Solving the Climate Crisis – Document Review

The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis recently published (June 2020) a massive (547 page) & comprehensive report called “Solving the Climate Crisis”.   The report was prepared by the Majority Committee Staff of the 116th US Congress pursuant to H.RES.6.

RMP is a non-partisan organization and wanted to give a review of this report as it relates to sustainable energy & put partisan politics aside.  Specifically, RMP wanted to sift through some of the important parts of the report that relate to sustainable hydrogen production & storage.  There is a lot of good news on the hydrogen front in this report that RMP wants to highlight as well as some themes I picked up when reading the report.  First, let’s start with an overview of the whole document and then go back to themes & hydrogen specific news because there’s a lot in this mammoth report.

First the Link.  The 547 page document reviewed in this post is called SOLVING THE CLIMATE CRISIS – The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.

Overview:

The Executive Summary starts with the urgency of the climate crisis and how America’s ingenuity & leadership are central to solving it.  In January 2019, House Resolution 6 created the bipartisan Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to “develop recommendations on policies, strategies, and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis.” The resolution directed the Select Committee to deliver policy recommendations to the standing legislative committees of jurisdiction for their consideration and action. Over the last 17 months, the Select Committee has consulted with hundreds of stakeholders and scientists, solicited written input, and held hearings to develop a robust set of legislative policy recommendations for ambitious climate action.

The report’s goal is to lay out congressional actions to satisfy the scientific imperative to reduce carbon pollution as quickly and aggressively as possible, make communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, and build a durable and equitable clean energy economy.  In practical terms, this means building and rebuilding America’s infrastructure, the foundation of the American economy and communities; reinvigorating American manufacturing to create a new generation of secure, good-paying, high-quality jobs; prioritizing investment where it is needed the most, including rural and de-industrialized areas, low-income communities, and communities of color; and beginning to repair the legacy of economic and racial inequality that has left low-income workers and communities of color disproportionately exposed to pollution and more vulnerable to the costs and impacts of climate change.

The document is broad & comprehensive and it is not specific to hydrogen only.  Because RMP focuses primarily on hydrogen infrastructure, this post will examine the hydrogen production & storage portions of the document.  Hydrogen was mentioned heavily from pages 1 to 276 along with other technologies.

Infrastructure Initiatives Related to Hydrogen Production & Storage

I recently stumbled on the terms gray hydrogen, blue hydrogen, & green hydrogen.  I’m embarrassed to say I had to look up the difference between gray & blue hydrogen.  As much as I follow this vector of the energy industry, I only confidently knew what green hydrogen is.  Let’s go over the three basic types of produced hydrogen because they’re well differentiated through this big document and it’s very important to distinguish between them.

Gray Hydrogen = hydrogen made from natural gas

Blue Hydrogen = hydrogen made from natural gas with CO2 capture & sequestration

Green Hydrogen = hydrogen made with renewable or surplus renewable energy like solar & wind.  Also, hydrogen made from renewable natural gas.

 

It’s important to distinguish between gray, blue, and green hydrogen for a couple reasons when reading this document as there are certain themes that develop in the first 247 pages.  One of those themes is that our US Department of Energy has become “siloed” and is no longer fit to capitalize on synergies given its outdated structure with new technologies on the rise.  For example, here’s a quote from page 215 & 216 discussing this key bit of information:

The applied energy offices are largely organized by fuel and focus mostly on distinct technologies rather than energy systems. This has caused potentially cross-cutting technologies to be siloed into single applications—such as carbon capture for power generation and hydrogen for transportation, despite both having potential to reduce industrial emissions—and has led to fragmented approaches for or complete disregard of other key platform technologies. Separating basic energy sciences from applied energy also prevents coordination that can help technologies move from the research stage to development and demonstration. There are multiple possible ways to restructure DOE, and many experts disagree on the best method. Some proposals include keeping basic and applied energy research under one Under Secretary to maintain their coordination and organizing applied energy offices by end-use sector rather than fuel.  The reorganization should seek to create a structure that is best suited for accomplishing the updated DOE mission of decarbonization and climate mitigation, as recommended above.

That’s one of the key take aways from the document with regard to reorganizing our energy department to coordinate efforts with CO2 capture & hydrogen production as outlined on page 215-216 above.  This is an important thing to note before we look at several key passages of the document as they relate to “blue hydrogen“.   Blue hydrogen plays a key role in the first 247 pages especially as it relates to industrialized sectors of the economy and the people that live near industrialized urban areas.   Ports are a great example of places that produce tons of noxious fumes that could benefit from blue hydrogen now as green hydrogen sources are developed.  Another example of where blue hydrogen can play a key role is in steel making.  We have the hydrogen technology now to strip CO2 from CH4 & sequester it in geologic formations (as RMP wrote about #CCS in Michigan here).   This “blue hydrogen” can be used to make steel with 90% less CO2 emissions and almost negligible SOx, NOx, & Hg.

