The Anonymous Widower

Hydrogen Is A Trillion Dollar Bet On The Future

The title says it all on this article on Bloomberg.

Read it!

Strangely, it doesn’t mention the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process, that I wrote about in Shell Process To Make Blue Hydrogen Production Affordable.

December 2, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , | Leave a comment

Shell Process To Make Blue Hydrogen Production Affordable

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Shell Catalysts and Technologies is launching the Shell Blue Hydrogen Process, which integrates proven technologies to increase significantly the affordability of greenfield projects for “blue” hydrogen production from natural gas along with carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS).

Note.

  1. Grey hydrogen is generally defined as hydrogen produced from natural gas, by a process like steam-reforming.
  2. Blue hydrogen is generally defined as hydrogen produced from natural gas, where the carbon is captured and stored, instead of being released into the atmosphere.
  3. Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced by electrolysis using renewable energy.
  4. Shell are claiming, that with carbon dioxide costing $25-35/tonne, that their process is more economic than grey or green hydrogen.
  5. Steam reforming also needs steam, but this new process actually generates steam as a by-product, which further improves the economics, as integrated chemical plants use a lot of steam.
  6. Shell are reporting capturing 99% of the carbon.
  7. It looks like savings of between 10 and 25 % are possible.

Shell have made a big technological breakthrough, as it will allow natural gas to be converted direct to hydrogen without contributing to global warming.

 

November 22, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , | 3 Comments

Microwaves Could Turn Plastic Waste Into Hydrogen Fuel

This headline from this article in The Times could be the headline of the day!

Although thinking about it, it wouldn’t be a good idea to put all your plastic waste in the microwave and switch it on. It might catch fire or even worse create lots of hydrogen in your kitchen, which could be followed by a mini-Hindenburg disaster in the kitchen.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

From the yellowed bottles in landfill to the jellyfish-like bags clogging the oceans, plastics pollution is an apparently intractable problem.

Yet, chemists lament, it shouldn’t be. Within this waste there is something extremely useful, if only we could access it: hydrogen. Now a British team of scientists believes it has found a way to get at it, and do so cheaply, thanks to tiny particles of iron and microwaves.

If their system works at scale they hope it could be a way of cheaply converting useless plastic into hydrogen fuel and carbon.

Don’t we all want to believe that this impossible dream could come true?

Some Background Information

Some of the things I talk  about will be technical, so I will have a bit of a preamble.

Hydrogen; Handling And Uses

Because of pre-World War Two airships, which tended to catch fire and/or crash, hydrogen has a bad reputation.

I used to work as an instrument engineer in a hydrogen plant around 1970. To the best of my knowledge the plant I worked  in is still producing  hydrogen in the same large building at Runcorn.

Hydrogen is one of those substances, that if you handle with care, it can be one of the most useful elements in the world.

It is a fuel that burns creating a lot of energy.

The only by-product of hydrogen combustion is steam.

It is one of the feedstocks for making all types of chemicals like ethylene, fertilisers, ammonia, pharmaceuticals and a wide range of hydrocarbons.

Hydrogen is a constituent of natural gas and in my youth, it was a constituent of town gas.

Hydrogen and hydrocarbons are involved in the manufacture of a lot of plastics.

In the future, hydrogen will have even more uses like making steel and cement, and powering railway trains and locomotives, and shipping of all sizes.

Hydrocarbons

According to Wikipedia, hydrocarbons are compounds consisting entirely of atoms of hydrogen and carbon.

In a kitchen, there are several hydrocarbons.

  • If you cook by gas, you will probably be burning natural gas, which is mainly methane, which is a hydrocarbon
  • Some might use propane on a barbecue, which is another hydrocarbon.
  • I suspect you have some polythene or polyethylene, to use the correct name, in your kitchen. This common plastic is chains of ethylene molecules. Ethylene is another hydrocarbon.
  • There will also be some polypropylene, which as the name suggests is made from another hydrocarbon; propylene.

Hydrocarbons are everywhere

Plastics

I used to work in two ICI divisions; Mond at Runcorn and Plastics at Welwyn Garden City

  • The forerunners of ICI Mond Division invented polyethylene and when I worked at Runcorn, I shared an office, with one of the guys, who had been involved before the Second World War. in the development of polyethylene.
  • Plastics Division used to make several plastics and I was involved in various aspects of research plant design and production.

One day, I’ll post in this blog, some of the more interesting and funnier stories.

Many plastics are made by joining together long chains of their constituent molecules or monomer.

  • Ethylene is the monomer for polyethylene.
  • Propylene is the monomer for polypropylene.
  • Vinyl chloride is the monomer for polyvinylchloride or PVC.

So how are the chains of molecules built?

  • Polyethylene was made by ICI. by applying large amounts of pressure to ethylene gas in the presence of a catalyst.
  • They used to make polypropylene in large reaction vessels filled with oil, using another catalyst.

I suspect both processes use large quantities of energy.

Catalysts

catalyst is a substance which increases the rate of a chemical reaction.

Judging by the number of times, I find new catalysts being involved in chemical reactions, the following could be true.

