2020: Clean Hydrogen Developments

Hydrogen Futures?

Both Korea and the Netherlands have big plans for hydrogen power. This month both country’s plans and developments are considered. Hydrogen could be used in the gas mix for home heating, for industry or for transport fuel. Hydrogen, when burnt as a fuel, emits water vapour.

In the Netherlands, there are two ambitious projects that are planning to generate hydrogen from wind power being developed this year. Feasibility studies into using North Sea wind farms to power electrolysers in Eemshaven and off the coast of Holland aim to demonstrate new technologies. These technologies will take water and using electrolysis create hydrogen using renewable energy to provide the electricity needed in the process. The results should be clean hydrogen power created from renewable electricity generated by the wind.

Holland’s Innovative Offshore Wind Power Plans

Shell, a major oil company, is in a joint venture investing in a huge pioneering new subsidy free off-shore renewable energy supply for The Netherlands. It is being developed by The CrossWind consortium which is a joint venture between Shell and Eneco. The wind farm is being developed at Hollandse Kust (noord). It aims to meet the objectives of the Dutch Climate Accord and the European Union’s Green Deal.

Hollandse Kust (noord) should be operational in 2023. It will have an installed capacity of 759 megaWatts and should generate at least 3.3 terawatt-hours (TWh) each year. This is enough renewable power to supply more than 1 million households with electric power. The wind farm will be 18.5 kilometres off the coast of The Netherlands near the town of Egmond aan Zee.

This project provides a new approach to the challenges of intermittent electricity production. Wind power creates peaks in production when it is windy and troughs when the wind is not blowing. New technologies are needed to manage the intermittent supply of power. This wind farm is demonstrating five new technologies, some will help to manage the intermittent nature of wind power. The five technologies include:

  1. a floating solar park
  2. short-term battery storage
  3. turbines that are optimally tuned to the network to minimise the negative ‘wake’-effects that wind turbines have on each other
  4. hydrogen, or “green hydrogen’ produced by electrolysis as a further storage technique
  5. the combination of these individual measures to provide a continuous power supply regardless of the wind

These aim to provide a fully resilient wind powered system. Different techniques are being combined to provide innovative ways to support the transition to clean energy systems across Europe. Universities and scientific institutions will collaborate with the joint venture to develop further technical innovations. This knowledge will be shared to improve energy storage from intermittent wind powered electricity sources. This will be the first offshore wind farm focused on system integration.

This project supports Shell’s goal of becoming a net-zero emission energy business by 2050 or sooner. It will help the company move from fossil fuels and pioneer new clean power solutions. The project will assist with ambitions to use wind to create clean hydrogen using electrolysis.

Details of the project can be found on the Shell web site and on this Reuters article.

There are plans to build a green hydrogen plant in Rotterdam and with NortH2 in the north of the Netherlands as shown below.

Hydrogen From Water

Also in The Netherlands at Eemshaven, the NortH2 group with Dutch gas grid operator Gasunie and the port authority Groningen Seaports, aim to be the first to transport “green” hydrogen to industrial customers by 2027. Green hydrogen is extracted using electrolysis with clean energy used in the process.

There are plans to have 3-4GW of new offshore wind capacity dedicated to green hydrogen production by 2030. This would be scaled up to 10GW of off-shore wind powering around 4GW of electrolysis by 2040. The project could produce up to 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen annually by 2040. If used to substitute use of fossil fuels there could be emission reductions of around seven megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). Further details are on the wind power web site

Korea’s Hydrogen Future

South Korea is on a journey to a low-carbon future with a hydrogen based economy. The government sees hydrogen as a new engine for economic growth which will be central to its long-term future. In 2019, President Moon Jae-in announced the government’s determination to build a hydrogen economy. A roadmap for the country aims to produce 6.2 million units of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and build 1,200 hydrogen refuelling stations by 2040. Mobility and fuel provision are two main areas of focus for the new economy.

By 2022 Korea aims to have around 80,000 hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles on the roads. To fuel these new vehicles there will be around 300 hydrogen stations. The Korea Energy Economics Institute suggests the size of the hydrogen industry in Korea is currently worth $12bn. By 2030 it is likely to almost double to around $21.3bn. There are plans to change the economics of the price of hydrogen: the current price of hydrogen at the country’s refuelling stations is between $5.7 and $7.1 per kilo. The government wants this to be around $4.8 per kilo by 2022 with the cost falling further to $2.4 per kilo by 2040. Currently the high cost of transporting hydrogen is being subsidised locally and is loss making.

