurposed oil platforms are used to generate hydrogen.
  8. Hydrogen can be exported by pipeline to St. Fergus near Aberdeen, which is a distance of about 200 miles.
  9. Hydrogen can be exported by pipeline to Rotterdam, which is a distance of about 600 miles.
  10. Hydrogen can be exported by tanker to Rotterdam and other parts of Europe.

It looks a very comprehensive plan!

The German Problem

Germany has an energy problem.

  • It is a large energy user.
  • It has the largest production of steel in Europe.
  • It prematurely shut some nuclear power stations.
  • About a quarter of electricity in Germany comes from coal. In the UK it’s just 1.2 %.
  • It is very reliant on Russian natural gas.
  • The country also has a strong Green Party.
  • Germany needs a lot more energy to replace coal and the remaining nuclear.
  • It also needs a lot of hydrogen to decarbonise the steel and other industries.

Over the last few months, I’ve written these articles.

Germany seems to have these main objectives.

  • Increase their supply of energy.
  • Ensure a plentiful supply of hydrogen.

They appear to be going about them with a degree of enthusiasm.

BP’s Ambition To Be Net Zero By 2050

This press release from BP is entitled BP Sets Ambition For Net Zero By 2050, Fundamentally Changing Organisation To Deliver.

This is the introductory paragraph.

BP today set a new ambition to become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner, and to help the world get to net zero. The ambition is supported by ten aims

The ten aims are divided into two groups.

Five Aims To Get BP To Net Zero

These are.

  1. Net zero across BP’s operations on an absolute basis by 2050 or sooner.
  2. Net zero on carbon in BP’s oil and gas production on an absolute basis by 2050 or sooner.
  3. 50% cut in the carbon intensity of products BP sells by 2050 or sooner.
  4. Install methane measurement at all BP’s major oil and gas processing sites by 2023 and reduce methane intensity of operations by 50%.
  5. Increase the proportion of investment into non-oil and gas businesses over time.

I would assume that by gas, they mean natural gas.

Five Aims To Help The World Get To Net Zero

These are.

  1. More active advocacy for policies that support net zero, including carbon pricing.
  2. Further incentivise BP’s workforce to deliver aims and mobilise them to advocate for net zero.
  3. Set new expectations for relationships with trade associations.
  4. Aim to be recognised as a leader for transparency of reporting, including supporting the recommendations of the TCFD.
  5. Launch a new team to help countries, cities and large companies decarbonise.

This all does sound like a very sensible policy.

BP’s Partnership With EnBW

BP seemed to have formed a partnership with EnBW to develop offshore wind farms in the UK

Their first investment is described in this press release from BP, which is entitled BP Advances Offshore Wind Growth Strategy; Enters World-Class UK Sector With 3GW Of Advantaged Leases In Irish Sea.

This is the first five paragraphs.

bp and partner EnBW selected as preferred bidder for two highly-advantaged 60-year leases in UK’s first offshore wind leasing round in a decade.

Advantaged leases due to distance from shore, lower grid cost, synergies from scale, and faster cycle time.

Projects expected to meet bp’s 8-10% returns aim, delivering attractive and stable returns and integrating with trading, mobility, and other opportunities.

Annual payments expected for four years before final investment decisions and assets planned to be operational in seven years.

In the past six months bp has entered offshore wind in the UK – the world’s largest market – and the US – the world’s fastest-growing market.

Note.

  1. EnBW are Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG, who, according to Wikipedia, are the third largest utilities company in Germany.
  2. It also appears, that EnBW have developed wind farms.

BP have issued this infographic with the press release.

Note.

  1. The lease areas don’t appear to be far from the Morecambe Bay gas field.
  2. The Morecambe Bay gas field is coming to the end of its life.
  3. The Morecambe Bay gas field is connected to the Rampside gas terminal at Barrow-in-Furness.
  4. At peak production 15 % of the UK’s natural gas came from Morecambe Bay.

I just wonder, if there is a cunning plan.

Could the platforms be repurposed to act as electrical hubs for the wind turbines?

  • 3GW of electricity would produce 55 tonnes of hydrogen per day.
  • The hydrogen would be exported to the Rampside gas terminal using the existing pipelines.
  • There may be savings to be made, as HVDC links are expensive.
  • BP either has the engineering to convert the platforms or they know someone who does.
  • Would the industrial complex at Barrow-in-Furnace and the nearby Sellafield complex have a use for all that hydrogen?
  • Or would the hydrogen be used to fuel Lancashire’s buses and trucks on the M6.

