Blue hydrogen has been making headlines this summer. It’s made from natural gas in a two-part process called autothermal reformation (ATR). The ATR process is different than the steam reformation (SMR) process used to make most hydrogen over the past century. There has never been a market for hydrogen for energy so we learn more & more each year about how to Continue reading “The Truth About Blue Hydrogen”
Could the future of renewable energy lie in a basic household chemical under your kitchen sink? Ammonia might power your household cleaning and fertilize your plants, but it could become an important zero emission energy carrier for moving clean energy around the world economically. Oil & gas, which make up most of our current energy supply, can easily be shipped & stored, but renewable energy that travels through the power grid as electricity cannot. This prevents renewables from becoming a bigger player in the world market of produced & distributed energy. It’s also why researchers are working to streamline current processes to convert solar & wind energy into liquid ammonia which would allow it to be shipped around the world & stored as easily as petroleum products for those hot evenings & cloudy days when the wind isn’t blowing & the sun isn’t shining.
We need to master our ability to create cheap green hydrogen for essential ammonia production even if we leave the BEV-vs-FCEV passenger car debate completely out of the picture. The conventional manufacture of ammonia (NH3) is a dirty process. But without ammonia, we would not be able to produce food for nearly 60% of the world’s population1. Ammonia is made from nitrogen & hydrogen. Nitrogen molecules are separated from the air we breathe and hydrogen is generally derived from either natural gas or coal in a process which creates greenhouse gasses or about 1.8% of CO2 emissions worldwide2. Once you have the nitrogen & hydrogen segregated, the Haber-Bosch process is employed to make ammonia.
Projects are underway around the world that will change how ammonia is manufactured by using renewable solar & wind energy to create the hydrogen from water instead of steam reformed natural gas. The implications of making “green ammonia” are bigger than just fertilizer too. Liquid ammonia is also an energy carrier with a higher energy density (11.5 MJ/liter) than liquid hydrogen (8.5 MJ/liter)3. Ammonia is easier and much cheaper to store & transport than liquid hydrogen because infrastructure & equipment can be used that already exists (e.g. propane infrastructure). While there are many places around the world working on green ammonia pilot plants (Oxford, United Kingdom – Fukashima, Japan – Iberdola, Spain – & more) RMP thinks Australia is the world leader in the large scale pilot manufacture of green ammonia. Australia has abundant renewable energy resources & potential resources available to boost their economy through the manufacture of green ammonia.
Practical Manufacturing of Green Ammonia & Its Energy Storage Potential
There are a number of reasons why Australia is the primary focus of RMP’s first report on green ammonia. Australia is in the spotlight because of its massive resources and investment in renewable solar & wind energy. Australia currently has 95 large renewable energy infrastructure projects that are in construction (or due to start construction soon). These projects will deliver over $19 billion in capital costs, 11,007 MW of new renewable energy capacity and create 13,567 direct jobs4. Each year terawatt hours of electricity are curtailed5 or go to waste because the electricity cannot be used at the time of generation. It’s a problem that has and will continue get worse as more renewable electricity generation capacity comes online.
Battery storage solutions that only last for 24 hours or as peakers are great and serve very important purposes. Battery storage projects also have great payback as short term energy solutions. However, short burst solutions are part of the problem with massive demand for energy as they only satisfy a fraction of what is needed for base-load power over extended durations. We need solutions like ammonia that will have costs scale down as usage scales up because of solar, wind, & hydrogen abundance. Short term battery solutions become too expensive as they scale larger than the peaker size. Batteries also are not the right solution if we need energy for days, weeks, months, and seasons. It is one of the toughest problems to solve with renewable energy that has its highest output during hours when humans don’t need electricity and vice versa. We need a way to store massive amounts of wasted electrical energy so we can have it back when we need it. As more and more renewable energy comes online, cumulative curtailed electricity numbers will continue to climb without the means to store excess generation.
When in liquid form at ambient temperature, ammonia has an energy density of about 3 kWh/liter and if chilled to negative 35 celsius, ammonia’s energy density approaches 4 kWh/liter6. Australia can use their vast renewable resources to achieve economical manufacture, production, and storage of green ammonia by simply buying electrolyzers that turn water into H2 & O2. Australia can be on their way to making more green ammonia with proven technology that is easy to deploy. While ammonia is an absolute societal necessity for agricultural fertilizer in an established world market, it also has even bigger economic potential as a carrier of energy. Energy is a new market for ammonia that will displace oil & gas market share.
The Yara Pilbara Renewable Ammonia Feasibility Study is for a demonstration-scale renewable hydrogen and renewable ammonia production and export facility on the Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia. Yara’s Burrup Peninsula facility currently produces ammonia by using natural gas as a feedstock for its steam methane reforming process, which produces fossil-fuel based hydrogen. The hydrogen is then used to feed an ammonia synthesis process to produce ammonia. Yara is investigating producing renewable hydrogen to feed its ammonia production process, which will reduce emissions produced by the facility.
In collaboration with global energy company ENGIE, the Yara Pilbara Renewable Ammonia Feasibility Study will investigate the feasibility of producing renewable hydrogen via electrolysis powered by onsite solar PV. Yara’s objective is that for the demonstration plant, up to three per cent of the hydrogen consumed on site will be renewable hydrogen. The blended hydrogen will subsequently be converted to ammonia and sold for further processing into domestic and international markets. The feasibility study will also investigate using seawater for the electrolyzer.
The feasibility study will help manufacture 30,000 tons of green ammonia that Yara currently would make using fossil fuels. The study will be the first step on the path to achieving commercial scale production of renewable hydrogen and ammonia for export7. In the long term, Yara is aiming to produce hydrogen and ammonia entirely through renewable energy. This approach will allow Yara to avoid any major augmentation to the existing plant and therefore minimise the cost and time needed to produce renewable ammonia.
This project has the potential to ‘unlock’ the value of vast areas of vacant Pilbara land by supporting the development of a new industry that captures solar energy for conversion to hydrogen and other valuable products. Because project’s like Yara Pilbara are likely to surpass feasibility expectations similar to most renewable hydrogen projects, its $3.76m price tag is being funded in part by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) with a $995k investment. The Australian government recognizes how making green ammonia for export can literally transform the continent into an economic powerhouse as renewable generation scales up.
Australia’s government and scientific community want to make green ammonia a significant part of their future economic plans. Australia has renewable resource potential to produce so much more energy than Australians alone can consume which means ammonia has significant export potential which can quickly increase sovereign wealth. A challenge associated with using ammonia as a zero carbon energy carrier is “cracking” the ammonia back into its constituent elements nitrogen & hydrogen. In order to make green ammonia more attractive as an export product, the Aussie’s are attacking this challenge with their top scientific researchers. Enter Australia’s CSIRO.
Cracking Green Ammonia
CSIRO is Australia’s national science research agency. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), says their mission is to shape the future. CSIRO says it does this by using science to solve real issues to unlock a better future for Australia’s community, economy, & planet. You may remember it was about two years ago to the month (8/08/2018) that CSIRO published a blog post about the successful refueling of a Toyota Mirai & Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel vehicle with ultra pure hydrogen “cracked” from ammonia using a brand new membrane technology created by CSIRO scientists. The news humbly/quietly signaled a paradigm change in zero carbon energy for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles like busses, trucks, trains, airplanes, and passenger vehicles. If you have abundant renewable energy to produce green ammonia and a method to crack that ammonia back into hydrogen on demand, you literally have a game changer for green energy.
CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall was one of the first to ride in the Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Nexo vehicles powered by ultra-high purity hydrogen, produced in Queensland using CSIRO’s membrane technology. The membrane separates ultra-high purity hydrogen from ammonia, while blocking all other gases. It links hydrogen production, distribution and delivery in the form of a modular unit that can be used at, or near, a refueling station. This means that the transportation and storage of hydrogen – currently a complex and relatively expensive process – is simplified, allowing bulk hydrogen to be transported economically and efficiently in the form of liquid ammonia.
“This is a watershed moment for energy, and we look forward to applying CSIRO innovation to enable this exciting renewably-sourced fuel and energy storage medium a smoother path to market,” Dr Marshall said. BOC Sales and Marketing Director Bruce Currie congratulated CSIRO on the successful refueling of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, which proved the effectiveness of CSIRO’s membrane technology from generation, right through to point of use. With this successful demonstration under CSIRO’s belt, the technology will be increased in scale and deployed in several larger-scale demonstrations, in Australia and abroad. CSIRO’s membrane technology will make green ammonia more attractive to foreign consumers who want to import the zero carbon energy carrier into their smog & CO2 belching countries. This is particularly relevant for enormous nearby markets like China, Japan, and South Korea who have committed to hydrogen economies to decarbonize and de-smog their cities.
Worldwide Green Ammonia Distribution Logistics
Green ammonia will be competing with many other forms of energy that are fighting for investment dollars. Ammonia has a couple tricks up its sleeves with regard to affordability & return on investment. One of the key fuels that ammonia will compete with out on the open oceans is Liquified Natural Gas which has a very high volumetric energy content at 6 kWh/liter compared to ammonia’s 3 kWh/liter at ambient temperature or almost 4 kWh/liter if chilled to -35C. RMP created our map of all LNG facilities in the world when Cheniere was granted the USA’s first permit to export LNG in 2011. Green ammonia will have to compete with LNG that has grown significantly since RMP first wrote about Cheniere in August of 2015 just over five years ago. America now has 5 LNG liquefaction facilities permitted for export & built since 2015. These are carefully planned investment decisions on plants that take years to build. Even the F.I.D’s on a new LNG plant can take years because of the risk of investing so much money over such a long horizon.
While LNG liquefaction has received significant investment in the past five years on assets that are expected to deliver for 25 plus year useful lives, LNG is at a severe disadvantage to ammonia for both maritime use & for maritime bunkering. While ammonia has big advantage over all other 100% green energy carriers with energy density, its real secret weapon against grey and potentially “blue” fuels, like LNG, is its ability to use existing infrastructure like that used for LPGs (e.g. propane). Financial investments with the strongest bang for their buck always win. Green ammonia will be a fierce competitor with regard to economic return on investment.
Because ammonia can be liquified at 7.5 bar at ambient temperatures similar to propane & butane, it has an advantage over LNG as a 100% green energy carrier and could potentially hurt LNG investments as shipbuilders might prefer 0% zero emission vessels & cargo. Ammonia easily fits this role of clean energy ambassador to enormous cargo ships with cheaper bunkering costs. Ammonia bunkering costs will be orders of magnitude cheaper than LNG because of the liquefaction trains & cryogenic storage required for LNG. There is great irony here in that for 10 years we have heard that hydrogen suffers from a “chicken or egg” problem but the truth is the chicken or egg problem befalls LNG to a much more significant degree than ammonia which means hydrogen’s chicken or egg problem also could rapidly become yesterday’s story.
For LNG, the dilemma has been that shipowners have been reluctant to make the switch to LNG as bunker fuel in the absence of ports around the world able to supply it. Yet, the development of the required infrastructure is dependent on such demand. As ammonia is already produced and transported in large quantities around the world by ship, bunker supplies could be readily accommodated, though of course it will have to be expanded once the first ammonia powered vessels are realized, says Niels de Vries, a Naval Architect with C-Job Naval Architects in the Netherlands.
“Nowadays the main consumer of ammonia is the fertilizer industry,” he says. “This industry is supplied by ships which carry ammonia in bulk loads of up to 60,000 dwt. The industry’s existing infrastructure could be used to realize bunker locations for ships in the future, and current production offers the possibility of a smooth transition. There are ports available already that could supply the first ships.”
Shipbuilders are/were already ready to make an economic case for using ammonia as low emission fuel by combusting it and scrubbing NOx. But, with ammonia cracking technology like that mentioned by CSIRO that can turn ammonia to hydrogen on demand, you don’t need to combust it because you can use it in a fuel cell which has more than 2x the efficiency of a combustion engine with zero harmful emissions. All of the sudden, the economics you could use to justify ammonia as fuel have just gotten twice as good & your emissions drop to zero. It really bodes well for ammonia as a green energy carrier. Speaking of CSIRO’s technology to crack ammonia into N2 & H2, phys.org just published a recent article August 19, 2020 regarding a new low-cost membrane technology developed by the Korea Institute of Science & Technology (KIST) to decompose ammonia into high purity hydrogen & nitrogen. More evidence top research authorities like CSIRO & KIST are demonstrating scientists around the world are working fast to unlock the potential of green ammonia. You can bet there are some labs in the USA & UK that will be touting some similar breakthroughs soon.
Recent advances in renewable energy technology have set up the new 2020 decade for continued scaling in the manufacture of zero emission ammonia for sustainable energy. Because hydrogen is inexhaustible, abundant, and in every local community, it could mean economies of scale could make hydrogen very cheap as old petroleum infrastructure could be retrofitted for ammonia storage & distribution. Ammonia is already transported by ocean freight by big ships like Vigor’s 508 foot hull Harvest recently built supporting millions of labor hours in America’s pacific northwest Portland area8. The Harvest was built by American workers using over 9,000 tons of American steel & 4,400 tons of equipment. The Harvest has four cargo tanks, each capable of holding 5,500 tons of liquid anhydrous ammonia at very low pressure. This was the first ammonia vessel built in America since 1982! Think about all the jobs & labor hours America could generate to make even more ships like this that transport ammonia safely across our oceans. Speaking of safety, we need to talk about safety & toxicity in more detail.
Ammonia’s risk profile is similar in magnitude to methane or methanol. For ammonia, the main risks are related to health, as ammonia is toxic. Ammonia’s fire risk profile on the other hand is lower. Ammonia can be stored as a liquid either at -34 degrees Celsius at atmospheric pressure (usually applied for large scale applications) or at room temperature at 10 bar (usually applied for small scale applications). RMP’s stated mission as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization is to protect our fresh water resources. Toxic & water are two words that need to always be separate to protect drinking water. How does RMP recommend a toxic substance, ammonia, and reconcile that position with our mission statement of protecting Michigan’s and the world’s fresh water resources?
Reconciling ammonia’s toxicity with RMP’s mission of protecting freshwater
Ammonia is a product necessary for humans to survive. Ammonia is a naturally occurring compound being created in your body’s cells right now as you read this sentence. Ammonia will continue to be manufactured, stored, and transported in the future the same way it is now and has been used in industry for over 100 years. Like all energy carriers & fuels, ammonia is dangerous and must be handled with appropriate safeguards. RMP was founded on protecting fresh water and eliminating the use of fossil fuels. RMP specifically wants to eliminate crude oil from our energy mix first as it causes great harm to our fresh water resources. Crude oil, gasoline, diesel, and other fuel oils contaminate water wherever they are produced, stored, & distributed. Crude oil has environmental remediation costs that drain public budgets & and ruin our environment irreversibly no matter how much we spend to try to clean it up. Famous spills like the Exxon Valdez that happened in April of 1989 are still costing money to clean up today9. That’s just one example of literally thousands of major instances. Right here in our backyards of Michigan, we remember the Enbridge Line 6B pipeline disaster just over ten years ago that RMP wrote about on its 5 year anniversary. Ammonia is different in relation to environmental disasters; it’s not like fossil fuels. While ammonia can cause fish kills on release and can be deadly, its toxicity to the environment is temporary.