There is a massive stimulus package from the government: the New Deal. There is also a Green New Deal that has $47bn public capital allocated. Of this money around 36% of it, $17bn, will be used for hydrogen mobility projects. The government has allocated subsidies of $462m for fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure for this year (2020). Further subsidies for fuel cell buses come into force in 2022: this is expected to be reduce the price of a kilo of hydrogen fuel by $2.9.

In 2019 hydrogen for mobility was around 50,000 tons but hydrogen production is likely to increase to 5.2m tons by 2040. Fuel provision has the benefit of new regulations requiring large office owners to source at least 30% of total electricity from a renewable source. Space constraints in Korea benefits fuel cells instead of solar or wind installations. Technology such as solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology can benefit residential, commercial and utility spaces. Further insights are available on the h2 view web site.

Conclusions And Further Resources

Hydrogen is now being considered widely as a new source of fuel. There are still challenges to overcome with the fuel, especially around the transport and storage. It has benefits for reducing air pollution and cutting existing carbon emissions.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the European Union have reports into the future of hydrogen at the global and European levels. There are links to these two reports below. They both highlight the state of this rapidly developing low pollution fuel source.

  1. IEA Hydrogen report
  2. Hydrogen Road Map Europe
Posted in Climate Solutions, Energy, Europe, Fuel Cells, Geography, Hydrogen Fuel, Megatrends, Net Zero, Netherlands, Renewable Energy, Resources, Sustainable Development, Technology, Transition Movement, Zero | Leave a comment

China Causing Tensions

This month considers China’s continued expansion plans, being pursued at the expense of any other country: its continual push for power and control of a greater region is manifesting in several different ways. This post highlights the need for other countries to work together to stand up to a country that is continuing to force an agenda and control people regardless of their rights or international laws.

China’s Expansion: At Any Cost?

China has pursued much expansive activity recently whilst other countries are inwardly looking in order to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been an opportunity whilst other countries that have focused internally that have manifested in various ways in numerous geographical locations.

There is an on-going trade war with the USA, with President Trump refusing to engage with China’s President Xi. In the more immediate area around China Hong Kong territory has seen the imposition of Chinese rules on the former UK colony, there has been much activity to take control of the South China sea and disruption on the China-Indian border among others.

Indian Border Skirmish

In June 2020 Chinese troops attacked and killed Indian troops in the remote area of the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, North India. The event caused a rise in tensions between the two most populous countries in the world. The fighting was triggered by a row over two Chinese tents and observation towers that India said had been built on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Residents of India highlight the continued Chinese incursions into Galwan and other disputed areas, such Panong Tso, over the LAC. In Panong Tso, a freshwater lake on the border, there was a similar but non-deadly clash between Indian and Chinese forces in early May 2020. There has been substantial Chinese military structures built here, including a radar tower. They have been built close to a ridge known as Finger Four in June and July 2020, despite agreements to disengage.

Around Panong Tso, known as the eight fingers, are eight ridges. India used to control the whole area. Chinese troops gradually moved in, and in June 2020, they now control four of the eight fingers. China is said to be building a helipad and other infrastructure around Finger Four, as well as bringing more troops into the territory. Further details in this report.

Since the dispute in mid June 2020, when disengagement was discussed between the leaders of India and China, there has been continued building activity on the Chinese side of the border. This Reuters report shows satellite imagery indicating much activity by the Chinese soon after the incident. Road construction on the Chinese side of the border has increased whilst the Indian forward post has retreated. The images show a new Chinese camp suggesting that disengagement is far from the truth.

South China Territorial Claims: At Other’s Expense

China is trying to erode the internationally agreed marine limits. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam challenge China’s claim to about 90% of the South China Sea.

Vietnam is chairing the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Hanoi. Both Vietnam and the Philippines highlight growing regional insecurity as China was advancing its territorial claims under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic. China increasingly has military drills in the regions and has built fortified islands around the Sea, often outside of its accepted water limits.