It certainly looks to me, that it could be a possibility, to bring the energy ashore as hydrogen.

BP Seeking Second Wind Off Scotland

The title of this section, is the same as that of this article in The Times.

These are the first two paragraphs.

BP is preparing to bid for the rights to build wind farms off Scotland as it signals no let-up in expansion after a £900 million splurge on leases in the Irish Sea.

The London-based oil giant caused waves in February by offering record prices to enter the UK offshore wind market through a Crown Estate auction of seabed leases off England and Wales.

As I said earlier.

  • The Shetland Islands are developing themselves as a giant hydrogen factor.
  • There are pipelines connecting platforms to the Sullom Voe Terminal.
  • There are plans to convert some of the redundant platforms into hydrogen production platforms.
  • The islands will be developing ways to export the hydrogen to the South and Europe.

BP also operates the Schiehallion oil and gas field to the West of the Shetlands, which is connected to the Sullom Voe Terminal by the West of Shetland pipeline.

Could BP and EnBW be coming to the party?

They certainly won’t be arriving empty-handed.

Does BP Have Access To Storage Technology?

I ask this question because both the Morecambe Bay and Shetland leases could be built with co-located depleted gas fields and offshore electrolysers.

So could hydrogen gas be stored in the gas fields?

I think it could be a possibility and would mean that hydrogen would always be available.

Could Iceland Be Connected To Schiehallion Via A Gas Pipeline?

I estimate that Iceland and Schiehallion would be about six hundred miles.

This wouldn’t be the longest undersea gas pipeline in the world as these two are longer.

The Langeled pipeline cost £1.7 billion.

Conclusion

I think there’s more to the link-up between BP and EnBW.

I am fairly certain, that BP are thinking about converting some redundant gas platforms into hubs for wind turbine, which use the electricity to create hydrogen, which is then exported to the shore using existing gas pipelines and onshore terminals.

Could it be said, that BP will be recycling oil and gas platforms?

I feel that the answer is yes! Or at least maybe!

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind!

May 6, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Hydrogen | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ScottishPower’s Green Hydrogen Project Looks To Build UK’s Largest Electrolyser

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Current News.

This is the first paragraph.

ScottishPower has submitted a planning application for the UK’s largest electrolyser as part of the Green Hydrogen for Scotland project.

Other points from the article include, these about the electrolyser.

  • It will be built close to the Whitelee wind farm.
  • It will be 20 MW.
  • It will produce eight tonnes of green hydrogen per day.
  • The electrolyser will be built by ITM Power in Rotherham.
  • It is hoped that green hydrogen will be produced by 2030.

Other points include.

  • The windfarm will be backed up by 40MW of solar panels and a battery capable of supplying 50 MW.
  • The capacity and type of the battery is not stated.

The article finishes with a must-read section, about how hydrogen will help the UK meet its decarbonisation targets.

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plans Announced For ‘Low Carbon’ Power Stations In Lincolnshire

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Hundreds of jobs could be created after plans were announced to build two “low carbon” power stations in North Lincolnshire.

Last year, I only had one night away from home and that was in Doncaster, from where I explored North East Lincolnshire and wrote Energy In North-East Lincolnshire, where I made a few predictions.

These are my thoughts on my predictions and other points made in the BBC article.

Keadby 1

Keadby 1 is a 734 MW gas-fired power station, that was commissioned in 1996.

Keadby 2

  • Keadby 2 will be a 840 MW gas-fired power station.
  • It will be possible to add Carbon Capture and Storage technology to Keadby 2 to make the plant net-zero carbon.
  • Keadby 2 will be able to run on hydrogen.

Keadby 2 is under construction.

Keadby 3 And Keadby 4

I predicted that two new power stations would be added to the Keadby cluster.

  • When I wrote the other post, SSE were still designing Keadby 3, but had said it would be a 910 MW station.
  • This would mean that Keadby 1, Keadby 2 and Keadby 3 would have a combined capacity of 2484 MW of electricity.
  • Adding a fourth station, which I called Keadby 4, which I proposed to be the same size as Keadby 3 would give a combined capacity of 3394 MW.

This will be more than the planned capacity of the under-construction Hinckley Point C nuclear power station will be able to generate 3200 MW.

The BBC article says this about the plans for Keadby.

One plant would burn natural gas and use carbon capture technology to remove the CO2 from its emissions. The CO2 would then be transported along pipelines before being securely stored in rocks under the North Sea.

The hydrogen power station would produce “zero emissions at the point of combustion”, its developers claimed.

It looks like Keadby will have the power of a Hinckley Point nuclear station, but running on gas.

