RMI Has Fallen Into The Hydrogen For Vitality Pit Once more


Join every day information updates from CleanTechnica on e-mail. Or comply with us on Google Information!

The Rocky Mountain Institute is a revered group that has executed nice work since its founding in 1982. Amory Lovins, its founder and lengthy its chief, is an amazing thought chief who was forward of his time. He’s been confirmed proper on many issues. And he’s been confirmed mistaken on a pair.

In 2003 he was strongly supportive of hydrogen as the following main provider of power and gas cell automobiles as a transparent profitable answer. For his proposed ultra-efficient Hypercar, he made it clear that within the medium to long-term, hydrogen was the only option. The whole failure of hydrogen gas cell autos and the continued failure of hydrogen for power performs have confirmed Lovins mistaken on this case. He missed, as many did on the time, the novel enhancements in battery power density and plummeting prices per kWh of capability. His hybrid drive prepare didn’t also have a battery, only a fueled generator to energy electrical motors.

Tesla, based in the identical yr, obtained it proper. They realized that attempting to get folks to purchase hair-shirt automobiles wasn’t going to work due to human nature, and that the battery power density curves had been clearly favoring purely electrical automobiles. They constructed automobiles folks needed to personal and drive and compelled the automotive and now the trucking business to impress extra quickly than they might have in any other case. They proved with the discharge of the Mannequin S in 2012, solely 9 years later, that pure battery electrical was the proper pathway.

Is that this to besmirch Lovins? No, after all not. He obtained much more proper in his lengthy profession as an power thought chief than he obtained mistaken. His delicate vs laborious power paths influences my pondering to this present day, albeit like Jane Jacobs’ work on urbanization with vital nuances and different options that obtain comparable worth propositions.

Lovins is now not concerned with the everyday and even the governance of RMI, and hasn’t been for lengthy sufficient that the present RMI technique can’t be laid at his toes. I hope that Lovins, given his nice means to just accept actuality and see it clearly, wouldn’t be supportive of a lot of what RMI is now saying on the topic. However it’s attainable he would. To be clear, I by no means had the privilege of working with Lovins, one thing many individuals I do know have, so exterior of his revealed works, I can’t actually touch upon his positions or persona.

A be aware on this dialogue. RMI is doing lots of apparently good work and I absolutely help most of its initiatives, from what I perceive of them. This isn’t a blanket critique. My issues are solely with their hydrogen and associated carbon seize efforts.

Cognitive traps of hydrogen for power

As I’ve famous over the previous weeks, many organizations and well-qualified, considerate, caring folks who ought to know higher have fallen into considered one of a number of cognitive traps round hydrogen for power. The Worldwide Council on Clear Transportation realized 5 years in the past that inexperienced hydrogen could be very costly, after which accepted future burnable gas demand requirement projections that don’t stand as much as scrutiny. That led them to the idea, generally held, that biomass couldn’t probably meet necessities. That led them to attempt to discover methods to sq. the circle that hydrogen could be inexperienced however it may well’t be low cost. This has impacted very negatively the standard of their trucking, aviation and maritime transport analysis and publications in consequence, with a number of obvious errors and high quality points, they usually have lots of credibility to regain.

The Worldwide Maritime Group accepted an unlimited development of maritime transport tonnages projection from researchers with no maritime business depth as a result of it met their cognitive biases that transport would proceed to increase, particularly bulks. Nevertheless, 40% of bulks are fossil fuels right this moment and that’s going away. One other 15% is uncooked iron ore, and that can be processed nearer to mines. And low-carbon transport fuels can be costlier, altering demand projections downward once more. These are issues the unique researchers a number of years in the past simply didn’t know or suppose by way of as they had been generalists who didn’t get particular sufficient. However it aligned with the IMO’s predispositions to imagine them.

The Science Primarily based Targets Initiative, which does nice work and ought to be applauded for it, accepted the IMO’s blessed projections, resulting in dangerous selections and steerage on their half.

In the meantime, in Germany a serious business, educational and governmental working group collection began with the idea that there could be retail hydrogen fuel pipelines in every single place, so truck stops would get it as cheaply as it’s attainable to get. That was based mostly on the flawed assumption that hydrogen would change pure fuel for business and residential heating, which 54 impartial research and counting have put a stake in. Even then, battery electrical gained out within the working group particularly tasked with trucking, however not within the working group tasked with artificial fuels which was dominated by engine producers who would exit of enterprise if actuality intruded.

Hydrogen for power shouldn’t be even a plurality

Hydrogen demand through 2100 by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc
Hydrogen demand by way of 2100 by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc

And what’s actuality? All floor transportation will electrify, together with automobiles, gentle vans, buses, trains, farm tools, mining tools and development tools. It’s already beginning in all of these segments, with solely North America lagging on rail electrification. When mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue name the coin toss for battery electrical mining tools in electrified mines with no hydrogen, the heavy obligation floor query is settled.