China has claims to the Sea based upon a vague, U-shaped “nine-dash line” including much of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It also claims the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands and overlaps the EEZs of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In 2016, a tribunal at The Hague, brought by the Philippines, ruled that China has no historic title over the waters. Its line was superseded by the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. In 2019 there was a standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels that were embroiled in a months-long standoff in Vietnam’s EEZ. A Chinese research vessel was conducting a seismic survey of waters overlapping Vietnamese oil blocks. Similar activity occurred in Malaysian waters close to where a drill ship contracted by the Malaysian state oil firm, Petronas, had been working. Indonesia has started to take a harder stance against China: Chinese vessels had entered Indonesia’s EEZ around the northern Natuna islands.

Australia has also become another country to reject the Chinese claims to the South China Sea according to this report. Australia made a declaration to the United Nations to reject the claims. Further details were from this report.

Japan’s Tensions

In Japan, there has been accusations that China is pushing its territorial claims under the cover of Covid-19 whilst “assisting” other nations. China is continuing to try and change the status quo of the East China Sea region. There are continued “relentless” intrusions around a group of islets claimed by both nations in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Japan’s annual defence review claimed China’s responsibility for “propaganda” and “disinformation” amid “social uncertainties and confusion” caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kong’s Rights: Gone

China has declared full control over the territory of Hong Kong. A new national security law criminalises subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces. The law fundamentally change the territory’s legal system. Article 29 states that anyone who conspires with foreigners to provoke “hatred” of the Chinese government, or the authorities in Hong Kong, could have committed a criminal offence.

China’s national security law for Hong Kong has fundamentally changes the territory’s legal system. There will be severe penalties for new crimes that includes up to life in prison. The law opens the way for mainland security personnel to legally operate in Hong Kong with impunity. The wording is highly subjective and malleable. Article 55 allows Chinese mainland security operatives the right to investigate some national security cases that are “complex”, “serious” or “difficult”. China is allowed to set up the “Office for Safeguarding National Security” in Hong Kong. It is a mainland Chinese body to be staffed by mainland Chinese personnel. Article 60 makes it clear: anyone working there does not have to abide by Hong Kong’s laws and shall not be subject to “inspection, search or detention”. This means mainland Chinese personnel are untouchable. Further details can be found on this BBC report and Hong Kong’s Security Law.

The new security law is wide-ranging and includes:

  • It is now illegal to incite hatred of China’s central and Hong Kong’s regional governments.
  • Closed-door trials are now allowed, wire-tapping of suspects and the potential for suspects to be tried in mainland China
  • A wide range of acts, including damaging public transport facilities, can be considered terrorism.
  • Internet providers might have to hand over data if requested by police.

The impact of the changes in Hong Kong will affect its economy with the New York Times moving to Seoul in South Korea. TikTok is looking to relocate its headquarters from the Territory.

Even before 2020 security law change, Beijing has increasingly undermining freedom of speech and the media. In 2018 the Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet was barred from entering the city weeks after his work visa had not been renewed without any explanation. He had angered Beijing by hosting a guest speaker at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club who advocated secession.

Human Rights Abuses: The Case of the Uighurs

In the north west of China is Xinjiang province where the Uighurs, a Muslim minority group, mainly live. They have Muslim Turkic ethnicity and are culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations. There are around 11 million Uighurs in Xinjiang (see this report).

There is increasing global political criticism over China’s alleged persecution of this group of people. Reports of forced sterilisation of women and mass “re-education” camps. In the camps the
Uighurs, who have their own Uighur language, are forced to learn Mandarin. Religious freedoms have been eroded and Xinjiang is covered by a pervasive surveillance. This include police checkpoints and facial recognition and number plate cameras. Xinjiang is perhaps the ultimate “Smart City” for total control of a population.

The Communist Party of China is trying to silence anyone abroad supporting the Uighur’s plight for rights. The UK Times reported (25 July 2020) that a Belgium Uighur Rights Activist was contacted by Chinese callers who try to stifle dissent abroad. This tactic is not uncommon and includes threatening calls, emotional blackmail, and recruitment from within Uighur communities living abroad.

Cyber Attack On Australia

A massive cyber attack on Australia was carried out in June 2020, was from a state actor with significant capabilities. The attacks crippled widespread computer networks in both government and private sectors. The attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The attacks, allegedly by China, hit sites including government, industrial, political organisations, education, health, essential service provider sites.

Relations between Australia and China have have worsened in recent years but declined further after Australia echoed the US in calling for an inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19, first detected in China late last year. China imposed tariffs on Australian barley, stopped beef imports and warned its citizens and students about “risks” of travelling to Australia because of racist incidents. Australia has increased its rhetoric. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said he would not give in to “coercion” from Beijing.