Carbon Capture And Storage

From what I read on the sseThermal web site and published in Energy In North-East Lincolnshire, it looks like Keadby 2 and Keadby 3 will use carbon capture and storage and Keadby 4 will use hydrogen.

There are plenty of depleted gas fields connected to the Easington terminal that can be used for carbon-dioxide storage.

The Zero Carbon Humber Network

The Zero Carbon Humber is going to be a gas network along the Humber, that will distribute hydrogen to large industrial users and return carbon dioxide for storage under the North Sea.

This map shows the Zero Carbon Humber pipeline layout.

Note.

  1. The orange line is a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline
  2. The black line alongside it, is a proposed hydrogen pipeline.
  3. Drax, Keadby and Saltend are power stations.
  4. Easington gas terminal is connected to around twenty gas fields in the North Sea.
  5. The terminal imports natural gas from Norway using the Langeled pipeline.
  6. The Rough field has been converted to gas storage and can hold four days supply of natural gas for the UK.

I can see this network being extended, with some of the depleted gas fields being converted into storage for natural gas, hydrogen or carbon dioxide.

Enter The Vikings

This article on The Times is entitled SSE and Equinor’s ‘Blue Hydrogen’ Power Plant Set To Be World First.

This is the introductory paragraph.

The world’s first large-scale power station to burn pure hydrogen could be built in Britain this decade by SSE and Equinor to generate enough low-carbon energy to supply more than a million homes.

This second paragraph explains the working of the production of the blue hydrogen.

The proposed power station near Scunthorpe would burn “blue hydrogen”, produced by processing natural gas and capturing and disposing of waste CO2 in a process that has low but not zero emissions. Equinor is already working on plans for a blue hydrogen production facility at Saltend in the Humber.

This may seem to some to be a wasteful process in that you use energy to produce blue hydrogen from natural gas and then use the hydrogen to generate power, but I suspect there are good reasons for the indirect route.

I believe that green hydrogen will become available from the North Sea from combined wind-turbine electrolysers being developed by Orsted and ITM Power, before the end of the decade.

Green hydrogen because it is produced by electrolysis will have less impurities than blue hydrogen.

Both will be zero-carbon fuels.

According to this document on the TNO web site, green hydrogen will be used for fuel cell applications and blue hydrogen for industrial processes.

Blue hydrogen would be able to power Keadby 2, 3 and 4.

I can see a scenario where Equinor’s blue hydrogen will reduce the price of hydrogen steelmaking and other industrial processes. It will also allow the purer and more costly green hydrogen to be reserved for transport and other fuel cell applications.

Using The Carbon Instead Of Storing

The document on the TNO web site has this surprising paragraph.

Hydrogen produced from natural gas using the so-called molten metal pyrolysis technology is called ‘turquoise hydrogen’ or ‘low carbon hydrogen’. Natural gas is passed through a molten metal that releases hydrogen gas as well as solid carbon. The latter can find a useful application in, for example, car tyres. This technology is still in the laboratory phase and it will take at least ten years for the first pilot plant to be realised.

This technical paper is entitled Methane Pyrolysis In A Molten Gallium Bubble Column Reactor For Sustainable Hydrogen Production: Proof Of Concept & Techno-Economic Assessment.

This may be a few years away, but just imagine using the carbon dioxide from power stations and industrial processes to create a synthetic rubber.

But I believe there is a better use for the carbon dioxide in the interim to cut down the amount that goes into long-term storage, which in some ways is the energy equivalent of landfill except that it isn’t in the least way toxic, as carbon-dioxide is one of the most benign substances on the planet.

Lincolnshire used to be famous for flowers. On a BBC Countryfile program a couple of weeks ago, there was a feature on the automated growing and harvesting of tulips in greenhouses.

There are references on the Internet to  of carbon dioxide being fed to flowers in greenhouses to make them better flowers.

So will be see extensive building of greenhouses on the flat lands of Lincolnshire growing not just flowers, but soft fruits and salad vegetables.

Conclusion

The plans of SSE and Equinor as laid out in The Times and the BBC could create a massive power station cluster.

  • It would be powered by natural gas and hydrogen.
  • Blue hydrogen will be produced by an efficient chemical process.
  • Green hydrogen will be produced offshore in massive farms of wind-turbine/electrolysers.
  • It would generate as much electricity as a big nuclear power station.
  • All carbon-dioxide produced would be either stored or used to create useful industrial products and food or flowers in greenhouses.

Do power stations like this hasten the end of big nuclear power stations?

Probably, until someone finds a way to turn nuclear waste into something useful.

