The Truth About Blue Hydrogen

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 make zero, net zero, and low emission hydrogen for future markets.  What distinguishes the ATR process of making hydrogen from the SMR process is a step called partial oxidation.  In the first part of the ATR process, methane (CH4) is partially oxidized to create syngas.  In the 2nd part of the ATR process, called a water-gas shift reaction, the syngas is mixed with steam to make carbon dioxide & hydrogen.1  The chemical notation for the exothermic ATR process is:

Partial oxidation of methane reaction:
CH4 + ½O2 → CO + 2H2 (+ heat)

Water-gas shift reaction:
CO + H2O → CO2 + H2 (+ small amount of heat)

What makes the hydrogen “blue”, and why the US Department of Energy is talking about this pathway for hydrogen production, is that ~95% of the CO2 from the process is easily separated from the natural gas and can be permanently sequestered such that it will never reach our atmosphere.  The reason this hydrogen is being called “net zero” is because the by-products of the process can be used to make the energy required to execute the process as well producing excess energy to power nearby homes & businesses that would otherwise come from burning fossil fuels.

Mark Jacobson is a professor at Stanford University bent on stopping clean hydrogen.  Mark sued fellow researchers at the National Academy of Science for $10M for debunking his study on switching to 100% renewables.  Mark dropped his lawsuit in 2018.  Superior Court Judge Elizabeth C. Wingo in April 2020 said “no jury, properly instructed on the law, could find the statements in this case are defamatory in light of the evidence” and ordered Jacobson to pay the defendants’ attorney fees for the frivolous lawsuit.

Unfortunately, the anti-hydrogen crowd has been spreading misinformation about blue hydrogen recently and it’s gotten into the internet echo chamber.   This misinformation serves its purpose of sowing doubt about a net zero technology that is ready now to help eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality in population dense areas.  This time the misinformation comes from an old regular, Mark Jacobson, and co-author Robert Howarth.  Their recently published study spreads misinformation under the guise of peer reviewed science.  Mark Jacobson recently published this anti-hydrogen research paper in August 2021 that will be debunked in this post.

After debunking more misinformation from Mark Jacobson about the benefits of a hydrogen economy, RMP will cover some positive points about how real scientists and real companies are investing billions of dollars into making net zero blue hydrogen here in the USA and also in Canada.  The multi-billion dollar investments recently announced to build blue hydrogen plants will create good paying jobs for real scientists and real engineers.  As long as we keep speaking out against pseudo-science like the Jacobson/Howarth study, there is a chance to save our climate, have clean water, and breath clean air.

Why It’s Important for RMP to Write About Blue Hydrogen Now

“A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has time to put on its shoes” is a famous quote often attributed to Mark Twain.  One hundred years later and with the advent of social media, it could be argued that a lie gets around the world several times over before the truth’s jaw can drop in amazement.  If you’re a hydrogen advocate, like the people who volunteer their free time to help RMP protect our freshwater resources, you know about this all too well.   There are certain folks that don’t seem to care about landfills and waste water threatening our drinking water & being a larger source of methane emissions than the oil & gas industry2.  But, when it comes to net zero hydrogen production that can be made with net zero CO2 / NOx / SOx, these same critics are vehement, vocal, and willing to spread misleading information.

Sulfur Dioxide is much worse for people than CO2 and you will not find a single mention of it in the 13 page Howarth/Jacobson paper.  The word sulfur/sulphur shows up exactly zero times in the Howarth/Jacobson paper.  The word nitrous oxide shows up only once in the same sentence that mentions the paper is solely focused on carbon dioxide & methane.  The word carbon dioxide is spelled out in its entirety 128 times and never once called CO2 which is also a little odd.  It is socially irresponsible to be myopic on environmental studies that have broad implications to our economy and well being.  This is especially true in a country with poorer folks living near fossil fuel plants & oil refineries that release toxic emissions like SOx into the atmosphere disproportionately impacting people of color; this makes reports like the Jacobson/Howarth study even more socially irresponsible in that it ignores these important factors.  We have the technology now to make blue hydrogen to eliminate CO2, NOx, and SOx which can improve the health of every American immediately.  It makes standing up for real environmental science ever so more important which is the purpose of this website/organization.