  • There are processes, where better catalysts can improve yields in the production of useful chemicals.
  • There is a lot of catalyst research going on.

Much of this research in the UK, appears to be going on at Oxford University. And successfully to boot!

Velocys

It should be noted that Velocys was spun out of Oxford University, a few years ago.

This infographic shows their process.

This could be a route to net-zero carbon aviation and heavy haulage.

The beauty is that there would need to be little modification to existing aircraft and trucks.

Oxford University’s Magic Process

These paragraphs from The Times article explain their process.

The clue came in research on particles of iron, and what happens when they get really small. “There’s a fascinating problem,” Professor Edwards said. “You take a bit of metal, and you break it into smaller and smaller bits. At what stage does it stop behaving like a copy of the bigger bit?”

When the particle gets below a critical size, it turns out it’s no longer a metal in the standard sense. The electrical conductivity plummets, and its ability to absorb microwaves does the reverse, increasing by ten orders of magnitude.

Professor Edwards realised that this could be useful. “When you turn on the microwaves, these things become little hotspots of heat,” he said. When he put them in a mix of milled-up plastic, he found that they broke the bonds between the hydrogen and carbon, without the expense and mess of also heating up the plastic itself.

What is left is hydrogen gas, which can be used for fuel, and lumps of carbon nanotubes, which Professor Edwards hopes might be of a high enough grade to have a use as well. The next stage is to work with industry to find ways to scale it up.

It sounds rather amazing.

Going Large!

This article from The Times on Friday, is entitled Plastic To Be Saved From Landfill By Revolutionary Recycling Plants.

These are the two introductory paragraphs.

Thousands of tonnes of plastic waste will be turned into new plastic in Britain rather than dumped in landfill sites, incinerated or sent overseas under plans for four new plants that will use cutting-edge recycling technology.

Up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic a year will be chemically transformed in the facilities, which are to be built in Teesside, the West Midlands and Perth.

It all sounds like technology, that can transform our use of plastics.

Conclusion

In the years since I left Liverpool University in 1968 with a degree in Electrical and control Engineering, it has sometimes seemed to me, that chemistry has been a partly neglected science.

It now seems to be coming to the fore strongly.

 

October 19, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Humber Highlighted As Prime Location For Sustainable Aviation Fuel Cluster

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

Points to note from the article.

  • Development of a waste-to-aviation biofuel plant on Humberside could be a £219 million annual boost to the economy and create 1500 jobs.
  • There is a pipeline to Heathrow from the Humber.
  • Velocys is backed by British Airways and Shell, and the UK government.
  • Not bad for an Oxford University spin-off of an updated process that produced diesel for the Nazis and apartheid South Africa.
  • Other potential sustainable aviation fuel clusters have been identified including Teesside, the North West, South Wales, Hampshire, St Fergus and Grangemouth.

Velocys is a share to watch!

Other Thoughts

I feel the following could happen.

  • Velocys will make a large hole in the need for landfill capacity.
  • Other old chemical and refinery processes will be updated using new catalyst technology, from universities like Oxford.

But will British Airways be accused of rubbish flights in the tabloids?

 

October 13, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Floating Wind Swells, Hydrogen On A High And Here Comes The 150-Hour ‘Aqueous Air’ Battery

The title of this post is the same as that of this weekly summary on Recharge.

There are three major stories.

Floating Wind Turbines

A lot more floating wind turbines are under development, by the French, Swedes, South Africans and Japanese.

I do wonder, if these structures have borrowed the work done in Cambridge by Balaena Structures, for which I did the calculations, as I wrote about in The Balaena Lives.

From what I remember of my calculations fifty years ago, I suspect these floating turbines can be massive and places, in areas, where the winds are really strong.

I also believe that some could have built-in hydrogen generators and could be placed over depleted gas fields and connected to the existing gas pipes.

Hydrogen

The article describes how oil giants; BP and Shell are moving towards hydrogen.

Battery Storage

They also talk about Form Energy and their mysterious ‘aqueous air battery, which Recharge covered earlier. I discussed that article in The Mysterious 150-hour Battery That Can Guarantee Renewables Output During Extreme Weather.

Conclusion

This article is a must-read.

Recharge is also a site to follow, if you are interested in the developments in renewable energy.

May 18, 2020 Posted by | World | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proudly South African Hydrogen Breakthrough With Shell’s Backing

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly.

This is the introductory paragraph.

At this time of huge coronavirus uncertainty, the chests of a group of engineers here must surely be bulging with pride following their major Proudly South African world breakthrough that could speed up the global deployment of hydrogen as a competitive universal and environment-friendly energy carrier.

I think it got a bit jumbled in the typing.

Reading the article it does seem that various developments are coming together in South Africa.

  • A much simple electrolyser to produce hydrogen.
  • South Africa’s platinum for catalysts.
  • Large amounts of renewable energy.

The aim is to produce hydrogen at a comparable price with petrol.

This paragraph stands out.

South Africa has the combined solar and wind potential to produce competitive hydrogen, which can meet the world’s new environmental requirements.

