Transition fuels III

I’ve written about hydrogen (here, here and here) before and I would like to write more about it. Hydrogen is fascinating. It is a sole proton with an electron around it. Well, that’s the element, but it typically doesn’t exist in that form. Instead, it exists primarily as 2 protons bound together by a covalent bond supported by the existence of the 2 electrons sharing their electron orbitals within the covalent bond cloud.

Many people today believe that hydrogen is one of the fuels that the world will eventually transition to in the net zero world. This is one of the main reasons people are excited about hydrogen projects and hydrogen production (‘this is the future’). Much of that is grounded on the elusive quest to find some monolithic solution for the carbon conundrum. Not that the world will universally converge upon a single solution but that all solutions that are ultimately low carbon will stem from hydrogen or find its linkages to it somewhat.

But is hydrogen the future? Sure, hydrogen cars are really quick and easy to refuel. And indeed, a lot of industrial heating process currently running on natural gas can be supported by combusting hydrogen. And even better, hydrogen combustion merely produces steam, a byproduct that can be used for other purposes. There’s something beautiful about the non-toxicity and purity of the byproduct, the elegance of the molecule and perhaps the fact hydrogen is used in different processes in petrochemical industry. Hydrogen will be part of the future, but will it be ‘the future’? I think a lot more other supporting elements needs to come in place. An orderly energy transition is about proper sequencing and targeted shifts rather than trying to leapfrog or take potshots.

Over the past decades of stability, we’ve allowed the whole idea of economic growth and making money to take centerstage in the lives of the most productive people in the world. With the climate challenge, it is getting important to channel that resource and capability towards the energy transition. I’ll write more on my vision for an orderly transition from here. And if we all can align on the mission, we can start evaluating and piecing together various different routes and work through breaking the barriers and blockers. More on that soon.

Hydrogen ecosystem II

When I first penned the blog post on hydrogen ecosystem, I had a couple of ill-fitting ideas that I thought could come together but I did not successfully pull them together beyond putting them in a single blog post. What I really meant to say is that the government will need to do more work understanding and studying the nuances of the ecosystem and industrial value chain that makes sense for green hydrogen and then perhaps take action to ease the struggles of the market in developing projects.

The thing about green hydrogen is that it is something that requires quite a fair amount of new infrastructure. And the situation is uncertain because governments are thinking that maybe electrification will be more dominant and want to avoid investing in white elephants. Or they think that it is all a zero-sum game due to budget and resource constraints and that investing into transmission and distribution which meant favouring electrification would naturally be inconsistent with investing into more gas infrastructure.

In reality however, green hydrogen is made from renewable energy and hence the alleviation of electricity grid issues that foster more wind and solar can also support the development of a green hydrogen sector. The key here again is that the government needs to have better knowledge of how different parts of the value chain works and the value they are contributing.

Only in appreciating that, the governments can make the right moves.