Mark Jacobson first wound up on RMP’s radar in 2016 as a spreader of hydrogen misinformation.  His situation is unique as a person in a position of influence at a prestigious university (in this case Stanford) and also because he purports to dedicate his life to saving the planet.  Instead of objectively supporting all clean energy technologies, Mark seems focused on attacking clean energy solutions like hydrogen as he has for several years now.   I remember subscribing the Stanford Energy Newsletter in April of 2017 just so I could follow along with the University’s research and follow Mark’s exploits after I became alarmed after reading some of his published work.  I have been subscribed to Stanford’s Energy Newsletter ever since.  Every once in a while, like this past August 2021, Mark publishes something misleading to further an anti-hydrogen agenda and it gets wide traction with media outlets and lawmakers.  The tweet below from congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reaches her audience of 12.7M Twitter followers and most likely uses Mark Jacobson’s junk science to support her false claims.  When coal is burned, it releases CO2, NOx, SOx, particulates, and  mercury into the air.  What AOC tweets below is wrong & alarming.

RMP feels it’s important to carve time out of our very busy lives and away from our day jobs to debunk this kind of junk science in order to fight for the protection of our drinking water and the air we breathe.  Let’s start the debunking and then move on to some good news regarding those who are making multi-billion dollar investments in blue hydrogen in the face of misleading detractors like Mark Jacobson.  Everywhere blue hydrogen production is employed, it will result in net zero carbon dioxide as well as reduced cases of asthma [especially] in poorer communities where coal & natural gas are currently combusting CO2, NOx, & SOx into our atmosphere.

Debunking the Howarth/Jacobson Study

The first major flaw in the Jacobson/Howarth paper is that the study employs a 20-year window to assign a greenhouse gas equivalency to methane instead of the 100-year window the IPCC uses3.  While it’s true methane is a powerful GHG that’s 100 times more potent than CO2, it goes away in about 12 years.  Integrating methane’s warming potential over a 20-year window gives it a CO2 equivalency of 86 which is the figure that Howarth & Jacobson use in their study.  Over a 100-year window, however, it’s only 28 which is 1/3 of the figure Howarth and Jacobson employ.  The 20-year equivalency exaggerates the overall impact of methane emissions because over most of the 100-years, the methane would be long gone from the atmosphere.4

The next major flaw in the report conflates fugitive methane emissions from oil production rather than natural gas production.  RMP has been tracking oil & gas production in the Michigan Basin since 2011.  We’ve mapped every single oil, gas, disposal, and storage well in Michigan and I have personally visited 100s of these wells over the past decade.  RMP’s environmental research & watchdog work in the Michigan oil patch has been covered in Ecowatch, Bridge Magazine, and several other well-known media outlets like MLive.  One thing you learn when you track the brass tacks production operations of the oil industry closely for several years is that natural gas is a nuisance gas at oil wells.

Natural gas is often vented or flared at oil wells because there is no way to get it to market and it’s therefore unwanted.  We need to eliminate the use of oil for so many reasons and natural gas emissions is just one more reason to add to the list.  We need to eliminate the use of oil as soon as humanly possible.  Oil wells are responsible for releasing more methane emissions from subsurface wells than natural gas wells or any other type of well.  This point is conflated in the Jacobson/Howarth study further eroding is credibility.  Oil also threatens our drinking water in a much more substantial way than natural gas which is a point that doesn’t get much attention.  It’s RMP’s stated mission to protect our drinking water.

Landfill and Agriculture RNG Projects in the United States (2005-2020).   As stated earlier, our human waste, animal farm waste, and landfills emit more methane to atmosphere than the oil & gas industry2.  The number of agricultural and landfill projects to employ RNG is on the rise over the past 15 years.  Even after every oil & gas well in the world has been plugged, blue hydrogen will still play a big part in reducing emissions, creating jobs, and creating clean energy. (Source:  USEPA)

RMP would love to see all oil wells plugged and never used again in order to curb their methane emissions and we’ve fought as hard as anyone over the past decade with this website as our body of work to back that statement up.  Natural gas emissions at natural gas wells, however, are not the same.  Natural gas wells have the specific purpose of getting gas to market and operators don’t want that product to leak.   It’s disingenuous to compare leakage rates at oil wells -vs- gas wells which is what the Howarth/Jacobson study does.  This means the 2.6% figure for upstream emissions the Howarth/Jacobson study employs grossly overstates the emissions associated with use of natural gas.

Make no mistake, RMP supports green hydrogen over blue hydrogen from natural gas wells, but blue hydrogen technology can reduce current emissions substantially now from gas wells that are already in use. Blue hydrogen will remain very important for RNG long after every natural gas well in the world has been plugged & forgotten because of more economical green hydrogen.  So blue hydrogen’s importance is not directly tied to natural gas wells.  Blue hydrogen can be employed for 100s of years after all subsurface wells are plugged.