As soon as ammonia is released into the environment, it begins neutralizing. Spilled ammonia, while toxic, will quickly dissipate reacting with moisture to form ammonium. Ammonium then quickly binds to negatively charged soil, organic matter, and clays. Ammonium rarely accumulates in soil because bacteria will rapidly convert the ammonium that is not taken up by plant roots into nitrates (nitrification)9. Yes ammonia is toxic & can cause accidents that could turn deadly if they’re not handled safely; this is the same with all fuels. The difference with ammonia is that spill or release events will always be isolated and short term clean ups. When I think of a serious ammonia accident, I’m reminded of when I was young and I would share my scientific theories with my dad. My dad would remind me of La Chatlier’s principle of chemical equilibrium. Ammonia is a good example of something toxic that quickly finds an equilibrium with the environment to form something non-toxic. I’m glad my dad taught me about La Chatlier’s principle because there is going to be FUD surrounding ammonia just like any other fuel we use. RMP knows, no matter what form of energy we use, there will be people who oppose it [viciously].
RMP supports green ammonia as part of the solution of clean renewable energy that is safe for the environment. While dangers exist with ammonia like any other high energy density medium, imagine the flip side: without ammonia nearly 60% of the world’s population would perish from starvation. The possibility of an accident is the risk to pay to avoid certain calamity if there was no ammonia. When the ammonia FUD comes and people say the sky is falling, remember this paragraph. Ammonia has been in use around the world for a century. No one has any reason to panic, but ammonia certainly needs to be handled safely similar to any other fuel we use today.
Here are three bullet points from the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions page regarding ammonia when it enters the environment:
- Ammonia is found throughout the environment in air, water, soil, animals, and plants.
- Ammonia does not last very long in the environment. It is rapidly taken up by plants, bacteria, and animals.
- Ammonia does not build up in the food chain, but serves as a nutrient for plants and bacteria.
Again, the points listed above are not to diminish the serious toxic & safety hazards associated with ammonia and the importance of following strict safety protocols to prevent injury, death, or fish kills in an accidental release. Ammonia, like all other forms of substantial energy carriers comes with strict safety protocols for manufacture, handling, storage, and distribution.
RMP hopes to have made clear in this article why the leaders and the scientific community in Australia are all in on green hydrogen & piloting green ammonia plants & commercializing technology to crack ammonia into N2 & H2. In less than one week, on August 27 & 28, 2020, the Australian Chapter of the Ammonia Energy Association will host their 2ND Ammonia = Hydrogen 2.0 Conference (virtual this year due to COVID-19). The conference will be hosted from Monash University based in Melbourne Australia on the south coast.
China, Korea, & Japan are all in on green hydrogen and will leverage Australia as a regional trading partner. Australia can provide clean hydrogen energy in a format with a similar economics & logistics to petroleum without the nasty BTEX environmental traits that are silent killers of sovereign wealth. Europe is also expected to be a dominant green ammonia producer according to this article.
Currently, China must invest in all sorts of remote places places in Brazil, Africa, Canada, the USA, and the Middle east to get the coal, crude oil, natural gas, & NGLs it so desperately needs to provide energy & industrial feedstocks for its over 1.3 billion power hungry consumers. What if China could do away with crude oil boondoggles & all those far away countries and get clean green energy from domestic production supplemented by a nearby trading partner like Australia? This is why RMP writes about China’s extensive economic investments into the manufacture of green hydrogen & fuel cells all across China. The exact same goes for Japan & Korea. For those who find interest in the study of chemistry & economics, it’s not difficult to see why so many people around the world are investing sovereign wealth into green ammonia and the hydrogen economy. Green ammonia is a stepping stone on the critical path to a decarbonized society.
There are different battery chemistries (NiCd, NiMH, Lead Acid, Li-ion, low cobalt li-ion, lithium polymer) that compete with each other for practical real world applications. There are many different types of fuel cells (PEM, SOFC, PAFC, Alkaline) that also compete with each other for practical applications. All will have roles to play with some more dominant than others just like a sports team made up of great athletes. Similar to the way an artist needs all of the colors in the spectrum on their palette to paint a masterpiece, getting to 100% carbon free energy will need every battery chemistry & fuel cell type to compete with each other on the same canvass of human needs. Because different types of energy are competitors, it does not mean they must be enemies. This is true for humans too.
A lot of human energy goes into arguing about batteries vs hydrogen but clenched fists cannot reach for olive branches. All the battery chemistries & types of fuel cells can compete & coexist in an inclusive arena that understands we will need batteries for some green energy storage & hydrogen for other green stuff. For example, we will need green hydrogen to make green ammonia because ammonia is essential for life. And, as long as we invest in green ammonia to make it cheap & abundant, we should also use it as an energy storage medium with a high energy density that replaces the oil & natural gas we use now. Imagine blue skies & pure drinking water for everyone around the world. Think about so many people here in America and those around the world who should not have to breathe NOx & SOx pollution because they live near a power plant. We have hundreds if not thousands of people now living next to SOx & NOx fumes right here in Detroit near Zug Island & DTE’s River Rouge plant. I know Detroit needs big energy to forge metal & make the cars and trucks that keep America moving, but yuck. Just yuck. We gotta just stop with dirty energy. Ammonia can provide the energy needed to make clean steel in a very cost effective manner here in Detroit, the same way as it can in Australia or Asia.
RMP is a Michigan registered & federal 501(c)3 non-profit organization. RMP writes about and advocates for clean energy that helps protect our freshwater resources here in Michigan and around the world. RMP also makes maps of clean & dirty energy infrastructure using the Google Maps API. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Please click here to make a tax deductible donation to RMP to help us keep publishing free content with no ads & energy infrastructure maps.
The featured infographic image for this post comes from the Iberdola Spain green ammonia pilot plant. The Iberdola green ammonia plant will be a $177M investment, create 700 jobs, and eliminate 40,000 tons of CO2 each year.
Footnote #1 – “Yara Green Ammonia” YouTube, uploaded by Yara International November 2019 @ 17 second mark of 1:54 video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVwDeMPcJio
Footnote #2– The Royal Society, “Ammonia: zero-carbon fertiliser, fuel and energy store” Published February 2020 – pp4. https://royalsociety.org/-/media/policy/projects/green-ammonia/green-ammonia-policy-briefing.pdf
Footnote #3 – Frontiers In Energy Research, “Ammonia as a suitable fuel for fuel cells” last modified August 2014 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fenrg.2014.00035/full
Footnote #4 – Clean Energy Council “Project Tracker” last updated June 2020 https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/resources/project-tracker
Footnote #5 – ScienceDirect “Sunny with a Chance of Curtailment: Operating the US Grid with Very High Levels of Solar Photovoltaics” November 2019 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589004219303967
Footnote #6– The Royal Society, “Ammonia: zero-carbon fertiliser, fuel and energy store” Published February 2020 – pp7. https://royalsociety.org/-/media/policy/projects/green-ammonia/green-ammonia-policy-briefing.pdf
Footnote #7– Australian Government – Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), “Yara Pilbara Renewable Ammonia Feasibility Study” Published February 2020 https://arena.gov.au/projects/yara-pilbara-renewable-ammonia-feasibility-study/
Footnote #8– Pacific Maritime Magazine, “New Liquefied Ammonia ATB tank barge” Published November 2017 https://www.pacmar.com/story/2017/11/01/features/new-liquefied-ammonia-atb-tank-barge/557.html
Footnote #9– Anchorage Daily News, “Don’t let government give up on Exxon Valdez restoration” Published June 2020 https://www.adn.com/opinions/2020/06/18/dont-let-government-give-up-on-exxon-valdez-restoration/
Footnote #10– Minnesota Department of Agriculture, “Ecological Effects of Ammonia“ Published on the Nitrification Cycle information page. https://www.mda.state.mn.us/ecological-effects-ammonia#:~:text=Ammonia%20in%20Air%20and%20Soil&text=Ammonium%20then%20quickly%20binds%20to,roots%20into%20nitrates%20(nitrification).