 

April 9, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Orsted In Gigawatt-Scale Offshore Wind To Green Hydrogen Plan With Steel Giant ArcelorMittal

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Recharge.

The title says a lot and at the heart of the plan is a 1 GW electrolyser.

Now that is enormous.

Will it be made in Rotherham by ITM Power?

The article is a must read.

April 1, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen | , , , , | 4 Comments

Morocco Could Produce Up To 4% Of World’s Green Hydrogen By 2030

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Morocco World News.

This is the first paragraph.

Morocco could produce up to 4% of the global demand for green hydrogen by 2030, according to the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

They are aiming to produce 10,000 tonnes of hydrogen per year by 2025.

Wikipedia has an informative topic called Energy Policy in Morocco, which indicates the following.

  • The country has little oil and gas reserves. Although it does have some oil shale, that could be developed.
  • Wind, solar and hydro power are being developed.
  • They could install a nuclear power station East of Rabat.

It sounds, that they could have an electricity structure, that would be ideal for the production of green hydrogen.

Conclusion

Morocco could be joining an ever growing club, which includes Australia, Saudi Arabia and Spain, who will produce hydrogen for export to countries like Germany, Japan and South Korea.

March 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Green Hydrogen To Power First Zero Carbon Steel Plant

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on renews.biz.

This is the two introductory paragraphs.

A new industrial initiative, backed by EIT InnoEnergy, will build the world’s first large-scale steel production plant powered by green hydrogen, in north Sweden.

The H2 Green Steel industrial initiative, which will mobilise €2.5bn of investment, aims to deliver a project that will create a new green steel producer from inception.

These further points are made.

  • There will be downstream steel products manufacture.
  • The initiative will create 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.
  • Production could start in 2024.
  • Up to five million tonnes of steel could be produced by 2030.

The plant will be built in the Boden-Lulea area of Northern Sweden.

Note.

  1. Boden is in the North-West corner of the map.
  2. Lulea is in the South-East corner of the map.

H2 Green Steel has a web site, which explains more.

What About Scunthorpe?

Surely, the obvious location for green steel production plant in the UK would be Scunthorpe.

  • The HumberZero network can bring in hydrogen and take away any carbon dioxide.
  • The steelworks makes world-class products like railway rails.
  • It is a massive site.
  • The site has good rail access.

But there don’t seem to be any plans for hydrogen steelmaking at Scunthorpe.

Conclusion

I hope we’ve not missed the boat for hydrogen steelmaking.

  • We’ve certainly got the sites, the renewable energy and the hydrogen technology.
  • On the other hand, I can remember sensible arguments for lots of much smaller steel plants from fifty years ago, as an alternative to nationalisation of the steel industry by the Wilson Government in 1967.
  • I can also remember proposals for nuclear steelmaking.

I just wonder, if a design of hydrogen steelmaking plant could be developed, perhaps even using a small modular nuclear reactor to generate the hydrogen.

If we are going to have a steel industry in the future, we must do something radical.

February 27, 2021 Posted by | Energy, World | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sale To Linde Of World’s Largest PEM Electrolyser

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release on the ITM Power web site.

This is the first paragraph.

ITM Power, the energy storage and clean fuel company, is pleased to announce the sale to Linde of a 24MW electrolyser to be installed at the Leuna Chemical Complex in Germany.

Note.

  1. Leuna is a few miles to the West of Leipzig.
  2. As it’s green hydrogen, I would hope it’s not powered with electricity from coal.

I bet they’re pleased.

I said a similar thing, when they got funding for an 8 MW monster, that I wrote about in Funding Award to Supply An 8MW Electrolyser.

The press release says this about the electrolyser.

This new 24 megawatt electrolyzer will produce green hydrogen to supply Linde’s industrial customers through the company’s existing pipeline network. In addition, Linde will distribute liquefied green hydrogen to refueling stations and other industrial customers in the region. The total green hydrogen being produced can fuel approximately six hundred fuel cell buses driving 40 million kilometers and saving up to 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide tailpipe emissions per year.

In Can The UK Have A Capacity To Create Five GW Of Green Hydrogen?, I said the following.

Ryse Hydrogen are building the Herne Bay electrolyser.

    • It will consume 23 MW of solar and wind power.
    • It will produce ten tonnes of hydrogen per day.

This would mean that the Leuna electrolyser could be producing nearly four thousand tonnes of hydrogen per year.

Does this mean that every tonne of hydrogen saves ten tonnes of carbon dioxide tailpipe emissions?

 

February 17, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , | 1 Comment