The third and most deceptive flaw of the Howarth/Jacobson paper is the sleight of hand of basing calculations on old school steam methane reforming (SMR) rather than autothermal reformation (ATR).  The acronym SMR is used 69 times in the 13 page paper.  This is a classic hydrogen detractor technique that is used by all the famous detractors that spout scientific misinformation about hydrogen:  claim the historical use of hydrogen for the past 85 years is representative of what blue hydrogen will be or can be.  It is disingenuous to conflate hydrogen made for oil refining as representative of our ability to make zero emission hydrogen for FCEVs that will replace gasoline & diesel cars .  Can you guess how many times the word autothermal is used in Jacobson’s paper?  If you guessed zero, you’re absolutely correct.

One final flaw in the report is section 2.2 of the study calling out the extra power it would take to run the SMR process.   This is actually how blue hydrogen achieves its ‘net zero’ claim through the ATR process.  In section 2.2 of the Jacobson/Howarth study, Mark calculates 31.8g of CO2 are generated to create 1 MJ of hydrogen.   The math is correct, but the irony again is sleight of hand in that this is the amount of CO2 saved because it will be sequestered.  By capturing the CO2 that would otherwise be necessary to create the hydrogen while also having surplus power for nearby homes & businesses, the blue hydrogen produced earns its “net zero” claim.

For the past 100 years hydrogen has been used predominantly in ammonia production , oil refining, methanol production , and ten percent  for other things like the plastic containers that keep salad fresh, the fabric of the seat cushions on your furniture, or the material on your winter jacket.  Hydrogen has never had a market other than to make our food, make gasoline, and make the products we use every day.  We never had the technology to use hydrogen for energy because the technology for hydrogen fuel cells has been incubating in its infancy for over 50 years.   Well guess what?  Hydrogen fuel cell technology has blossomed in the past decade to bear fruit for a clean energy future.  We don’t need to use hydrogen for refining oil in a future state economy, and we don’t need to make it like our fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers used to in the early 1900s. It’s misleading to use century old backward looking stats as the basis for a forward-looking study when new blue hydrogen investments will be using autothermal reformation (ATR) and carbon sequestration.

The math and chemical equations in the Howarth/Jacobson paper are not scientifically accurate as laid out above.  But the bigger problem is the way the study uses sleight of hand tricks to get you to look backward instead of forward.  Howarth and Jacobson go to lengths calculating the chemical mole weights of carbon dioxide from making hydrogen from steam reformation.  On page four of the study there’s a table to summarize how much carbon dioxide is released as flue gas in the SMR process.   Let me say the same thing I said when I debunked Dr. Bossel’s pseudo-scientific paper:  I don’t dispute the Howarth/Jacobson chemical calculations per se, but by plugging the wrong numbers into his equations, Mark arrives at the wrong results.  Let me hang RMP’s thesis on this important point:  new multi-billion dollar investments in blue hydrogen will not use the SMR process to make hydrogen.  Blue hydrogen investments will employ autothermal reformation (ATR) in which 95% of the carbon dioxide will be captured and sequestered forever.  “Net zero” blue hydrogen will be achieved by eliminating the need to generate an external power source to execute the ATR process and the process itself will feed excess power to the grid.  Even staunch anti-hydrogen critic Michael Liebreich poured cold water on the Jacobson/Howarth study by basically saying “garbage in / garbage out”.

There’s no reason to spend any more time debunking the Howarth/Jacobson paper.  Our time is too valuable to rehash these incessant attempts to stifle good technologies like blue hydrogen with misleading information.  Let’s instead focus on what real scientists and engineers are doing to combat climate change.  They’re putting their money where their mouth is and they’re investing their money in ATR plants with CCS to create net zero blue hydrogen and good paying jobs.

Blue Hydrogen Investments Are Happening Now

Blue hydrogen has certainly jumped into the lime-light recently it seems since a key date this summer.  On June 9th, 2021 Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania based Air Products announced in conjunction with the Government of Canada and the Province of Alberta, a multi-billion dollar plan to build a landmark new net-zero hydrogen energy complex in Edmonton, Alberta.5   Edmonton is the heart of western Canada’s hydrogen economy and this news release set the stage for the Canadian city to operate an economically competitive and low-carbon-intensity network of energy.  It was just 47 days after the multi-billion dollar Canadian blue hydrogen project was announced that the Jacobson/Howarth paper denouncing blue hydrogen with misleading pseudo-science was accepted at www.researchgate.net on July 26th, 2021.