Whether it was an attack from China, there are very few countries capable of this sort of cyber attack. Additional information is in this BBC News report.

Conclusion

This article highlights the extent and how far China is willing to go to dominate and get its own way at the expense of anyone or any country. Human rights are being ignored and nations will need to collectively act against a rising state that will impose its own totalitarian laws as it wants to.

Posted in China, Cyber War, Geography, Japan, Politics, Smart Cities | Leave a comment

Magnetic Field Changes & New Energy Options

The Earth’s magnetic field is shifting and it is now possible to monitor that shift from satellites. Renewable power storage is gaining momentum which enables a move away from fossil fuels. New energy options look at ways to store and work with renewable energy production. How to harness the falling cost of this power source will be a key innovation for the acceleration in the decarbonisation of the energy sector. Post Covid19 there may be opportunities to rebuild new jobs in this sector that is likely to grow rapidly.

Earth’s Magnetic Field Shift

The Earth has seen some changes to the magnetic field over recent years. There is an uncertainty as to why it is happening but it will have consequences for satellite and spacecraft for example.

The South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly
Source: ESA.

The Earth’s magnetic field is weakening between Africa and South America in an area known as the “South Atlantic Anomaly”. This area has grown considerably in recent years. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Swarm constellation of satellites have provided data showing the area of the anomaly dropped in strength by more than 8 per cent over 50 years from 1970 to 2020. The new eastern minimum of the area has grown in size and continues to develop rapidly.

It is not clear what processes are driving the change in the South Atlantic Anomaly, it could be that the poles are about to reverse. This is something that has happened roughly every 250,000 thousand years, although the last time a “geomagnetic reversal” took place was around 780,000 years ago.

Such an event could have immense impacts. The Earth’s magnetic field protects the planet from solar winds and harmful cosmic radiation. There could be implications for the telecommunication and satellite systems too. They rely on the magnetic field to operate. Computers, power grids and mobile phones could be affected by magnetic changes. The area of the South Atlantic Anomaly can cause technical issues for low-orbit satellites and space craft.

A 2018 article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that despite the weakening field, the “Earth’s magnetic field is probably not reversing”. The process is not instantaneous and could take tens of thousands of years. The article notes that the geomagnetic field has been decaying at a rate of ∼5% per century from at least 1840. Indirect observations have indicated a decay since 1600 or even earlier.

Magnetic field observations from Swarm are providing new information into the processes of Earth’s interior. The above web link shows animated South Atlantic Anomaly impact radiation over the last two years.

New Energy Options: Hydrogen, Battery Expansion and Liquid Air Batteries

There are several developments in ways of storing and provisioning energy needs. All offer a greatly reduced climate impact to existing fossil fuel based systems.

IEA Hydrogen Report

The International Energy Agency or IEA published a June 2019 technology report on the future role of hydrogen in the energy mix. Hydrogen and energy have a long shared history for over 200 years. Hydrogen is light, easily stored, energy-dense, and importantly produces no direct emissions of pollutants or greenhouse gases. In order for hydrogen to make a significant contribution to clean energy transitions, it needs to be adopted more widely. This includes sectors where it is almost absent: for example transport, buildings and power generation. That is gradually being addressed as the examples below demonstrate. There is a risk that without government foresight, planning and support that hydrogen electrolysis momentum does not grow as much as it should. See this IEA article: The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on clean energy progress.

There is potential to extract “green” hydrogen from water with electrolysis, an energy-intensive but carbon-free process, if powered by renewable electricity. It requires much renewable electricity to produce and the renewable prices have fallen sharply in recent years.

Japan’s Pilot Hydrogen Supply Chain And Power Plant

In Japan there is a pilot hydrogen plant run by Advanced Hydrogen Energy Chain Association For Technology Development (AHEAD). The project will continue through November this year. The Kawasaki plant can generate 80 megawatts of electricity using Hydrogen that, when burnt, will produce only water vapour.

The plant has been using imported hydrogen in the form of methylcyclohexane (MCH) from Brunei Darussalam. The project has highlighted a viable hydrogen supply chain between Brunei Darussalam and Japan. MCH is produced in Brunei Darussalam, transported using maritime MCH transport and there is then a dehydrogenation of MCH process upon arrival in Japan. This commencement of global hydrogen supply chain operation is a notable step towards the realisation of a carbon dioxide free “Hydrogen Society”.