The MDEQ publishes full year numbers for hydrocarbon production about 4 to 5 months lagging behind calendar date. That means these 2016 full year numbers are a little late, but better late than never. The good news is 2017 results will be ready in May of this year so full year results for 2017 will be just around the corner.
Michigan Natural Gas Production 2016
One of the things RMP talked about in October 2016 was Riverside LLC becoming Continue reading “2016 Michigan Hydrocarbon Production Results – Full Year”
Proliferation of clean energy solutions like hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell manufacturing are held back by myths that need to be busted. In this article RMP will use common sense, simple examples, and data to dispel an argument that hydrogen production, storage, and distribution is not economical because it’s less efficient than storing energy in a battery. Many people still peddle and cling to this red herring argument as if it makes sense. That stops today. Dr. Bossel’s keyhole view of mathematics, chemistry, and physics is used as sleight of hand to mislead readers from the big picture of how energy production, storage, and grid administration really works.
Mathematically speaking, storing electrical energy in a battery is very efficient and many times storing energy in a battery makes good common sense. Also, for the record, RMP is not anti-battery and believes that batteries are important to clean energy proliferation and RMP supports the manufacture and adoption of batteries as well as BEVs for many market segments. Yes, batteries are an important part of the Hydrogen Economy.
Dr. Ulf Bossel writes that making hydrogen from electricity is inefficient and therefore a “waste” of energy. Ironically, there are terawatt hours of electrical energy being wasted each year by not using that energy to make hydrogen. The number of kWh wasted each year is also forecast go up as more clean renewable energy comes onto our grid. In the UK alone, according to ITM’s CEO, Dr Graham Cooley, 1TWh of electricity was curtailed in the past year that could have provided enough hydrogen to fuel 3 million cars to travel 350 miles.
Dr. Bossel’s argument goes like this: given a quantity of energy, it is more efficient to store that same quantity of energy in a battery rather than to create and store that same energy as hydrogen. The diagram shown below is used widespread on the Internet as the foundation to support this red herring anti-hydrogen argument. There is much more, however, to the story of producing hydrogen from renewable energy than a lab experiment argument that blows out like a candle in the wind in the real world. RMP will explain in this post why Dr. Bossel’s graph and thesis statement is not credible for economic consideration. Larger quantities of energy than 100 kWh used for demonstration purposes must be considered and those quantities do not extrapolate to a high-voltage electricity grid with simple math. Geography, geopolitics, climate, socio-economics, storage capacities, human usage habits, and natural resources are but a few of several more considerations that cannot be excluded for any economic analysis if it is to be credible.
Let’s assume the math put forth in Dr. Bossel’s diagram is accurate for argument’s sake. It shows 100 kilowatt hours (kWh) generated from a renewable source will have 69 kWh of useful energy transferred to a battery and 23 kWh transferred to your tank after efficiency losses to make H2, compress H2, transport H2, and put that H2 into a fuel cell vehicle. When you couple the simple to follow mathematical diagram with Dr. Bossel’s credentials as a fuel cell consultant, certain media outlets will use his published papers to underpin their arguments to say hydrogen cannot be produced economically.
Bloggers like Fred Lambert who’s Editor in Chief for the Tesla fan site Electrek and Zachary Shahan who’s Director & Chief Editor for the Tesla fan site Clean Technica are more than happy to publish Dr. Bossel’s work to support their anti-hydrogen view points. Websites like Electrek and CleanTechnica attempt to use Dr. Bossell’s lab science as credible information that can be used to write energy and economics policy outside of laboratory parameters. Fred Lambert posted this article using Dr. Bossel’s diagram on the same very same day I started working on this post your reading now. Sites like Electrek & CleanTechnica are still currently publishing Dr. Bossel’s diagram to support their arguments against hydrogen fuel cells even though developments in the fuel cell industry are happening frequently each month and creating mountains of evidence refuting their false viewpoints. Dr. Bossel’s diagram has been propagated for years since he first published it along with his supporting paper “Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense” in 2006. Now eleven years later, in 2017, if any media outlet uses Dr. Bossel’s thesis to support economic science, they lose credibility.
Dr. Bossel has published the same work explaining his thesis against the Hydrogen Economy in several different years and places but in this particular publication served by the AFDC we get the following quote that disqualifies Dr. Bossel’s work in the very first paragraph:
As there are no environmental or energetic advantages in producing hydrogen from natural gas or other hydrocarbons, we do not consider this option, although hydrogen can be chemically synthesized at relative low cost
Why would you exclude the #1 method by which approx 90% of H2 is currently made in a paper that is supposed to explain how Hydrogen Economy doesn’t make economic sense? Natural gas is a major part of the fossil fuel ramp down in the Hydrogen Economy and he has already disqualified his paper from serious consideration by saying natural gas production of H2 has been excluded from his analysis. Blue Hydrogen, which is hydrogen made from CH4 with its CO2 sequestered, is surely something to consider. #CCS, or Carbon Capture & Sequestration, is currently being done successfully in northern lower Michigan as RMP wrote about here. #CCS technology is working now across the country & logging numbers. Natural gas considerations would absolutely need to be included in a paper about the Hydrogen Economy. This point is a big one because any economic analysis must include every aspect and angle possible. An economic paper cannot rely on a keyhole analysis that distracts from the bigger picture especially when the single biggest current source of H2 production is ignored. There are other examples of where this paper gets it wrong and how it in no way can be considered relevant to understanding how the economy or a high-voltage electricity grid works.
Dr. Bossel does make some valid points in his papers about using neutral hydrocarbons from “the biosphere” as he says and converting them to liquids like methanol. Using carbon neutral hydrocarbons to make liquids for economics of transport for longer distances (e.g. >200km) is smart. Carbon neutral synthetic hydrocarbons like methanol and other liquid H2 carriers like ammonia are necessary to society. Natural gas that is flared and vented in massive oil fields & landfills around the world as a waste gas or nuisance gas could be economically captured as useful methanol to create jobs and reduce GHGs. Read this post RMP published on October 27, 2015 in our Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly magazine as part of our leading coverage of Michigan’s hydrocarbon infrastructure and how RMP supports turning carbon neutral methane into methanol.
Unfortunately Dr. Bossel’s good mathematical points in the paper are overshadowed by his myopic and narrow view of physics while ignoring other important facets of how a complex economy works. Dr. Bossel does not make a good case because he excludes too many considerations for his paper to carry merit. Dr. Bossel’s papers have also lost relevancy given the rapid advances in renewable energy generation capacities that he lacked the foresight to see over approximately 11 years ago. The process to increase hydrogen production from H2O has decreased in costs via many new methods of electrolysis. More stories are being written about breakthroughs in electrolysis economics each new month since Dr. Bossel’s paper was written. One of the most promising electrolysis & fuel cell technologies is called high temperature reversible SOFC electrolysis.
Many things have changed since since Dr. Bossel published most of his work in 2005-2008. Dr. Bossel does not understand how our energy grid works and where waste is really occurring. Dr. Bossel’s thesis statement is that converting water to hydrogen is a wasteful use of electricity. Ironically, we often have more generating capacity than we can use or transmit and we are curtailing electricity generation that hydrogen production could easily soak up and save for cloudy and windless days. It’s actually wasteful to not create hydrogen because so much electricity is going unemployed. RMP will drive this point home throughout this rebuttal to Dr. Bossel’s thesis and we will look at data from various sources like CAISO to support this thesis argument. Economics is a complex subject and it’s imperative that all things are considered which is where Dr. Bossel’s arguments fail.