When the Edmonton, Alberta blue hydrogen project was announced, Air Products CEO Seifi Ghasemi said “By being a first mover and investing in this innovative landmark project, we are paving the way for hydrogen from Edmonton to meet industrial and transportation needs throughout western Canada. Our highly integrated project will be a model for net-zero atmospheric gas, hydrogen and power production consistent with our announced growth platforms.”

Aerial photo of the location where Air Products will invest $1.3B in a brand new ATR with CCS plant to manufacture net zero blue hydrogen. The plant will make 30 tons per day of liquid H2 which can serve a market of about 40,000 FCEVs like the Toyota Mirai.  (Image source:  https://www.royalparkrealty.com/)

The info-graphic used as this post’s featured image was adapted from the Air Product’s page that explains the details of the Edmonton, Alberta project.  One of the interesting things about the graphic is that it shows a 55 km hydrogen pipeline and indicates multiple ATR/CCS plants could be built along the pipeline scaling up net zero blue hydrogen production to 1,500 tons per day.  If 1,500 tons of blue hydrogen was produced per day, it would be enough for 2,000,000 FCEVs like a Toyota Mirai.  Just imagine two million drivers with zero emissions and zero impact on the electricity grid.  In fact, each plant would put additional energy into the grid at zero emissions to help charge BEVs.  This will be a great way to help Canada achieve their goal of zero emissions energy.

Click Here To See Exact Location of Air Product’s Planned Edmonton Blue Hydrogen Production Facility On RMP’s Map Of Hydrogen Infrastructure

The Jacobson/Howarth study was published with just enough time to malign the narrative around blue hydrogen  because less than two months after the Jacobson/Howarth study was published, Air Products was back with another announcement on October 14th, 2021.  This time it was Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and Air Products CEO Seifi Ghasemi announcing a $4.5 billion clean energy complex to be built in Louisiana that will make the state a leader in the United States (U.S.) clean energy transition.

The Louisiana blue hydrogen project practically dwarfs the Edmonton project with some very impressive statistics:  750 million SCF of blue H2 per day, 2000 construction jobs over a period of three years, 170 permanent jobs with an annual payroll of $15.9M per year, and all of this at net zero emissions.  If you convert 750 million SCF of H2 to tons, it’s nearly 2,000 tons per day or enough to service approximately 2.7 million FCEVs.  Again, this is nearly 3 million cars with zero emissions, and zero impact on the grid other than adding additional energy to the grid that can be used to charge BEVs.  The October 14th, 2021 announcement represents Air Products largest ever investment in the USA in the company’s history.

A large portion of the net zero blue hydrogen created in Louisiana will be for making blue ammonia so the 2.7M car equivalency is just to show scale.  The neat thing about hydrogen is how it scales because there is enough for our cars, trucks, boats, and ammonia.  Hydrogen can be used for everything from energy to fertilizer to steel with zero emissions; and you can never run out of it.

Air Liquide will open its 100% renewable hydrogen facility in North Las Vegas this month (Nov 2021) and will begin shipments to California hydrogen refueling stations in early 2022.  The 30 tons per day of hydrogen produced in North Las Vegas will use RNG from landfills and wastewater treatment plants that would otherwise vent to atmosphere.  If this plant were to employ carbon capture & sequestration while using RNG, it would be negative emissions.

The blue hydrogen in Louisiana will be able to connect to Air Product’s recently upgraded 700 miles of hydrogen pipeline that stretches all the way from New Orleans to Galveston Texas.  Additional ATR/CCS hydrogen production facilities can be built from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to Lake Charles and all the way over to Houston along the largest hydrogen pipeline system in the world.  As RMP has said before, Texas could come on the scene and possibly surpass California in registered FCEVs on the road in the next decade.

About 95 percent of the carbon dioxide generated at the Louisiana Air Products facility will be captured, compressed and transported by pipeline to multiple inland sequestration sites located along a pipeline corridor extending up to 35 miles to the east of the complex. More than five million metric tons per year of carbon dioxide will be permanently sequestered in geologic pore space secured from the State of Louisiana about a mile below ground. Air Products has received approval from the State Mineral and Energy Board for the permanent sequestration of the carbon dioxide.6

The Edmonton Alberta and Ascension Parish Louisiana blue hydrogen locations have been added to RMP’s map of North American hydrogen infrastructure you can find by clicking here.  The Edmonton Alberta location on RMP’s map is exact while the Air Products location at 8013 Ashland Road in Geismar Louisiana is a real location but only a guess as to the location where the blue hydrogen plant will be built.  The Ashland Road location makes sense as Air Products has a lot of vacant property on the west end of their parcel between the railroad tracks & the Mississippi River.   None of the websites announcing the Ascension Parish location have information on the exact location of the planned blue hydrogen facility.  When RMP learns the exact location of the planned facility, our map will be updated or confirmed as accurate.

