I was expecting
Worcester Bosch Hydrogen boiler article.
RIP Cecil Duckworth
German engineering giant Bosch says it plans to invest €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion) in hydrogen technology, starting with fuel cell power modules to be used initially in trucks built by Nikola Corporation in the US. Unveiled at a Tech Day event at its HQ in Stuttgart today, Bosch's strategy hits along the entire hydrogen supply …
Sounds like it is being scuppered by the usual NIMBYism.
Wasn't the old town gas 50/50 hydrogen and carbon monoxide? Pretty lethal mix.
The heat pump industry know that they are going to get some sweet sweet govt subsidies as the prices are far too high for most people and rather than bring the price down to something sensible they are waiting for the govt to dip into its pockets.
UK town gas was a mix of methane, hydrogen and some contaminates such as water vapour. It was not in fixed proportions but varied by production methods and quality of the feedstock.
If burnt properly the products were CO2 and water but it was tricky to get complete combustion so CO was a problem, even more so if used in confined spaces.
It was not.
It was made from Coal. Where would the methane come from?
It supported balloons, therefore lighter than air, which requires H2. (See eg Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe for not the best reference on the subject)
It killed people, which requires CO, neither H2 nor Methane being effective at that.
It was made by various processes, including reacting superheated steam with the coal,
H2O +C --> H2 + CO
Gasifying coal with insufficient air to combust it fully --> CO + change
Alternating steam and air blasts.
Er, the government have been going pretty hard on backing hydrogen lately.
I don't understand why anyone could think that a hydrogen boiler is better than a heat pump. If the goal is to end dependency on gas and produce clean energy, the only way to produce hydrogen right now is via electrolysis of water. If you've already got electricity available, why not use it directly instead of losing energy by converting it to a dangerous, invisible, explosive gas ?
Because hydrogen is easier to store in larger quantities (Vs big battery banks), energy conversion losses and transmission losses are less than for stored and transmitted electricity.
Also the pipework infrastructure is already there whereas the electricity grid simply won't cope with everyone going electric for everything.
"Also the pipework infrastructure is already there whereas the electricity grid simply won't cope with everyone going electric for everything."
Except that the pipework won't contain hydrogen (rather small molecules with a tendency to embrittle metals*), and you can't add an odourant as we do for methane (because the hydrogen will leak without the odourant leaking). You'd also need to run a very high flow rate.
And the grid will cope - it's not even particularly stressed at the moment.
A heat pump will output 3+kWh of heat for every 1kWh of electricity consumed... so you're hydrogen boiler had better be at least three times more efficient than using that hydrogen in a power station (which conveniently also eliminates the need for distributing the little buggers).
We have about 10TWh natural gas storage available - or ~1 trillion m^3
If you stored hydrogen in that instead, you'd get a third of the energy stored.
* Yes, I know copper is "less susceptible", but there is an awful lot of copper piping carrying gas in the country, it doesn't need to be very sensitive.
The old cast iron pipes seemed to handle it as a 50% mixture. Started off brittle I suppose.
The current ones being put in locally are complicated plastic, two layers. They are also narrower, and run inside the old pipes.
One factor with H2, which of course gives more Joules/kg than the current natural gas, is that it flows easily and fast.
But storing it at low pressure near where it is made from spare electricity and putting it through power station turbines or diesels seems a better approach than moving it around before burning it. Except in rockets.
"Except in rockets."
And even then it's a pain to use...
Hydrogen boils at about thirty kelvin below the temperature at which oxygen freezes - so you need vast (because low density) tanks, with substantial insulation even between the various cryogenic propellants (turbo pumps and injectors tend not to like processing solid oxygen).
For final stages the specific impulse (~460s, compared with ~370s for methane) can make a big difference though.
If SpaceX can get Starship and tankers working well... that would devalue (not eliminate) that ultimate efficiency advantage.
re- the electricity grid simply won't cope with everyone going electric for everything.
(as proposed by a Canadian Physics professor 15-20 years ago, at a "well known" Canadian University)
In Quebec, the great Manicuagan dam, about 800KM from Montreal, supplies much of Montreal's electricity, as well as selling excess to New York and Vermont,etc.
And still lots of power that can be tapped.
This professor proposed (prefessed?) to add extra conduits to the dam to carry more energy to the cities of the northeast of the continent.
These conduits would be pipes, and they would carry not electricity, but HYDROGEN, which would be made by electrolysis, at the dam's generators.
The Hydrogen would then be converted into electricity at the remote ends in the cities.
This would be much cleaner and safer than those old-fashioned copper and aluminum wire containing dangerous high-voltage electricity.
I heard interviews with him on the CBC about 15 years ago.