Another key thread through the first 247 pages is how hydrogen is not taking a back-seat to any other technology.  The myth of hydrogen versus battery is starting to fade and be replaced by the more common sense approach of hydrogen & batteries working together.   Hydrogen is mentioned in tandem with other technologies throughout the report with dignitas.   In fact, in the urban industrial energy section of the document, hydrogen seems to be the only technology that gets talked about for decarbonized energy (e.g steel making & ammonia).   Hydrogen & batteries are cousins and work together, not against one another.

Let’s look at some key “clips” from this big document to highlight the major points.  The number one point, the only point that can truly move the needle for clean energy, is money money money.   The “ITC” or investment tax credit has always been the #1 most important thing where the rubber hits the road.   Let’s look at this first & most important clip talking about the ITC for hydrogen production & storage technology.

Clip from page 57:

Currently, storage is not independently eligible for an ITC. Rep. Michael Doyle (D-PA) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2019 (H.R. 2096/S. 1142), which would create an energy storage ITC for batteries, compressed air, pumped hydropower, hydrogen, thermal energy storage, regenerative fuel cells, flywheels, capacitors, and superconducting magnets. Section 102 of the GREEN Act of 2020 (H.R. 7330) would expand the ITC to include energy storage technology and extend the ITC so that energy storage technologies are eligible for a 30% ITC through 2025. The bill would phase down the ITC to 26% in 2026 and to 22% in 2027. Section 104 of the bill would allow taxpayers to choose a lower tax credit value in exchange for the option to be refunded for any resulting overpayment (“direct pay”).

As you can see above, hydrogen for storage investments is included in the proposed ITC language.  There can be no more important passage regarding hydrogen technology in the document than hydrogen storage qualifying for the ITC.  30% ITC until 2026 should give hydrogen a strong advantage to scale given large scale storage with hydrogen has better economics than any other technology even without an ITC.   With a 30% ITC, large purchase orders for salt cavern geologic hydrogen storage, multiple tank pressurized hydrogen storage, and ammonia (NH3) storage will be written quickly.   Hydrogen storage is up to an order of magnitude cheaper than lithium ion batteries in extended duration megawatt hour storage.  Manufacturers of hydrogen production equipment should be able to use this ITC to highly leverage their scaling advantage as part of the storage process for green hydrogen.  This would allow for rapid reduction of greenhouse gasses.

Graphic above shows clearly how the only week & seasonal class storage that comes close to hydrogen is pumped hydro which is only available in very specific geographies. Hydrogen is not bound by geography so it has a huge advantage in mWh class storage.  By including hydrogen for investment tax credit, growth will accelerate & meaningful reductions in carbon emitting energy will occur.  This has been something RMP has been writing about for years now.  (graphic above comes from IEA, not congressional report)

Clip from page 73:

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced the American Energy Opportunity Act of 2019 (H.R. 5335), which would establish a process to standardize permitting for distributed energy systems, including distributed renewable energy generation from solar, wind, hydrogen electrolysis and fuel cell systems, energy storage, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and hydrogen fuel cell refueling.

This clip is highlighted because it was one of many similar passages:  mentioning hydrogen in the same sentence as other distributed energy systems without hesitation and in the same regard as other solutions.  It demonstrates a paradigm shift away from over ten years of FUD & stonewalling against hydrogen.  Hydrogen has now performed a decade of demonstrations on the longevity & durability of fuel cell stacks in all temperatures & environments.  The successful demonstrations in all forms of transportation & stationary performance for over ten years has silenced the hydrogen myths & critics.  Hydrogen has been safely deployed in busses, trains, cars, airplanes, buildings and maritime vessels for years now.  It’s legitimacy is accepted and 2020 starts the decade of hydrogen scaling.

Clip from page 90:

In May 2019, Reps. Mike Levin (D-CA) and Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced H.R. 2764, the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2019. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Senate companion (S. 1487). The bill requires that 50% of sales for new passenger vehicles be ZEVs by 2030. The sales requirement ramps up 5% each year to achieve 100% of new vehicle sales by 2040. The bill is technology-neutral, allowing for electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and other potential zero-emission technologies to qualify.