#CCS
The MRCSP has surveyed multiple locations within our midwest region for additional Phase 2 carbon dioxide sequestration projects. In all of North America, Michigan now has one of only six Phase 3 sequestration projects underway in all of North America.  Click here to see RMP’s map of phase 3 active carbon dioxide sequestration sites in Michigan.

Michigan has had several CO2 sequestration projects underway for several years now that RMP has written about in the past.  We also recall in 2014 when representative Rick Outman sponsored Michigan legislation (HB5254) that Governor Snyder signed into law April 1, 2014 which modified wording so it was legal to transfer carbon dioxide by pipeline in Michigan.  Michigan has had several wells drilled into geologic formations that could sequester CO2 in the Detroit area.  Several wells have been drilled into the Salina formation in Detroit in the 1970’s7 as well as several wells drilled through the Bass Islands & Traverse formations into the Niagaran formation at about 3,400 feet depth throughout the metro Detroit area.  West Bay has drilled into the Niagaran formation in the Plymouth Canton area as recently as 2009.8

Michigan has all the tools to begin sequestering CO2 now, just like Louisiana.  All the pieces are in place for us to create net zero energy and create good jobs right now here in Detroit.   We can make green hydrogen too, but we have an obligation to reduce CO2, NOx, and SOx in the River Rouge & Zug Island area now which is the armpit of Detroit’s worst emissions and pollution.

We can make Blue Hydrogen here in Michigan just like Lousiana & Edmonton are doing.  Across the river in Sarnia, Air Products already has a hydrogen liquefaction facility that could be upgraded to make net zero Blue Hydrogen.   While ATR/CCS will be for new hydrogen manufacturing plants, it’s true that most hydrogen today is made for the petroleum industry where the goal is cheap even if dirty.  Several coal plants will keep burning coal and oil refiners will continue to use tons of hydrogen to refine oil for our cars & trucks.  The hydrogen used to make gasoline will largely come from SMR with all carbon dioxide vented to atmosphere.  This does not make FCEVs the culprit of gray hydrogen, it makes gasoline & diesel vehicles the culprit of gray hydrogen.  FCEVs running on blue hydrogen or green hydrogen are net zero CO2, NOx, and SOx.  Let’s not conflate the problems of the past with our options for the future.  FCEVs have nothing to do with historical hydrogen manufacturing & distribution over the last 100 years; they need to be judged on their ability to have net zero emissions looking forward.

In 2020, Americans used about 123 billion gallons of motor gasoline—or about 337 million gallons per day—and about 166 million gallons of aviation gasoline. Gasoline is one of the major fuels consumed in the United States and is the main product that U.S. oil refineries produce.9

Final Thoughts on Blue Hydrogen

Green hydrogen is the best.  We can make enough green hydrogen for all in the future.  But, we would be foolish to think we could make enough green hydrogen to replace consumers deeply entrenched reliance on a fossil fuel economy overnight.  Our hospitals, our industry, our military, and our consumers all expect to have all the energy they need on demand to keep America running.  Blue hydrogen is a technology we can use now to start tipping the scales of our fossil fuel reliance toward a green hydrogen future.  After every gas well in the whole world has been plugged and forgotten, the use of blue hydrogen will still play an important part in the hydrogen economy to help create clean energy and good jobs at our landfills, animal farms, and waste water treatment facilities.  Even if the fossil fuel industry disappeared overnight, natural gas will still need to be managed to protect our environment.

Much of the oil refining infrastructure and fossil fuel infrastructure in place today has decades of useful life remaining.  Gasoline powered vehicles are still being sold today with average useful lives of 12.1 years10.   The oil refining industry and gasoline powered cars are connected to how hydrogen is made now.  FCEVs and how hydrogen can be made with zero emissions of CO2, NOx, and SOx is the future.  It is bad science and economics to look at historical hydrogen tied to gasoline cars and say that it’s representative of green & blue hydrogen for hydrogen fuel cell cars in the future.

Map of U.S.A’s Gulf Coast hydrogen pipeline infrastructure.  Air Products recently completed additional hydrogen pipeline making the total pipeline system over 700 miles; stretching from New Orleans in the east to Galveston in the west.   RMP is working on adding this pipeline to our hydrogen infrastructure map.  The map above comes from https://rbnenergy.com/.

