"Shell Hunts for H2 Opportunities in Australia in Net Zero Push," this is the Reuter’s news headline of March 25, 2021.
It describes a $30 billion project in the vast Australian desert to produce Hydrogen using an electrolysis process producing Hydrogen from water, using electricity. The electric power to do this will come from a large area of wind turbines and large solar panels utilizing plenty of sun and wind in the desert.
Shell management hopes for a financial windfall and rectify its tarnished reputation of being not "green" enough. After all, this is an ideal way to produce electricity without using carbon. A project, which will make any "caring" people feel good about.
The plan is that by 2030 there will be sufficient hydrogen to be exported to Asia.
According to Shells Chair Tony Nunan, Shell has developed a shipping process for Hydrogen which now is in sea trials.
All this sounds so great. So what can possibly go wrong?
Firstly, to produce Hydrogen (H2) one needs plenty of water, a commodity which is very rare in a dry desert.
Secondly, the energy balances don’t work out.
Physical laws determine that it takes 39 kwh of electricity in order to produce 1 kg of hydrogen from water. Yet, the useful energy which can be extracted from hydrogen is only 22 kwh. That means, the efficiency of this process is only 61%.
Since there is no local market in the desert for H2, it has to be transported by pipelines to power plants or gas stations.
This is problematic, since H2 in gaseous form will corrode steel pipes, it's also highly flammabl, as well as an explosion hazard.
Let’s assume it's shipped as fuel to a power plant.
On arrival it may have lost10% due to pipe friction and radiation. This makes the available energy 61% (from generation) x 90% (transport) = 55% of the original input amount.
A typical thermal power plant operates at an efficiency of approximately 40%.
This means that the amount of electricity placed into the grid will only be 55% x 45% -= 25% of the originally available energy of 22 Kwh per kg of H2.
Here then is the total energy balance: electricity input to produce 1 Kg H2 = 39 kwh , final energy output at users of electicity = 25% of 22kwh per Kg = 5.5kwh; an overall efficiency of the whole process = 5.5kwh / 39 kwh = 15% efficient.
Of course by that time the density of the gas changes requiring more storage capacity.
All in all, this does not look great as a business.
Now, let’s assume, that instead of using the power from the desert to produce H2, we converted the same electricity into 500,000 volt of AC and feed it directly into the Australian electric power grid.
Allowing for 15% for voltage conversion and loss in the transmission lines, there will be 0.86 x 39kwh (the original amount used to produce H2) = 333.2 kwh of useful electricity for your light switches.
This way we can have 33.2.1kwh / 5.5kwh =r 6 times as much available power then using the complicated H2 process.
Of course a portion of H2 gas could be stored and serve as fuel for stand-by power generators in case of storms or cloudy days.
Dr. Hans Baumann, a former Corporate Vice President and founder of his company, is a well known inventor, economist, and author having published books on scientific, economic, and historical subjects. Read Dr. Hans Baumann's Reports — More Here.
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