Gee... sounds GREAT! He is a genius!.
Remember- he is (or perhaps was) a highly esteemed PhD professor at a major Canadian University. (I have forgotten its (or his) name. Thankfully.
He must have had tenure.
re- Er, the government have been going pretty hard on backing hydrogen lately.
uh.. they are politicians. You are in a "democracy". Replete with "freedom" (enough said about this word. Ask an American to explain it to you.)
And politicians know what to tell the ladies (51% of voters) -:
"Hydrogen is CLEAN! It is the most abundant element in the universe!"
"And we can make it from SEAWATER!"
And it's groovy. It's been groovy for the last 25-30 years... So.
"Vote FOR ME, ladies!"
As your MP calculates his chances of getting a great government pension/sinecure before he's voted out of office.
The chances look good,
Welcome to " DEMOCRACY-101"
One of the problems with trying to do it is that, if the hydrogen is supplied centrally, all the current gas pipes would need to be replaced because the hydrogen would leak out of them..
I seem to remember that Honda had a demo home hydrogen generation unit - it used solar power to crack the water and stored it in a tank in the unit. The hydrogen could then be used to fuel a car or generate electricity for the home (kind of like a battery system - the H gets generated during the day and then is used during the night to generate power.).
There's an older version of it that cracks natural gas but I think they will probably want to replace that with one that cracks water.
Indeed - you have gotta watch out for the weakest link!
You mentioned copper piping - is this not "hydrogen safe"? If not then it will be a MASSIVE job to replace it all (as well as being quite expensive)!
My house also has some lead piping for gas - dunno how good that will be for hydrogen?
re- ...copper pipework, much of it very difficult to replace.
Just call some of those new boat-arrivals from the Mediterranean. Supply them with crowbars, hammers and similar tools, and they will get the job done quite quickly.
But, you must promise them that they get to keep the copper piping.
Sorry- you will have to be responsible for installing the new pipes.
...higher energy density of hydrogen...
Only if you compare by mass, if you compare by volume hydrogen is pretty crappy.
1kg of H2 gives 120Mj, 1kg of methane yields around 50Mj but 1kg of hydrogen occupies about 15 litres while the 2.4kg of methane needed to get the same 120Mj takes up 4.2 litres. So by volume methane is around 3 times more energy dense than hydrogen and you don't need fancy cryogenic confinement to store it.
Using fossil methane is a big no-no but making methane from energy, water and atmospheric CO2 or captured CO2 should of similar efficiency as hydrogen production from energy and water.
I can see hydrogen being useful where volume is not a problem such as static installations and perhaps shipping but otherwise the problems are probably going to outweigh the benefits.
making methane from energy, water and atmospheric CO2 or captured CO2 should [be] of similar efficiency as hydrogen production from energy and water
Whilst I agree synthetic methane is the way to go, its's worth mentioning that all of the sensible production routes use hydrogen as a reactant so methane is inherently less efficient to produce. The efficiency gets balanced by transportation and storage costs as hydrogen is very costly to transport other than by pipeline. This is very important as it only makes sense to manufacture the methane in places where electrical energy is cheap and abundant. i.e. don't even dream about using solar power in the UK in winter.
*Not even* if you compare by mass. The mass you’ve got to drag around, compared to battery-electric, is “hydrogen + tank + fuel cell”. To have an apples-to-apples comparison of “the point where the electricity comes out, to go into the electric motors”.We have one actually operating practical example: a Toyota Mirai, is a perfectly ok hydrogen car example. 5kg hydrogen + 88kg tank + 50 kg fuel cell. The “energy density” of hydrogen is only 3.5% of the value it’s proponents like to quote. It gets a little better at truck scale, but only a little. Hyundai truck is 33kg hydrogen + 300kg + 120kg fuel cell, ie 7% energy density.
Hydrogen is just the worst working-fluid for a fuel-cell drive you could pick. I like to look at hydrogen as the special case of the hydrocarbon which happens to have zero carbons, and draw the graph of efficiency/cost against number of carbons. Synthetic methane is much lower cost/mass than hydrogen, ethane is better again, propane (LPG) better still. Yes, you know where this is going. If you had to pick the most optimal synthetic alkane, it’s anything around 4-10 carbons. Petrol, basically. Pick hexane if you want a single pure compound, but there’s really no need to, a fuel cell can work just fine on the mixture present in standard petrol. The only thing actually required for the Green economy, is to make synthetic hydrocarbon off-site using renewable energy. The fuel working fluid is a total red herring.
Fuel cells have the potential to replace internal combustion as a much more efficient and less polluting way of turning fuels into energy.