Theme developing that I like about the document is just about everywhere there was talk about helping zero emission transportation develop, electricity & hydrogen were mentioned in tandem without debate and with equanimity.  It’s working that people are starting to understand that electricity & hydrogen  work together, not against each other.  They’re truly cousins that share an anode & a cathode in their fundamental DNA.  The only difference is one keeps its energy “inside the house” and the other keeps its energy “in the barn out back”.  Batteries & hydrogen are darn near the same thing, so it’s good to see them starting to be recognized as cousins working together to replace fossil fuels with camaraderie.

Clip from page 126:

The public and private sectors are unlikely to adopt zero-emission trucks at scale until the supporting fueling infrastructure is convenient and widespread. CALSTART estimates that converting the nation’s trucking infrastructure to support zero- or near-zero-emission fuels will require $50 billion to $100 billion in public and private investment.329

The Clean Corridors Act of 2019, introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) as S. 674 in the Senate and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) as H.R. 2616 in the House, provides grant funding to state, local, and tribal governmental entities to facilitate installation of electric charging stations and hydrogen fueling infrastructure along designated corridors in the National Highway System. The bill envisions that this infrastructure would have to accommodate large vehicles, including semi-trailer trucks.

The passage above was a gem of a find for RMP.  Actually the bit that was so cool to find was footnote #329 which explains a $137 million dollar investment in electric charging & hydrogen refueling infrastructure throughout key cross country corridors for heavy duty trucking.   Not only is this fantastic news on its face, the link also had GIS mapping of these hydrogen corridors which is the first time I’ve ever seen that.  This will allow RMP to lift those latitudes & longitudes to add these future “hydrogen corridors” to our Google Map of all hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the USA.   RMP’s map of hydrogen refueling infrastructure can be found here & is constantly being updated:  https://www.respectmyplanet.org/public_html/united_states

Clip from page 257:

To achieve wide use of hydrogen at a reasonable cost, industry will need infrastructure to generate and transport hydrogen to facilities and to store hydrogen before and after transport. One option is to generate hydrogen at a small number of large-scale facilities and then distribute it through a pipeline network to individual industrial facilities. Another option is to generate it at a larger number of more dispersed, small-scale facilities, which would require less distribution infrastructure. Instead of transporting hydrogen directly, hydrogen producers could also transform the hydrogen into ammonia or methane for transport or storage.

This important passage mentions supporting technology to transform hydrogen into methane & ammonia.  The word being used throughout the document is “building block” and there’s a heavy focus on industrial applications.  One of the things I have always thought people failed to realize is the connection between industrial applications and transportation.  When industry starts creating more & more hydrogen, it becomes more ubiquitous for refueling.  When it becomes more ubiquitous for refueling, people will look around to each other and realize the chicken/egg problem they’ve been talking about for over a decade has miraculously solved itself.  The next chicken/egg joke will be that people will ask: which came first the hydrogen vehicle or the hydrogen refueling station?

After about page 276, the document shifts to political wrangling of who is going to finance this massive overhaul of our energy sector.  The document goes into other areas after page 276 like carbon removal, taxing people who produce carbon intensive energy, and carbon taxes in general.  Basically, this is the part when you ask “Who’s going to pay for all this?” and the current companies that are dying are going to be asked to pay for the initiatives.  This is the part where I really think we need to work together to train our workers in current industries to do new jobs in new industries.  We cannot throw the baby out with the bath water so to speak.  We must let fabricators, production managers, warehouse personnel, engineers, and the like find pathways to jobs in a zero emission future from their current jobs to produce fossil based energy.  We cannot give all subsidies to startups with no track record while tax paying workers lose their jobs through this transition.  We must make sure we create good jobs & a tax paying base with people from industries that will be phasing out.

Please read document yourself as I only picked a couple selected passages out for review.  There’s a ton more information in there at 547 pages.  Thanks for reading RMP’s little review of this big document as it relates to hydrogen production & storage infrastructure.

USA Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2018-Q1

Respectmyplanet.org has created a new quarterly report called the USA H2 Infrastructure Quarterly Update. This is our 2nd report since our inaugural report on 12/31/2017, but our first with the new ‘quarterly’ title.  You can read our first H2 infrastructure update report published in December by clicking here.  A quarterly frequency should be appropriate to report on H2 station construction & news in the USA, but things are certainly happening faster now than they have in the past. This report may need to become a monthly report in the near future if the pace continues to quicken.