Like a pinhole aperture on a camera blocking nearly all light for a very specific photo shot to work, Dr. Bossel’s argument is ruined if the oculus is opened even the tiniest of bits. Any sound economic argument, however, must have the aperture cranked all the way open and stand up to broad sunlight scrutiny or it is has no credibility. Having laid down the thesis of why Dr. Bossel’s anti-hydrogen argument doesn’t work, let’s look at some real world examples.
Producing, compressing, and storing hydrogen might seem wasteful in a laboratory analysis, but the opposite is true in the real world. Let’s talk about electricity “curtailment”. Curtailment of carbon zero renewable electricity is when wind & solar electricity generation capacity exceeds society’s immediate needs and the grid operator does not allow that electricity onto the grid. Terawatt hours are being wasted each year on grids around the globe because of not employing that capacity to store energy as hydrogen. This video from fully charged explains clearly how using excess electricity for making hydrogen is a smart economic solution for citizens in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. The Orkney Islands’ example shows a microcosm of how governance of a high voltage electric grid is helped by making hydrogen with surplus renewable electricity.
A major high-voltage electricity grid can be understood well by turning to the California ISO, hereafter CAISO. CAISO governs the California electricity grid and California is massive. If California was a country, it would have an economy as large as the economy of France. CAISO is led by an experienced Board of Governors and executive management team that set policies to ensure the reliable performance of the high-voltage electricity grid, open access to participants, and a transparent, competitive market for energy. The California ISO provides open and non-discriminatory access to the bulk of the state’s wholesale transmission grid, supported by a competitive energy market and comprehensive infrastructure planning efforts. CAISO publishes this short and straightforward document that in 4 short pages explains some fast facts about renewable energy and the “Duck Chart” that is stereotypical of any major high-voltage electricity grid. Within that document is a paragraph that refutes Dr. Bossel’s thesis. On the Over Supply Mitigation section on page 3 of the document, the first paragraph reads:
Oversupply is when all anticipated generation, including renewables, exceeds the real-time demand. The potential for this increases as more renewable energy is added to the grid but demand for electricity does not increase. This is a concern because if the market cannot automatically manage oversupply it can lead to overgeneration, which requires manual intervention of the market to maintain reliability. During oversupply times, wholesale prices can be very low and even go negative in which generators have to pay utilities to take the energy. But the market often remedies the oversupply situation and automatically works to restore the balance between supply and demand. In almost all cases, oversupply is a manageable condition but it is not a sustainable condition over time — and this drives the need for proactive policies and actions to avoid the situation.
RMP has been publishing a similar thesis point to CAISO’s oversupply mitigation policy for years. RMP is at its core an organization dedicated to protecting freshwater natural resources by making better use of things that are otherwise considered waste. All of that wasted electricity could be employed easily, economically, and with proven technology if it were used to convert water into hydrogen. The argument that making, compressing, and storing hydrogen is 3 times less efficient than putting that same electricity into a battery is a red herring argument plain and simple because of this. The costs to store electricity as hydrogen are between €10 & €20 euro per kilowatt hour vs approx €600 to €800 per kilowatt hour in lithium batteries (jump to 16:05 mark). There are tens of thousands of megawatt hours curtailed each month on California’s grid alone and RMP is predicting we will soon see over 100k megawatt hours curtailed in a single month in California. California has so much renewable energy generation capacity being added to the grid each year the 100k MWh threshold in a single month could even be surpassed as early as 2018. Furthermore, California is but a microcosm example of every other major high-voltage grid around the world. Now let’s back these arguments up with data that can be verified by anyone with an Internet connection.
CAISO has been keeping curtailment data records for years but has specifically started detailing curtailment increases in the past few years when renewable energy generation started rapidly integrating onto the California grid. The graph to the left depicts historical curtailment data of renewable generation since 2014 and can be accessed directly from this link. This graph demonstrates clearly the irony and opposite nature of Dr. Bossel’s incorrect thesis. If electricity is supposed to be wasted by making hydrogen, why then are we wasting so much electricity now? Dr. Bossel’s argument doesn’t make any sense, yet it has been used to mislead many people on media sites with low journalistic integrity. Junk science is being used to mislead people against clean and sustainable hydrogen production based on emotional and incorrect information. The truth is that electricity is being wasted by not making hydrogen. All of these wasted MWh of electricity could be turned into hydrogen to balance the grid and take pressure off of it. Furthermore, the number of curtailed MWh is trending upward which means even more wasted MWh are forecasted for the future if we don’t employ proven water to hydrogen electrolysis assets on our grids around the world. NEL hydrogen has been in the clean energy production business since 1927. NEL has been growing their business and creating jobs to bring sustainably produced hydrogen to market for 90 years. NEL’s contributions to a sustainable grid about are about to grow by exponential sales figures in the coming years. Here’s a great presentation of what NEL Hydrogen does that defies Dr. Bossel’s thesis. NEL is creating jobs with a solution that relieves pressure on aging grids with otherwise wasted or curtailed electricity generation from renewable sources.
Thankfully CAISO has been collecting and publishing hourly usage & curtailment data for years so we can use real world data to refute phony arguments about how producing hydrogen would waste electricity. Furthermore, even if you didn’t understand much about high-voltage electricity grids, you can clearly see a trend in the graph showing the number of MWh of renewable electricity curtailed going up each year as a result of more solar and wind generation capacity coming online each year. While Dr. Bossel’s thesis statement does not extrapolate from the laboratory out to the real world at all, RMP’s thesis statement that curtailed electricity MWh will continue to go up each year can be extrapolated to every grid around the world. This phenomenon will increase as we construct more and more clean renewable electricity generation each year like wind & solar. Hydrogen can be made cheaply and in unlimited quantities wherever there is generation capacity being curtailed or wasted. While batteries can play an important part of working together with fuel cells to help in ramping flexibility so grid operators like CAISO can react quickly to changes in electricity net demand, batteries on their own are not economical for large storage that can feed electricity into the grid for days, weeks, or months when renewable generation is weak and unreliable. This is especially true in major cities north of the 40th parallel that experience long cold winters when the skies are mostly overcast for months at a time.
Making hydrogen from otherwise wasted electricity generation capacity takes pressure off the grid with the growth of intermittent renewables. Fast charging like Tesla’s Super Charging sites, however, are virtually all on grid, which adds pressure to the grid while also relying on transmission lines that are vulnerable to our increasingly volatile weather. If transmission is disrupted by felled power lines, so too would grid charging transportation be disrupted until power is restored. Hydrogen allows us to balance the grid as well as go off the grid because H2 fueling stations provide off grid storage.
We need to see a plan of how an anti-hydrogen activist’s grid would work that can be peer reviewed. There was a long ramp to get into our current situation with base load coal plants still burning and belching SOx, NOx, COx, Hg, & PMs into our air and water around the clock. The ramp down of fossil fuels to a fossil free society must be explained in a manner that can be peer reviewed with substantive explanations. We need an explanation that includes numbers and support, not empty ad hominem attacks. How are we going to decommission coal plants and replace the base load power they supply without using fuel cells? In the Hydrogen Economy, the Hydrogen Council, which is meeting in Bonn Germany in this month, just published this “Hydrogen Scaling Up” document that explains initiatives in detail and is open for peer review. The United States Department of Energy has a whole section on their website called H2@Scale explaining how the Hydrogen Economy works and is also peer reviewable public information. With so many credible sources publishing peer reviewable plans for the Hydrogen Economy, where are the plans showing a sustainable economy without hydrogen or fuel cells?