If you need to travel far, then there is basically no way around fuel cells.
As things stand, fuel cells capable of using anything but hydrogen still need a lot of development in order to become viable in mobile applications.
On-Board steam reformation of ethanol, methanol or DME suffers from the low gravimetric energy densities of these fuels, and have issues with cell lifespan.
Solid Oxide Fuelcells capable of running on methane, LNG as well as a number of the currently available liquid hydrocarbons struggle around 30% efficiency, and tend to be very heavy (high temperatures tend to require the use of a lot of stainless steel).
Ammonia, as mentioned by others below, does have potential but it comes with it's own issues with regards to handling.
Mature hydrogen fuel cells exist today. the infrastructure for re-fueling has been developed. Storage is an understood science, which still has room for improvement.
F-cells will not beat BEVs for your daily commute anytime soon... But when it comes to vehicles that have to earn money by moving all day, hydrogen fuel cells will be hard to overlook in the coming decades..
This is chop-logic:
Here is Technology A: Currently it’s inefficient, expensive, and thermodynamics says the theoretical best is still a relatively crap engineering solution. However, I like it, it’s pretty. Please subsidise me tens of billions to improve it a bit
Here is Technology B: Currently it’s operating in the market at good efficiency, it’s well-understood. Engineers have a long track record of improving efficiency at a few % per decade. However, Imhate.mits ugly. Please stop investing in it, it’s the Past. And if you don’t do what I say, I’ll vandalise your stuff and superglue myself to bridges.
“Solid Oxide Fuelcells capable of running on methane, LNG…….struggle around 30% efficiency, and tend to be very heavy, high temperatures tend to require the use of a lot of stainless steel”
I have a Proof of Concept that fuel-cell oxidation of hydrocarbons, to electron flow, can reach near thermodynamic theoretical limit. At room temperature. Without the use of heavy stainless steel, in fact with very low cost using no rare metals or elements. It’s a coffee cup stood in front of me, growing mould.
Oh *now* “Mature hydrogen fuel cells exist today. the infrastructure for re-fueling has been developed.” Is that right? That’s pure hydrogen subsidy shilling. If hydrogen is so great, I assume you agree that hydrogen needs no (more) subsidy, and the free market car industry can sort it out on its own? Making a massive profit on the way? Right?
"I have a Proof of Concept that fuel-cell oxidation of hydrocarbons, to electron flow, can reach near thermodynamic theoretical limit. At room temperature. Without the use of heavy stainless steel, in fact with very low cost using no rare metals or elements. It’s a coffee cup stood in front of me, growing mould."
What ARE you trying to say with this sentence?
I'm not sure which your technology list are, but it is worth remarking frequently that nice though efficiency is, this isn't about efficiency, this is about what we have been doing not being something we can carry on doing, and should have started (planning) winding down in 1974.
Nonsense. I’m not disputing we need to transition from fossil fuel. But that has absolutely zero relationship to the working fluid of vehicles - synthetic hexane or LPG is not a fossil fuel. The vehicle engine technology is a complete red herring. Whether it’s batteries, or fuel cells or anything else is completely orthogonal from a CO2 Global Warming Perspective.
If you want to stop emitting net CO2, your *first* priority is to bootstrap the Renewable -> Synthetic Hydrocarbon industry at the power plant. That is sufficient to achieve Net Zero, on its own. Nothing else is required. If you have time, and R&D money left over (here’s a clue: you don’t have either), have a *second* priority to improve the efficiency of the vehicle. That’s fine, it’s always a laudable aim. But it’s nothing to do with Net Zero.
The vehicle efficiency could be improved by changing Internal Combustion to hydrocarbon fuel cell without a massive rip-and-replace of infrastructure, and can be done piecewise. Or, if you fancy, make them battery-driven, I don’t care. That might be nice too. You know what? One promising battery technology that can be recharged in under a minute, with high energy density, is called a “flow battery”. Look it up. When you’re done, tell me how a “flow battery” differs from synthetic hydrocarbon tank + fuel cell, other than semantics.
But, we’ve spent hundreds of billions on the vehicle tech, via vehicle subsidies, and none at all on the Renewable->Infrastructure tech, which is the only bit in the equation that actually changes the Net CO2.
Those vehicles are not allowed to move all day!
Rest stops are mandatory.
And the truck is likely to recharge about as fast as the driver.
They also have to stop to be loaded - at which point plugging them in can use less time than taking them to a pump, and when they are being unloaded.
I also wonder if we shall see battery pack swaps for trucks, where it doesn't seem to be popular for cars.
"I also wonder if we shall see battery pack swaps for trucks, where it doesn't seem to be popular for cars."