More things H2 related are happening in the USA now than they ever have in the past. There were more data updates on the Alternative Fuels Data Center DB (AFDC database) this quarter than in Continue reading “USA Quarterly H2 Infrastructure Update 2018-Q1”

Debunking Dr. Bossel’s Anti-Hydrogen Thesis

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.

dr bossel
Dr. Ulf Bossel has published many anti-hydrogen thesis statements. His papers were published between Sept 2005 & July 2008.  RMP reached out to Dr. Bossel to ask if he has amended his viewpoints published nearly 10 years ago.  Dr. Bossel did not respond to RMP’s email requests for information.

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.

dr bossel
Dr. Ulf Bossel’s diagram has been used by anti-hydrogen advocates for years and today we are demonstrating how Dr. Bossel’s argument doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. If you see this diagram henceforth, please use your social media to share this post so people can read how Dr. Bossel’s thesis is not 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.

Ford Focus BEV
Bill Hall who sits on the Board of Directors of respectmyplanet.org drives a Ford Focus BEV and he loves it. It’s ok to support batteries as well as fuel cells if you care about the environment. The Ford Focus BEV has a 33.5 kWh battery for a rated range of 115 miles. It also has a 107 MPGe rating. It’s a terrific car for someone in the right market. Other markets might be better suited for FCEVs. BEVs and FCEVs can coexist peacefully to help us responsibly migrate away from crude oil

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.

duck chart electricity demand hydrogen
This graph gets its name for its duck-like shape that follows the hour by hour net demand that reflects human needs.  Net demand is high in the morning as people turn on their coffee makers, toast their breakfast bread, and blow dry their hair before heading off to work.  As people head off to work demand drops just when solar generation capacity is highest!  Notice the demand ramp between 3PM and 9PM of nearly 11MW!   When demand is low and electricity generation is high, we could turn wasted electricity into hydrogen to be used for later.   Batteries can play a part in helping climb steep demand ramps, but for long term storage, batteries cannot match hydrogen’s economic benefits.  Click image to enlarge.  Source: CAISO.  Click here to read CAISO’s explanation of what a duck curve tells us about managing a green grid.

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.

The California ISO keeps electricity curtailment statistics of renewable generation. Energy curtailed is wasted energy that could be put to use as stored hydrogen. As you can see in the graph, the trend is increasing amounts of wasted renewable energy each year.  The reason is more and more renewable energy coming on to the grid with relatively no change in electricity demand.  The situation as described by CAISO is “unsustainable”. Hydrogen is a great solution to store wasted electricity for grid leveling contrary to Dr. Bossel’s anti-hydrogen thesis. Click here to see the source of this graph.  Click image to enlarge.

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.

hydrogen electrolysers
NEL has been making clean green hydrogen since 1927 (that’s 90 years!) Today, NEL can turn water into 100 tons of hydrogen per day! That hydrogen can be stored to power cars, trucks, busses, and our grid.  The best part is that the hydrogen can be produced with electricity that would otherwise be wasted or curtailed. If you want a green grid, you should support hydrogen for situations where batteries don’t make economic sense.  Click image to enlarge.  Source NEL.

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.

2016 USA total electricity generation by source from the EIA. Approx 65% of 2016 electricity in the USA came from fossil fuels. We can help ramp down fossil fuel usage and imported oil by using wasted excess electricity to make carbon zero hydrogen. Click here for data source.  Click image to enlarge.

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 respectmyplanet@gmail.com.  We would love to publish more content that debunks junk science.  Thanks for reading.

Michigan Petroleum Geology 101

marathon beaver creek

Let’s examine the high level 101 basics of hydrocarbons, stratigraphy, and lithology nomenclature in the Michigan Basin.   In Michigan, like everywhere else, we have different layers of rock beneath our feet.   Trapped inside the rocks beneath our feet are hydrocarbons like oil, gas, and coal.   Most of the energy produced in our history and in the world today comes from these subsurface hydrocarbons.

Hydrocarbon recovery is dictated by the geologic formation and subsurface structures where it has accumulated.  Petroleum geologists look for areas where they think hydrocarbons might be trapped in a reservoir.  The rock in the reservoir must have enough permeability and pressure to get those hydrocarbons to the surface through a well bore whence they can be sold for a profit.  In Michigan, oil has been produced since the late 1800’s and gas has been produced commercially since the early 1900’s.   Michigan had significant oil activity in the 1930’s and 40’s and then a lull through the 50’s.   Activity again picked up in the late 1960’s in the Niagaran reef by the big boys like Amoco, Shell Western, and ExxonMobil because of production capacity discovered while drilling Antrim wells.   Amoco, Shell, and ExxonMobil were successful in the Niagaran reef trend in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula and activity intensified heavily in the 1980’s.  As the economy stagnated and oil prices Continue reading “Michigan Petroleum Geology 101”