2016 Aggregate electricity generation data from the EIA shows that of 4.08 trillion kWh produced in the USA, over 30% of that production (1.24 trillion kWh) came from coal generation. There has to be a ramp to get down from where we are today. We need to see a plan from those who think a switch gets magically flipped and those 1.24 trillion kWh of base load power are replaced. The same replacement explanation is needed to explain how natural gas (@ 1.38 trillion kWh), and nuclear (@ 803 billion kWh) would be replaced. How do you replace this generation without fuel cells? Show us the plan. If you were to cut out fossil fuel generation overnight, the effects would be devastating with a recent case & point being the island of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. As of November 13, 2017, still half of Puerto Rico’s grid remains off line. People remain in desperate need of energy in order to have clean water and to generate power for their hospitals. In a Hydrogen Economy with a distributed grid, power outages would be less wide spread. Natural gas lines generally run underground and can feed SOFCs and PAFCs that are powerful enough to provide electricity and hot water for hospitals & hotels at upwards of 85% efficiency. Natural gas lines are much less likely to be taken out by natural disasters like above ground power lines. If you have a BEV in Puerto Rico, you might be part of 50% of the population that has not been able to charge it since September. People in Puerto Rico at the date of this publication are still desperate for gasoline to power their vehicles. These serious issues deserve serious consideration.
RMP compiled data from the EIA here to make a quick graph shown at the left to demonstrate the breakdown of our USA electricity generation. Total renewable generation makes up 16.1% of all generation of 4.08 trillion kWh while approximately 65% of that generation came from fossil fuels. Of the 16.1% generation from renewable sources, hydropower leads the way at 6.5%. Wind comes in second at 5.6% and solar registers at less than 1% !!! The notion that we switch to BEVs only and put solar panels on our roofs and we’re all done is not a credible position to have. Using BEVs and solar panels on our rooftops is a great idea and it’s admirable to pioneers who are looking to help make the world a better place; but those efforts do not scratch the surface of the challenges we face in order to eliminate fossil fuels from our economy. We have to be much more thoughtful than that. There is no flipping a switch to get there and we need to see a thoughtful white paper from someone other than Dr. Bossel, because his thesis is not credible nor is any media outlet that uses it to support economic viewpoints.
And that’s how the debunking of Dr. Bossel’s anti-hydrogen thesis ends. RMP does not mean to pick on Dr. Bossel in a personal way but must stand up to protect the truth when someone gets the science wrong and misleads the public. Dr. Bossel has made good contributions to the science of physics and makes good points about the energy density issues of methanol and ammonia versus those of compressed or liquefied H2. To those points, RMP finds common ground with Dr. Bossel. But, where economic science is concerned, Dr. Bossel’s thesis quickly falls apart and becomes not credible.
Dr. Bossel’s failure to include natural gas in his analysis shot his argument in the foot from the very first paragraph. By failing to demonstrate knowledge of how a high-voltage electricity grid works, Dr. Bossel further disqualifies himself as a credible source.
Feel free to tell RMP where we you think we got it wrong and please leave a comment whether you support or disagree with RMP. Click here to follow our Twitter feed and click here to like RMP on facebook. Thanks for reading and please share this post on your social media by clicking the share links below. If you can afford to support our Michigan based 501(c) non-profit organization in a financial way please click here to make a tax deductible donation (only donations made in the USA are tax deductible but we would welcome international contributions too). If you would like to join us and publish your articles right here on RMP’s website and you can support your arguments for green energy with verifiable references, please contact RMP by leaving a comment below or writing to us at email@example.com. We would love to publish more content that debunks junk science. Thanks for reading.
In June of 2015, the MPSC was challenged to determine the appropriate regulatory response to applications filed pursuant to R 460.867 (Rule 17) for operation of Antrim Shale Formation (ASF) wells under vacuum on Michigan Public Service Commission Case# U-16230. RMP wrote about this story in our August 2015 MOGM. Prior to June 2015, battles had been fought over the issue of operating ASF wells on a vacuum for years. Administrative Law Judge Mark D. Eyster held a pre-hearing on June 15, 2010 to officially get the Continue reading “Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – October 2016”
Respectmyplanet.org (RMP) is a Michigan based 501(c)3 organization dedicated to water conservation through smarter energy production & waste management logistics. RMP, like many environmental groups, advocates for the increased adoption of wind energy and solar energy to meet the world’s energy needs. RMP advocates for the adoption of fuel cell electric vehicles for cleaner air, a stronger economy, and energy independence. RMP seeks common sense energy solutions to wean ourselves off of oil & coal and to improve our economy and national security. To read RMP’s thesis post on the responsible migration away from crude oil as an energy source you can click here.
RMP understands, however, coal and crude oil will be around years to come even if we try our best to adopt better alternatives for producing energy. RMP takes a rational, common sense, & global approach about energy feed stocks like crude oil & coal. We have to do our best to mitigate adverse effects from fossil fuels as long as we continue to use them.
This post is about Carbon Capture & Sequestration (#CCS) in Michigan and RMP’s exclusive new map of all #CCS wells in Michigan. Even as RMP advocates for the responsible migration away from crude oil as an energy source, RMP supports #CCS oil production as a means to keep our American workers working as we wean ourselves off of oil and work to build clean and sustainable hydrogen infrastructure for future generations. Michigan is well poised to produce secondary recovery oil by sequestering CO2. Michigan can be a leader in this technology’s research and development. #CCS technology learned and proven in Michigan can be exported to help poorer countries that will be burning coal for a long time to come. India, for example, on October 2, 2016 signed the Paris Climate Agreement which is almost fully ratified. Indian President Narendra Modi called on fully developed countries like ours to export technology like Michigan’s #CCS tech to help India produce cleaner energy. Later in this post we will go over why Michigan is well suited to truly be a global leader in R&D for #CCS technology, but first let’s go over the basics of #CCS.
What is Carbon Capture & Sequestration (#CCS)?
If you’ve been following RMP, like you should be on either Twitter or facebook, you already know what Carbon Capture & Sequestration is. Carbon Capture & Sequestration (also known as #CCS) is the capture of Carbon Dioxide from anthropogenic sources like power plants, cement manufacturing, and fertilizer manufacturing where the CO2 is piped to an abandoned oil well and pumped underground rather than being released to atmosphere. CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG) and there is broad consensus amongst scientists that our planet’s climate is being impacted in a negative way by human activities like producing energy using fossil fuels that emit CO2 when burned. You’ll often hear the term anthropogenic CO2, which means CO2 produced by human activities as opposed to naturally occurring CO2.
The Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) is a great place to start if you want to learn about #CCS in Michigan or other Midwestern states. The US Department of Energy has divided North America into seven different Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSPs) and Michigan falls into the MRCSP. RMP encourages you to check out the MRCSP website and to read about the many things going on in our region. You can also check out the US Dept of Energy’s Carbon Capture & Storage Resource Center’s webpage by clicking here. I also encourage you to read Senate Bill S.3179 which is new legislation being sponsored by Heidi Heitkamp that incentivizes #CCS by offering up to a $20 per metric ton credit of CO2 sequestered into a secure geologic formation.
An estimated 1.2 billion barrels of potential oil recovery by CO2-EOR was calculated for our MRCSP region based on available data for 265 oil fields in the Midwest. Oil and gas reservoirs within the MRCSP region have an estimated storage resource capacity of 8,511 million metric tons (MMt). Based on an estimated 850 MMt per year of CO2 emissions, these reservoirs could sequester approximately 10 years worth of CO2 in our region.(1) Detailed reservoir characterization, geologic mapping, and modeling and simulation at the field-scale level are the next steps required to delineate prospective areas for future pilot floods and to plan successful CO2-EOR and sequestration projects within our region.