Ultimately it aims to transport 350,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year to power a 1 gigawatt hydrogen-fired power plant in 2030. In the future hydrogen should be extracted from renewable energy and a strong supply chain established. AHEAD are able to transport hydrogen at a normal temperature and pressure, and to use existing facilities used for oil. It is described as the “Organic Chemical Hydride Method”.

The AHEAD project hopes to confirm how effective the international hydrogen supply chain transport is. It aims to establish a commercial hydrogen supply chain business in future. It is also researching various aspects of the practical application of the process. Further details are on this Popular Mechanics article which highlights the current role of the hydrocarbon industry.

Green Hydrogen From Electrolysis

Hydrogen extracted from fossil fuels typically costs between $1-$1.8/kg according to this report. Hydrogen, extracted using renewable energy known as “green hydrogen”, costs around $6/kg today. It is significantly more expensive than the fossil fuel derived alternatives. Increased demand could for green hydrogen could reduce the cost of electrolysis process where hydrogen is extracted from water. With falling renewable energy costs, green hydrogen could fall to $1.7/kg by 2050 and possibly sub-$1/kg. This price makes it competitive with natural gas. If there were higher carbon prices that would encourage the shift to hydrogen.

There would need to be some large-scale infrastructure changes to support the “hydrogen society”. Large-scale use, for example by industry or the transport sectors, would need major infrastructure investments. Power from offshore wind farms would need to be connected to an electrolyser to produce the green hydrogen. There would have to be transport to end consumers and more vehicles that use hydrogen. New fuel stations serving this hydrogen would be needed too.

World’s Biggest Liquid Air Battery

A new development that aims to store power, like a conventional battery, for renewable energy power storage. A company in the UK, Highview Power, has developed a “CRYOBattery” which delivers, clean, reliable, and cost-efficient long-duration energy storage. This will be a way to facilitate a 100% renewable energy future. It uses cryogenic energy storage technology and releases zero emissions in the process. These plants can be located anywhere so there is not a geographical constraint to this technology.

The CRYOBattery can produce 20 MW/80 MWh to more than 200 MW/1.2 GWh of energy which can power up to 200,000 homes for a whole day. It uses air and costs around half of the cost of lithium-ion batteries and releases zero emissions. The cryogenic energy storage technology is based on the principle of air liquefaction. Air is stored as a liquid which provides high-density storage. When required the liquid back is converted to a gas, generating energy that powers turbines and produces electricity.

Solutions such as this provide energy when wind and solar energy is not being produced. They provide “grid-synchronous inertia” balancing electrical demand and supply which helps to avoid blackouts.

World’s Biggest Battery Set To Grow By 50%

In December 2017 this blog reported on the World’s Largest Battery on the Hornsdale wind farm. The battery is set to get bigger and gain 50% more capacity. The Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia, built by Tesla and managed by renewable energy company Neoen, will be expanded. This 129 MWh battery with an output of up to 100 MW became the world’s largest lithium-ion storage battery, a title that it still holds two years later.

The 50MW/ 64.5MWh expansion, supported by Tesla, demonstrates the benefits that grid-scale batteries can provide to the National Electricity Market (NEM) and Australian consumers. It will provide additional power system reliability and continued cost savings to consumers. In the first year of operation consumers benefited by more than 50 million Australian dollars.

The expansion will demonstrate the potential for battery storage to provide the stabilising inertia services. These are critical to the future integration of renewable energy which produce sporadic power production. Inertia services stabilises the grid when electricity supply and demand fluctuates. It automatically and rapidly charges and discharges power thus mimicking the existing (fossil fuel) based grid behaviour.

South Australia will benefit from the continued harvesting of its world class wind and solar resources. It also helps with a target to be net 100% renewable by 2030. It will also see the South Australia State transition to become a net-exporter of cheap and clean renewable energy to the NEM. Benefits include the further drive down in electricity prices for consumers.

Conclusion

There are several innovations highlighted in the renewable energy sector that offer the ability to transform our power supplies such as liquid air batteries. Satellites may provide new insights to the Earth’s magnetic changes and increase our knowledge in this area.

Posted in China, Climate Solutions, Earth Science, Energy, Fuel Cells, Geography, Hydrogen Fuel, Japan, Mapping, Megatrends, Organic, Politics, Pollution, Renewable Energy, Resources, Solar, Sustainable Development, Technology, Transition Movement, Transport, Zero | Leave a comment