Much of the coal burned in the USA happens in the same places SMR is being used to make hydrogen for oil refining.  Detroit’s Zug Island & River Rouge area is a great example of a location where coal is burned, oil is refined, and steel gets made.  Zug Island in Detroit is similar to many other places where energy is made in a concentrated area in order to feed America’s hungry energy consumers & industrial processes.   It is in these industrial areas where energy is made that property values are the lowest because of the toxic emissions these locations belch into our atmosphere.  It is also in these places where Americans below the poverty threshold live and raise their children.

In most cases the communities subjected to America’s nastiest emissions are disproportionally communities of color.  Blue hydrogen and IGCC with CCS technology are ways to cut America’s emissions now, improve air quality for those suffering the most from NOx, SOx, and particulate emissions.  The actions of reducing pollution need to happen in conjunction with the build out of green energy infrastructure.  We need to capitalize on every solution available to create a pathway for thousands of American workers to transition from dirty energy to a clean hydrogen economy.  To deny this is to continue to relegate so many American’s to breathe dirty air for years to come.  Why?  What is someone’s true agenda when they badmouth solutions that will eliminate CO2, NOx, & SOx without showing us any alternative solutions that scale to the 101 quadrillion BTUs America uses each year which is only 17% of the 599 quadrillion BTUs the world uses each year? 11

Blue hydrogen is an excellent investment for the USA & Canada to reduce GHG emissions to pre-industrial levels now.    We can scale production of green & blue hydrogen to serve every single energy situation as well as steel, concrete, and fertilizer; no other solution can say that.  We can scale up green hydrogen while blue hydrogen helps to descale the fossil fuel industry.  This is the way.

Thanks for reading.  If you like our maps and our posts, please consider making a secure and tax deductible donation to RMP by clicking here.  We have very little revenue to cover web hosting services and appreciate your support.

 

 


Footnotes:

Footnote #1“Hydrogen Production: Natural Gas Reforming” U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy https://www.energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/hydrogen-production-natural-gas-reforming

Footnote #2–  Andrew Benedek, CalMatters.org, “Why we must turn food waste into a renewable fuel” Published October 21, 2021  https://calmatters.org/commentary/2021/10/why-we-must-turn-food-waste-into-a-renewable-fuel/

Footnote #3 – Allen, M.R., Shine, K.P., Fuglestvedt, J.S. et al. “A solution to the misrepresentations of CO2-equivalent emissions of short-lived climate pollutants under ambitious mitigation”  npj Clim Atmos Sci 1, 16 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41612-018-0026-8

Footnote #4 – Roger Arnold, Natural Gas World, “Bashing Blue Hydrogen: False Numbers, Flawed Models [Gas in Transition]” published October 13, 2021 https://www.naturalgasworld.com/bashing-blue-hydrogen-false-numbers-flawed-models-gas-in-transition-92613

Footnote #5 – Press Release, Air Products Corporation, “Air Products Announces Multi-Billion Dollar Net-Zero Hydrogen Energy Complex in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada” published June 9, 2021 https://www.airproducts.com/news-center/2021/06/0609-air-products-net-zero-hydrogen-energy-complex-in-edmonton-alberta-canada

Footnote #6 – Press Release, Office of the Governor of the State of Louisiana “Gov. Edwards, Air Products Announce $4.5 Billion Blue Hydrogen Clean Energy Complex” published October 14, 2021 https://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/newsroom/detail/3421

Footnote #7 – Well file Michigan Department of Environment, Energy, and Great Lakes “Permit 32883 – State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources Geological Survey Division ” published February 9, 1979 http://www.deq.state.mi.us/GeoWebface/GeoWebface/WF/163/32883_WF.pdf

Footnote #8 – Well file Michigan Department of Environment, Energy, and Great Lakes “Permit 59922- Michigan Department of Environmental Quality – Office of Geological Survey ” published May 6, 2009 http://www.deq.state.mi.us/GeoWebface/GeoWebface/WF/163/59922_WF.pdf

Footnote #9 – U.S. Energy Information Administration “Gasoline Explained – Use of Gasoline” published 2020 https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/gasoline/use-of-gasoline.php

Footnote #10 – Mathilde Carlier, Statista.com “U.S Vehicle Age from 2018 to 2021 (in years)” published September 29, 2021 https://www.statista.com/statistics/738667/us-vehicles-projected-age/

Footnote #11 – U.S. Energy Information Association “FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS), What is the United States’ share of world energy consumption?” Last updated November 5, 2021 https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=87

USA’s Public Retail Hydrogen History: A View from Late 2020

Three new hydrogen refueling stations have come online recently that mark a paradigm change in retail hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the USA:

  • Shell Oakland with 800kg capacity Oakland, California 9/20/2019
  • TrueZero Fountain Valley with 1,200kg capacity Fountain Valley, California 7/3/2020
  • TrueZero Mission Hills with 1,200kg capacity Mission Hills, California 10/26/2020

Sometimes when you want to understand where you are or what just happened, you have to look back to appreciate how you got here.  To understand something generationally new, you have to understand its predecessor technology to appreciate the contrast between the way it was and the way it will be going forward.  RMP has been writing about some BIG new hydrogen refueling stations that would be coming online soon, and now… they’re here.  They’re open now.  Now that they’re open & with more BIG stations on the way, it’s starting to set in that we have reached a milestone in retail hydrogen refueling infrastructure.  That said, it seems like a good reflection point to look back at retail hydrogen infrastructure development thus far and understand the USA’s history in hydrogen clean energy technology.

People following hydrogen infrastructure development will have many different takes on where we started and how far we’ve come.  How far to go back in history is an ambiguous question.  RMP will focus on Continue reading “USA’s Public Retail Hydrogen History: A View from Late 2020”

USA’s First Hydrogen Passenger Rail – San Bernadino California

America’s first hydrogen fuel cell train is expected to be operational in San Bernadino California in 2024 and there’s a cool connection back to Michigan State University. Hydrogen fuel cell powered trains are already in public service in both Germany & China. Hydrogen fuel cell trains create their own electricity onboard by running hydrogen from a tank & oxygen from the ambient air through a fuel cell. That electricity powers a motor that runs the wheels & on-board “right-sized” battery pack that buffers electricity flow and the only emission is potable water. Hydrogen fuel cell trains are being hash tagged on Twitter as #Hydrail.

The San Bernadino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) has begun mainline construction on the Redlands Passenger Rail Project, which is bringing the next generation of passenger rail service to the East Valley. To celebrate this momentous occasion, SBCTA had a Groundbreaking Event on July 19,2019 near the corner of Third Street and Stuart Avenue in Redlands.

california hydrogen train
The Redlands Rail project in San Bernadino California is already under construction & will be operational by 2021. A hydrogen fuel cell powered train is on order from Stadler that should be operational on the new route by 2024. If you want to see a real world Google map of the rail route, click here. (click image to enlarge)

The Redlands Passenger Rail Project will add a nine-mile rail connection between the University of Redlands and the San Bernadino Transit Center, a multi-modal transit hub that can provide access to all points west. When completed, the project will house the Arrow commuter line, featuring specially designed zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell powered trains. The zero-emission units will be the first of their kind in North America. The Arrow system is expected to be operational in 2021 & up to date information about construction on the project & road crossing closures as the construction plays out can be Continue reading “USA’s First Hydrogen Passenger Rail – San Bernadino California”

USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2018-Q4

hydrogen fuel cells

Welcome new readers of RMP’s quarterly H2 infrastructure report.  Each quarter RMP looks back on the major stories related to hydrogen infrastructure advancements in the USA & Canada.  RMP compares the current Alternative Fuels DataCenter database to the AFDC database in the prior quarter to see what has changed.  The AFDC database is updated by the US Department of Energy & can be found by clicking here.   RMP also follows the #hydrogen hashtag on Twitter to stay plugged into the latest develops around the world.  Clickthrough to read all the updates & news from the past three months. Continue reading “USA & CANADA QUARTERLY H2 INFRASTRUCTURE UPDATE 2018-Q4”

USA & Canada Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2018-Q3

This quarterly report looks back at all the H2 infrastructure activity from the previous three months in the USA & Canada. This issue of our report is focused on activity that occurred between 6/30/2018 and 9/30/2018.  RMP is tracking Hydrogen Refueling Station (HRS) development as refueling is the key growth bottleneck to wide scale FCEV adoption.  Awesome hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are already available and in production, we just need refueling stations.  A lot of hydrogen infrastructure activity has occurred in the USA & Canada in the past quarter.   The two biggest highlights in the last quarter have got to be Hawaii’s first public HRS opening in July and Canada’s first HRS opening at the tail end of June that just missed our Q2 publication cutoff when RMP was only covering USA activity.