The article talks about exporting hydrogen to Japan.

Conclusion

South Africa is a country that needs all the good news it can get.

This looks like it could be some of the best.

But how many other hot countries can take advantage of what looks like a breakthrough in the electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen for a fuel?

March 31, 2020 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

World’s Largest Green Hydrogen Plant Begins Operation In Austria

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

This is the subtitle, which says it all.

The 6MW facility in Linz, running Siemens electrolysers, will provide clean H2 for steel production.

Steel-making is a large source of carbon-dioxide emissions and this is said about how hydrogen can be used in the process.

In light of global climate targets, Voestalpine is currently investigating the practicality of a hybrid technology to bridge between the existing coke/coal-based blast furnace route and electric arc furnaces powered with green electricity partly generated using green hydrogen,” says Voestalpine. “If economically feasible, from today’s perspective this option would reduce the group’s CO2 emissions by around a third sometime between 2030 and 2035.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see steel-makers beat that target, especially as renewable energy production and hydrogen electrolyser capacity increases.

The article also details two other large green hydrogen production electrolysers.

A 10MW PEM electrolysis plant, REFHYNE, is under construction at Shell’s Rheinland refinery in Wesseling, Germany, and is due to be completed in the second half of 2020, while a 30MW pilot — part of a 700MW project — is expected to be up and running in northwest Germany by 2025.

There’s more about REFHYNE on their web site.

This is the introduction on the web site.

The REFHYNE project is at the forefront of the effort to supply Clean Refinery Hydrogen for Europe. The project is funded by the European Commission’s Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and will install and operate the world’s largest hydrogen electrolyser the Shell Rhineland Refinery in Wesseling, Germany.

The plant will be operated by Shell and manufactured by ITM Power. The electrolyser has a peak capacity of 10 MW (megawatts) and will be able to produce approximately 1,300 tonnes of hydrogen per year. This decarbonised hydrogen can be fully integrated into refinery processes including the desulphurisation of conventional fuels

Hydrogen is coming.

It could be coming in a big way to the UK, as we have the capability to generate gigawatts of off-shore wind power and ITM Power have the world’s largest PEM electrolyser factory in  Rotherham.

 

 

February 1, 2020 Posted by | World | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delivering Hydrogen For Vehicles

In Friday’s copy of The Times, there is an article entitled Hydrogen Lifts Off: An Old Fuel Showing New Promise.

The article talks about Shell’s plans to create a network of filling stations for hydrogen-powered vehicles.

This is a paragraph.

A potential alternative is electrolysis, the method that Shell’s partner ITM Power is using to produce hydrogen at the Gatwick site. There, in a yard behind the refuelling pump, temporary buildings house equipment that purify tap water and convert AC electricity from the grid to DC current. This is used to split the water through electrolysis into hydrogen and harmless waste oxygen, which is vented out.

Note.

  1. Electrolysis is an alternative to the use of steam reforming of methane, which produces a lot of carbon dioxide.
  2. If the electricity is from renewables like solar, wind or tidal, then the hydrogen produced can be considered green.
  3. They is also a quote from Shell, which says that as renewable power gets cheaper and electrolysis more efficient, this will be the standard way to produce hydrogen.

It does seem to me that we could see hydrogen stations all over the place, as each is stand-alone and only needs tap water, an electricity feed and customers.

Who is iTM Power?

iTM Power are a company based in Sheffield.

Read more about them on their Wikipedia entry or their web site.

They claim to have the world’s largest PEM electrolyser factory.

They are also developing a network of hydrogen filling stations.

Currently opened include.

  • Beaconsfield Services Hydrogen Station
  • Gatwick Refuelling Station
  • Rainham Solar Hydrogen Station, Essex
  • Rotherham Wind Hydrogen Station
  • Shell Cobham Services Hydrogen Station
  • Swindon Hydrogen Station
  • Teddington Hydrogen Station

And these are currently planned.

  • Birmingham Bus
  • Birmingham Passenger Vehicle
  • Pau Bus, France

Note.

  1. Some as you can see are to support hydrogen buses.
  2. Some are powered directly by renewable electricity.
  3. Birmingham’s two stations are co-located.
  4. Two; Beaconsfield and Cobham are at motorway service areas.
  5. Pau is probably  to support the hydrogen-powered busway that is being created in the town. There is more on that in this article on rfi, which is entitled Amid Transport Chaos, France Rolls Out World-First Hydrogen Bus Fleet.

It’s looks to me that iTM are working to a sensible plan.

  • They can supply a system for a range of purposes.
  • They can be placed on fairly small sites.
  • They don’t need connection to a hydrogen grid.
  • Is it sensible to put one in for a fleet of buses, trucks or vans first?
  • Systems for buses and other vehicles can be co-located.

I can see in a few years, that everyone will be within sensible reach of a hydrogen filling station.

As the range of a hydrogen-powered car is in the hundreds of miles. it looks to me that the range anxiety of battery vehicles will be overcome.

I don’t drive or have a car, but if I needed one, I’d buy hydrogen over battery, when there was a filling station in my part of London.

 

January 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 5 Comments