In addition to geological considerations, other factors that come into play when evaluating CO2-EOR potential in a region include (1) location and availability of CO2 sources (e.g., power plants, steel mills, cement plants) and proximity to oil reservoirs, (2) well spacing, (3) unitization issues, (4) location of improperly plugged wells and well-bore integrity, and (5) economic considerations.
The Department of Energy has divided the process of #CCS into three distinct phases which have been ongoing for years now. Phase 1 was the characterization phase which led to the Carbon Sequestration Atlas of the US & Canada which was last updated in 2012. Phase 2 was the validation phase where 20 small scale geologic storage tests were completed to validate reservoir simulation models, demonstrate accounting methods, and develop guidelines for future projects. Phase 3 is the development phase which is where we are now. Currently there are only six sites throughout the US & Canada that are undergoing Phase 3 long-term CO2 injection projects to validate the science on storage of large volumes of CO2. Michigan is home to one of those six sites. The Dover 2-33 well in Otsego County, which is pictured as the featured image on this post (photo credit: MCRSP) is a well in this small cadre of exclusive projects in North America. As of August 31, 2016 Michigan’s Dover 33 EOR Unit (as it’s called) has sequestered 580,687 tons of CO2, produced 515,284 barrels of oil, provided 170 jobs yielding more than $7.1 million dollars of income, generated $1.3 million in severance & sales taxes, and provided $3.6 million of other taxes & royalties(2). We’ll talk more about what’s going in Michigan with #CCS later in this post.
Why is #CCS Important?
We must face the reality that fossil fuels will be in use for years to come. We must mitigate damaging effects of producing energy from fossil fuels while we work earnestly to move away from them. RMP uses data and science to support our work and we are hoping folks will educate themselves about the ugly truths regarding energy production and why it’s important to face facts. RMP hopes that impassioned environmentalist types against fossil fuels will do more than just cheerlead wind & solar. Supporting wind & solar are great initiatives, but we have to give consideration to the reality of fossil fuels in our lives, our dependency on them, and how we can reduce pollution from them while we work to get off of them.
If fossil fuels were eliminated overnight there would be big problems because of disruptions to our energy needs. This is because crude oil and coal have become an entrenched part of our economy and energy mix over decades. Crude oil and coal didn’t come about overnight and they’re not going to disappear overnight. RMP is a leading non-profit research & watchdog organization of oil production in Michigan and we take on the API on a regular basis with regard to avarice, ignobility, and their misleading ad campaigns. RMP understands, however, that ending the use of crude oil for energy will be a migration that takes time and we must protect the workers who will need new jobs as we make a transition to smarter forms of energy production. RMP will never give the API or their cohorts a free pass for misleading the public, but we have to be realistic about our own culpability in the energy infrastructure that surrounds us today. RMP advocates for education and understanding with regard to our own complicity of oil usage in our economy; pots calling kettles black will get us nowhere. We all must work together to learn geology and energy science to make real progress.
#CCS is a must for becoming GHG Negative and keeping American oil field workers employed while we ramp up new and less volatile jobs in a sustainable hydrogen economy. Producing oil from the sequestration of CO2 is one of the ways environmentalists and an oil industry in its winter years should be able to find common ground.
#CCS is important right now to help us make an impact on reducing anthropogenic GHG emissions to atmosphere. Not only is coal going to continue to be an part of providing energy for American consumers for years to come, it is integral to bringing energy to developing countries around the world. Coal is also used in the manufacture of cement all over the world. Fertilizer production is also a large contributor of CO2. There is no magic wand to wave when it comes to a creating a carbon neutral or GHG negative economy.
RMP recently blogged about how ExxonMobil is poised to be one of the biggest difference makers in reducing GHG emissions because of their partnership with Fuel Cell Energy using #CCS & molten carbonate fuel cells.
#CCS is an immediate concern. We must reduce GHGs from established sources that currently produce a majority percentage of our energy and will continue to persist for the foreseeable future. The longer term concern is developing new energy infrastructure that does not produce GHGs like wind & solar coupled with the production of hydrogen for fuel cells. Making H2 for storage from wind and solar is important for using renewable sources for base load energy for those times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
Michigan can be a leader for #CCS technology in the world. Developing and proving out the processes of capturing and sequestering CO2 can be shared with countries like India, China, and many other countries that will be using coal for decades to come.
What Is Going On With #CCS In Michigan?
RMP has been publishing our Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly watchdog magazine for two years now and we have been writing about a Michigan company named Core Energy LLC. Core Energy LLC is a leader in Michigan #CCS and is one of the only operators in Michigan currently capturing and sequestering CO2 into secure geologic formations. Core is the only operator in Michigan currently executing a US Department of Energy Phase 3 long term high-volume CO2 sequestration project. Merit Energy & Jordan Development are also pursuing #CCS in Michigan to a lesser extent.
In EOR using CO2, one or more wells are the injection wells and one or more wells are the producing wells. The idea is that the injection well is being used to push the oil over to the other well. Think of two straws poked vertically through the lid on either end of a shoebox where the shoebox is the hydrocarbon reservoir and the straws are the well bores. You inject something, in this case CO2, down the one straw into this closed loop system and that injection forces something out the other straw.
Michigan is a great test bed for developing #CCS technology because we have all the proper ingredients to make it cost effective. Remember RMP’s philosophy: always follow the money. If things can’t be done economically, they won’t get done. Money always has a critical role in energy projects. The cost of developing new technology is always higher because there is a learning curve associated with it. Michigan has a lot going for it with regard to #CCS because we have an abundance of all the ingredients to help keep the R&D costs of #CCS projects low. Let’s look at the fundamental things needed to make a #CCS project economical:
- You need formations that can accept the CO2 and produce oil which helps offset the costs of the R&D, labor costs, and CO2 infrastructure costs. Michigan has 800 known Silurian (Niagaran-Age) Pinnacle Reefs in our Niagaran formation from Manistee to Gaylord and then some.
- You need oil & gas know-how, infrastructure, and regulatory agencies that can oversee the safety of the project and the protection of our most valuable natural resource: fresh water. Michigan has thousands of wells drilled into the Niagaran formation, experienced operators, and we also have the MDEQ to oversee regulatory requirements to protect our fresh water.
- You need an abundant supply of anthropogenic carbon dioxide nearby to pipeline over to these Niagaran wells in order to pump the CO2 underground and sequester it. Michigan has thousands and thousands of Middle Devonian Antrim Shale gas wells very near the Niagaran wells that produce roughly 80% natural gas and 20% carbon dioxide. The Antrim makes over 1 million tons of CO2 each year that has otherwise just been vented to atmosphere.
Michigan is a prime candidate to develop #CCS technology as we meet all the main requirements very well. This is why the US Department of Energy chose Michigan as one of only six sites developing Phase 3 #CCS projects in the United States and Canada. Michigan’s Middle Devonian Age Antrim Shale generates approximately 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide each year from six central processing facilities which is currently vented to atmosphere. One of the largest gas-processing facilities in Otsego County generates about 1 billion cubic feet of CO2 each month on average over the last 10 years that has been vented to atmosphere. The average CO2 vented to atmosphere each year from this facility is about 15 billion cubic feet and the average CO2 produced from the Antrim as a whole is about 21 billion cubic feet each year. This CO2 is high quality CO2 for pipelines at about 99% purity.(3)
Let’s do some math to put Antrim CO2 production into perspective: If we convert 21 billion cubic feet of CO2 to pounds or tons, which is how most newspapers write about CO2 emissions, we have to multiply by a factor of 0.1146 and we get about 2.4 billion pounds of CO2 per year vented from the Antrim. If we divide that figure by 2,000 lbs per ton we get about 1.2 million tons of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere from Michigan’s Antrim Shale each year.
