Richard gave us an illuminating presentation that clarified many issues for those present. Blue, black and yellow hydrogen can be produced but are not low carbon clean forms. Green hydrogen could prove most useful – the central issue being in what capacity: domestic heating boilers, domestic car fuel, aviation,
large sea going ships, industrial barge fuel or as quasi storage for surplus wind and solar energy.
Central government’s hydrogen fund is currently backed by resources from the Innovation Portfolio Bill, Industrial Energy Transfer finance plus an Industrial Fuel Switching Fund.
This fuel appears unsuitable for domestic heating boilers or car fuel both in economic and safety terms. But it can resolve three energy challenges: the question of storage for surplus wind and solar power, fuel for large land, sea and air transport, and powering large industrial processes.
Presently wind and solar electricity generation is stopped when surplus to immediate demand because it cannot be stored. Solar and wind energy potential is not therefore fully realised and is wasted. But hydrogen can be generated from sea water via electrolysis powered by presently un-generated solar, wind and tidal surplus energy and that hydrogen can be stored, functioning as a quasi renewable energy store and enabling renewable energy potentiality to be fully realised. Storage can be in underground caverns and conceivably containers similar to old gas holders until needed. It becomes viable therefore to utilise wind and solar electrical power surpluses, especially if sufficient tidal power were generated as well. This use of surplus electricity to fuel electrostatic production of hydrogen that can be stored is a practice increasingly in use in the Netherlands, for instance, and in off-shore Norwegian waters where the resultant hydrogen is piped to Germany.
(A volatile light gas, hydrogen needs either to be frozen at cryptogenic
temperatures or stored under pressure in leakproof containers to avoid disastrous environmental contamination.)
The second most useful purpose for hydrogen would seem to be in stacked or portable fuel cells to power large vehicles from spacecraft, to industrial river and canal barges, large container ships and so forth. Batteries cannot store wind or solar power from photo-voltaic arrays on large ships (although solar was found viable in Lot, France, for leisure craft).
Thirdly hydrogen can usefully power certain industrial processes – powering green steel production for instance.
A lively discussion followed Richard’s presentation, raising points about safety, fossil fuel industry investment in hydrogen and commercial greenwashing.
You can see the slides Richard showed below.
(To the best of our knowledge the images contained in Richard’s slides do not infringe any copyrights, but if you believe differently please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org)