USA Hydrogen Stations
HRS count of planned & active locations in USA from 9-23-2018 download from AFDC database. Hawaii ranks #2 in number of stations on the database.  (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

Honolulu-based Toyota dealer and distributor SERVCO Pacific unveiled the island’s first HRS in Oahu after traditional Japanese Taiko drummers kicked off the ceremony.  SERVCO, a local 100-year-old company, hopes that the availability of hydrogen to power passenger cars will spur sales of fuel cell vehicles (FCEVs) on Oahu and eventually other Hawaiian Islands.  Hawaii already ranks 2nd in the USA for number of  planned & active stations in a state with nine.   In fact the SERVCO station has been on RMP’s Map of all HRS in the USA since we started making our map (view our map here).  Now, the SERVCO station is open to the general public.

If you’re reading this article, you might have already Continue reading “USA & Canada Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2018-Q3”

Quarterly USA H2 Report Becomes Quarterly USA & Canada H2 Report

RMP is based near Detroit, Michigan.   The Detroit River separates the City of Detroit & the City of Windsor.  The Ambassador Bridge connects the two cities and soon the Gordy Howe International Bridge, a once in a generation undertaking, will be a second major bridge connecting the two cities.  Windsor is my personal connection to Canada and has been woven into the fabric of my life since I was a child.  I can remember seeing Ronald Reagan at Cobo Hall in the morning & crossing the bridge to Windsor and seeing Queen Elizabeth in Windsor on the very same day.   The USA & Canada border is vast and the friendship & commerce all along the USA & Canada border provides many folks from Washington to New York their own personal connections to our neighbor to the north.

Canada is also a leader in Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology.  Ballard Power is Continue reading “Quarterly USA H2 Report Becomes Quarterly USA & Canada H2 Report”

USA Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2018-Q2

This quarterly report looks back at all the H2 infrastructure activity from the previous three months. This issue of our report is focused on activity that occurred between 3/31/2018 and 6/30/2018. With things happening faster now than they have in the past, we may need to make this a monthly report in the near future. If you like keeping up to date on RMP’s H2 data observations, please subscribe to our blog by entering your email address in the WordPress subscribe widget. RMP uses the AFDC database as our main source to generate the information in this report. Several data updates on the Alternative Fuels Data Center database occurred this quarter, which is the 2nd straight quarter RMP has monitored higher frequency in data updates since we started following the AFDC database over six years ago. The AFDC database is also the main source of RMP’s Hydrogen Station Map. Areas of the database that have been stagnate for years, now show an increased frequency in updates. RMP notices every small change from quarter to quarter using special data analytics techniques developed over years of tracking environmental data & creating our environmental Google maps. You can help RMP improve our research & publications by making a tax-deductible donation (USA only) by clicking here.

Seven data records for H2 stations disappeared from the database this quarter. Two of the stations no longer showing on the AFDC database are the Continue reading “USA Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2018-Q2”

Coal Use Forecasted To Rise – How We Can Mitigate Coal Pollution

Do you consider yourself as a person that cares about the environment?  Are you concerned about climate change?  Are you concerned about oil pipelines traversing our lakes and rivers threatening our fresh water resources?  Then you understand energy production from High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) coal is an important part of the plan for a better environment, right?  No?

If we ignore the fact that new coal powered capacity will continue to come online over the next twenty years, we bury our heads in the sand when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other atmospheric pollution.  We need to change the way we use coal and start using thermolysis for gasification rather than combustion for burning.   By choosing thermolysis instead of combustion, we can produce energy without producing pollution that harms our air and water.  In order to foster renewable energy sources like solar and wind, we need to find a common denominator fuel to let renewables compete on a wide scale.  That common denominator fuel is hydrogen.  We can make hydrogen from coal with significantly reduced pollution while we wean ourselves off of fossil fuels.  We can also make hydrogen from water and create zero pollution.   We can increase our capacity to make hydrogen from water while we decrease our use of coal over the long term.  We can phase coal out of our energy mix, but it will take time and we must have a pragmatic approach.

RMP draws contrast between the common misunderstanding between what is combustion and what is a noncombustion chemical reaction.  Burning coal is not the same thing as thermolysis  or the thermal decomposition of matter without releasing particulate matter to atmosphere.   The byproducts of thermolysis are inert and saleable for road making material and other construction material.

Be it known to all within the sound of my voice, whosoever shall be found guilty of burning coal shall suffer the loss of his head.

-King Edward II of England, 1276

Coal has generally had three major knocks against it with regard to pollution and its negative effects on the environment:  1)  CO2 emissions,  2) Sulfur Dioxide emissions, & 3) Mercury emissions.   Other complaints about coal involve NOx’s and other particulate matter released to atmosphere.    So if we could produce cleaner energy from our abundance of US coal without releasing those types of Continue reading “Coal Use Forecasted To Rise – How We Can Mitigate Coal Pollution”