For comparison’s sake, the Monroe Power Plant, the biggest power plant in Michigan @ 3,300MW and powered by burning coal, emits about 34.8 billion pounds of CO2 per year to atmosphere, which is about 17.4 million tons. So, the Monroe Power Plant emits about 14 to 15 times more CO2 to atmosphere than the Antrim Shale as a whole. The Monroe Plant also emits about 104k tons of Sulphur Dioxide, 32k tons of Nitrous Oxides, and 780 lbs of Mercury to atmosphere. The Monroe Plant is ranked 7th in the United States for Carbon Dioxide emissions to atmosphere according to SourceWatch. The Monroe Plant was ranked 11th in the US for GHG emissions in a September 29, 2016 @freep article you can read by clicking here.
Plants like the Monroe Power Plant and many more are what #CCS technology is really all about down the road. Companies like Core Energy can use their knowledge and expertise to help reduce the CO2 emissions of plants like the Monroe Power Plant. This is the ultimate goal of #CCS ambitions and why the Department of Energy is helping to fund projects like those undertaken by Core Energy LLC in Northern Michigan. There will be many factors in reducing CO2 emissions from large emission sources but we are closer now than ever before to making these goals safe & economically feasible.
Recently RMP wrote about ExxonMobil & Fuel Cell energy teaming up to add molten carbonate fuel cells to a natural gas power plant in our Fuel Cells 101 post. There is perhaps no greater technology to get excited about than these molten carbonate fuel cells as their CO2 capture signature is like no other diagram out there: they create energy while concentrating CO2 rather than taxing the power plant of energy to capture CO2. Furthermore, molten carbonate fuel cells are modular and can be added as necessary to the power plant depending on the size of the plant thus making their economics better too.
What’s Next for #CCS Proliferation?
As we say repeatedly at RMP: always follow the money. The biggest hurdle with the ambitions of #CCS is and will always be cost. We are in the nascent stages of #CCS now but these are exciting times for advancements in the entire scope of #CCS technology. Michigan is demonstrating itself as a leader in CO2 sequestration with Core Energy LLC’s work in Northern Michigan at the Dover 33 EOR Unit. Fuel Cell Energy in Danbury, Connecticut is demonstrating that molten carbonate fuel cells are a potential game changer for the mass adoption of #CCS because of their cost effectiveness on the “capture” side of CO2. ExxonMobil is providing financial support to small companies like Fuel Cell Energy to take technologies like molten carbonate fuel cells to the next level of mass adoption.
RMP is Michigan’s authority on sustainable energy production and you can follow us on Twitter or like us on facebook to get regular updates as we create new energy maps and blog about sustainable energy advancements. Stay tuned as RMP continues to cover developments in #CCS and other advanced energy technologies. RMP will be writing many more posts about #CCS as news and additional information becomes available.
Check Out RMP’s Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Wells in Michigan Map
RMP has been demonstrating our watchdog oil well mapping software since High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) came to Michigan. We wanted to know where the HVHF wells were in our state and learn more about them but the maps just didn’t exist. We could not get straight answers to our many questions. Sure there was the MDEQ’s GeoWebFace and other mapping applications out there but we needed something more robust. That’s when RMP was born. I have been working as a watchdog regarding Michigan oil well data and writing my own software for about 7 years now and what separates RMP data from other data sources is our supplemental data table and exclusive software. By creating an RMP exclusive table that works in conjunction with MDEQ public data, has added hooks & sorting criteria to Michigan data you just can’t find anywhere else. Want to know which oils have ground water contamination issues? Want to know which wells target the Niagaran formation? Or which wells use CO2 EOR? There is no other place on the web that can match the Michigan made mapping software exclusive to RMP. Our CO2 EOR map shown below is a great example of a map you just won’t find anywhere else on the internet.
RMP’s Interactive Map of Michigan’s Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Wells
Click Here To Open RMP’s Michigan’s Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Wells Map Map In A New Full Screen Tab
2. Michigan Phase III Project Update by MRCSP – Note this is a dynamic link and numbers are updated monthly so the numbers quoted at the time of publication will not match the link depending on when you click the link.
3. Matthias Grobe, Jack C. Pashin, Rebecca L. Dodge, Carbon Dioxide Sequestration in Geological Media: State of the Science – American Association of Petroleum Geologists (2009) – Link to Book
Each month respectmyplanet.org (RMP) recaps oil & gas activity in the Michigan Basin right here in our Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly (MOGM) magazine. RMP is a Michigan based 501(c)3 non-profit organization. If you want to know what’s going on with oil & gas development in Michigan, you should follow this publication each month by liking us on facebook or following @respectmyplanet on Twitter so you don’t miss a publication.
In September, we saw some interesting activity in the Michigan Basin that we will keep our eyes on as it unfolds. Delta Oil out of Oak Brook, Illinois filed numerous ACOWS to drill multiple horizontals off of their State Avery D1-32 well (PN45601) & off of their State Albert A4-1 well (PN53617). The ACOWS calls for a horizontal drainhole (HD) targeting the Upper Devonian Lachine formation. The other ACOWS calls for an HD targeting the Continue reading “Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – September 2016”
It’s been a cold Spring. Winter came late this year in Michigan and Spring has been pushed back. The first four months ended April 30, 2016 have been freezing. But, we’ve finally turned the corner and it’s getting warmer. Sun’s out guns out for the next 5 or 6 months straight and a we are all looking forward to the warm weather. Free heat from the sun will reduce natural gas demand from consumers all across Michigan and the Midwest until next winter. Michiganders demand natural gas to stay warm for months on end through the cold season with a just a simple digital click of their thermostats. Nearly 80% of Michiganders heat their homes with natural gas as well as use natural gas to dry their laundry and heat their chicken noodle soup. Natural gas is poised to gain additional market share in 2016 around the world and to displace demand for oil similar to the way it has displaced demand for coal.
The first four months of 2016 rang in the first Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) export shipments from Cheniere’s Sabine Pass terminal in Lousiana with the very first export shipment of US natural gas occurring on Continue reading “Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – April 2016”
2015 Michigan petroleum production numbers are approximately 98% reported as of today. RMP has always focused on the numbers as they are often greater than adjectives. Opinions are overrated. People want to hear the numbers and then decide for themselves. This is RMP’s fifth year studying, parsing, organizing, compiling, and reporting numbers related to Michigan petroleum production. The information RMP publishes will always be free access to the public. RMP has always followed three fundamental tenets as a research and reporting philosophy:
- It’s all about the rock. Always respect the geology.
- Follow the money. Money talks.
- Follow the wastewater. Waste means inefficiency and problems. Inefficiency and problems mean additional costs. With regard to costs, see point #2.
Following the money has proven to be difficult because of the voluminous and Continue reading “Michigan Oil & Gas Production Report January – December 2015”
Crickets. New oil & gas activity in the Michigan Basin is so slow through the first quarter of 2016 that the only thing you can hear at the OOGM permitting department is crickets. 2015 was the slowest year in Michigan oil & gas history for new permitting activity breaking the old record set in 1931. In the first three months of 2015, the slowest year in Michigan history, the Office of Oil, Gas, & Minerals (OOGM) had received 24 applications and had issued 28 permits. As of today, through the first three months of 2016, Michigan’s OOGM has received only two applications and issued only six permits. New oil & gas permitting activity in 2016 is on pace to set the bar substantially lower than last year’s record as the slowest year ever.
As always, however, there’s a lot going on in Michigan oil & gas even if the permitting department of the OOGM is Continue reading “Michigan Oil & Gas Monthly – March 2016”