We already do see that, there is a company in Australia which is doing electric conversions with replaceable (with a forklift) packs. Which is great for "shuttle" style journeys, since you can leave a pack at each end charging slowly. It also means that they don't need to build whole trucks, there are lots of working chassis already out there.
That depends; hydrogen comes in three 'colours': GREEN, BLUE and GREY
GREEN: made by using only renewable energy to run electrolysis cells, so the only 'waste' product is oxygen, which can be used for medical or industrial purposes.
BLUE: made by reforming methane and/or coal with the carbon and other waste products captured and stored permanently so that they can never re-enter the biosphere. Think waste repositories as secure and long lasting as you would need for radioactive waste management. Putting the waste products back into exhausted oil wells and coal mines isn't nearly good enough: they need to be as securely buried as they were before we came along and dug up the raw materials that the BLUE hydrogen was extracted from.
GREY: Any process that generates hydrogen and emits the resulting waste products into the earth's biosphere: in other words, Business As Usual until the present.
Some hair-splitters subdivide BLUE into TURQUOISE (methane pyrolysis with solid carbon as the waste product), PINK (think GREEN but with nuclear power driving the electrolysis cells rather than solar or wind energy), while others reserve YELLOW for solar powered electrolysis.
Currently 95% of all commercially available hydrogen is GREY. Numbers for splitting the remaining 5% of hydrogen production between BLUE and GREEN production methods don't seem to be easily available.
-- so the only 'waste' product is oxygen, which can be used for medical or industrial purposes. --
I don't have any figures but I'd guess the amount of hydrogen needed to fuel the global vehicle fleet would generate far more "waste product" than medical or industrial purposes would use up. I would also note that an oxygen rich atmosphere is great for fires.
Kim Stanley Robinson, who seems to usually get his science right, hangs a plot point in his Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy on a claim that a living human becomes inflammable once the atmospheric oxygen content is around 40-45%.
If that's right, and I'm feeling too lazy to check it ATM, then making GREEN hydrogen by electrolysing water and releasing any unwanted oxygen into the atmosphere would become a serious problem if that should double the atmospheric O2 content.
Hydrogen is a bit tricky to use in vehicles because storage has a bulk/complexity trade-off. Since Bosch is working on both ends of the hydrogen flow, solar storage might make more sense. If you have room for lots of solar panels, you can probably have lots of low pressure hydrogen tanks too.
One thing I can't find in a quick search is hydrogen gas as an atmospheric pollutant. There might be some unforseen impact if boil-off leaks become as common as parked cars and trucks.
But what a PITA
It takes roughly 3x the energy it stores to either hold it as a gas (at 5000psi, which under USAF range safety rules qualifies the tanks as a "several lbs of TNT" equivalent) or store it as a liquid at -253c
It's very good at diffusing through pipes (and the US
methane natural gas industry will admit to loosing 2% of the gas it carries already)
one interesting option however. In the late 70s/early 80 the fusion crowd looked at making "microballoons" with internal pressures of 80-200atm.
turned out Iron doped hollow glass spheres, when exposed to IR could have their diffusion rates raised 100x, making loading them potentially very fast, either inside a vevehicle tank or at a loading station with the beads.
But for practical usage engineers prefer Ammonia (which also burns without releasing CO2) stores around -30c or less thant 40atms of storage. Work has been done on such fuel cells since the 60s, but mostly around the hydrazines, which are very toxic.
I does not take 3x the energy it stores.
It Actually takes 75% of the energy it stores.
Which is not great, but it results in about the same overall source->wheels efficiency as a basic petrol car achieves.
Which have been perfectly workable for the last 100 years or so.
Efficiency is not per se a show stopper.
And both looking at their pension access. Coming SOON, to a bank near you!
So ithis nonsense will be ready by 203x.? um, what? 2030? 2035? 2038?
"NO! 2026! We guarantee it!"
"Don't worry, Bob. We shall both be retired by then, with a juicy pension!"
Taught in MBA Economics-101.
And the techies will be left holding the bag. I saw it all in the '80s, the '90s and the Oh-Oh's.
Putin knows how to fix these shenanigers...
There is currently no way to produce green hydrogen at scale.
Fire safety officers may soon be blocking the widespread use of large lithium cells as a fire risk.
Heat pumps are wildly expensive, total cost could be £15-20k in a domestic property, more as inflation increases, they are not viable for many UK homes (size, noise, concrete) and they don't work that well.
Post Brexit the UK doesn't have the staff to harvest vegetables, let alone roll out new energy infrastructure at the point of use.
We need more solar farms and turbines asap, because (without a major technological breakthrough that is freely shared), they may be the only alternative that actually works and can be delivered.