All inland transport will electrify. Most brief sea transport will electrify. Transoceanic transport tonnage will drop as famous, will proceed to use effectivity measures and can nonetheless require burnable fuels, simply vastly decrease quantities. Most flights inside continents will electrify. Aviation development is not going to be 4% CAGR as IATA and Boeing would like to imagine. Greater low-carbon gas prices, flat flight demand within the west, declining inhabitants development with a possible peak between 2050 and 2070, slower development of affluence within the growing world than skilled in China for the previous 40 years, and large diversion of potential aviation miles to excessive pace rail means projections of huge development are merely mistaken. Maritime transport power demand falls, aviation demand rises, however very slowly.

All business and residential warmth electrifies. The overwhelming majority of business warmth electrifies too. Metal shifts to scrap, electrically powered EAF furnaces, electrical course of warmth and biomethane for direct discount of iron (DRI) and electrical course of warmth, inexperienced electrical energy and inexperienced hydrogen for brand spanking new metal. That final is the one potential development space for inexperienced hydrogen, and it’s not assured.

Vastly extra power is generated regionally with renewables with vastly decrease necessities for importing power, and the imported power can be way more with two-way HVDC transmission which permits peak demand in a single geography to be met partially by extra technology in one other, switching forwards and backwards as much as 4 instances a day. Electrification of power companies with renewables offering the electrical energy greater than halves main power necessities for a similar financial outputs and comforts, as I confirmed with my US workup towards LLNL power flows and lots of others have demonstrated way more rigorously.

Whereas the UN’s International Vitality Interconnection Growth and Cooperation Group (GEIDCO), pushed by China, with Premier Xi headlining its launch and led by China’s head of electrical energy grid is barely identified in North America or Europe, it has 141 member international locations which overlap closely with China’s Belt & Street Initiative. That is all very a lot in step with Lovins’ delicate power pathways, by the best way. A number of renewables in all places, way more environment friendly electrified economic system and transmitting a lot decrease quantities of power as electrons between areas.

Vitality storage is met principally by pumped hydro, redox-flow batteries and cell-based batteries. As an information level on this, China already has about 50 GW of energy capability of pumped hydro in operation representing 500 to 1,000 GWh of power capability. It’s constructing or has agency plans to construct 365 GW of further energy capability of pumped hydro with probably 4 to eight TWh of power storage. Because the Australia Nationwide College’s pumped hydro international atlas makes clear, there’s 100 instances the useful resource capability because the power storage requirement in paired, closed-loop, off river websites with 400 meter or larger head heights which can be near transmission and never on protected lands. Solely finish sport occasional seasonal lulls —the ten yr UK dunkelflaute per Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith’s modeling — require strategic power reserves past this, and that’s a really completely different requirement than the 99% case.

On this world, the world that’s really rising, the demand for burnable fuels is restricted to very particular use circumstances: lengthy haul aviation, lengthy haul maritime transport and a few edge circumstances in chemical processing. Biomass necessities for these makes use of circumstances to create the fuels is enough and diverts waste biomass which is a really massive supply of methane emissions to carbon-neutral or carbon-negative biofuels. They’ll proceed to value greater than present fossil fuels, two to 3 instances as a lot.

As manufacturing inexperienced hydrogen has turned out to be costly, not low cost which is one thing folks with STEM and enterprise casing competence who checked out noticed a very long time in the past, and manufacturing artificial fuels from the inexperienced hydrogen provides extra prices, hydrogen and artificial fuels are turning out to be 4 to 6 instances as costly as fossil fuels in the perfect case situation, so can be uncompetitive with biofuels.

For readability, I’ve executed the mathematics, typically a number of instances, on all of this. I’ve checked out all the key and lots of minor purported options. I’ve assessed them on the required trifecta: will they work technically, will they be economically viable in comparison with options and can human beings settle for them. I’ve created projections by way of 2060 or 2100 generally for the options I anticipate to dominate based mostly on that evaluation, together with for aviation, maritime transport, metal, grid storage and automobile to grid potential. I’ve projected decarbonization of power and inputs throughout these. I’ve projected carbon emissions from these main segments utilizing these metrics generally. That’s all knowledgeable my hydrogen demand projection by way of 2100, which is in its third or fourth model.

And I’ve frolicked discussing this with very STEM literate teams and people globally, each by way of shopper engagements with maritime transport corporations, aviation corporations, electrochemistry corporations and funding funds, but additionally by way of typically professional bono discussions with skilled and educational teams globally. I’ve spent lots of time taking a look at hydrogen for transportation research from a number of teams, working laborious to resolve assumptions which are sometimes scattered throughout a number of reviews. I’ve checked out agricultural decarbonization pathways as effectively. Am I an skilled in any of this stuff? No, however I’m a STEM, economics and cognitive science fundamentals literate analyst who tries to get shut sufficient to every area to keep away from many of the traps many generalists fall into.

Does this imply I’m proper? No, as I hold saying, I’m simply fairly certain I’m much less mistaken than most. My projections are based mostly on lots of issues, however there are at all times gaps in my data and the longer term has a manner of unusual all of us. Whereas pure fuel rising in worth and volatility was apparent to me 5 years in the past, the invasion of Ukraine and its impacts shocked me. Whereas I known as electrical scooters and skateboards as dominating small private rideables, I missed scooter sharing fully. (As a be aware, BNEF identified that small electrical two- and three-wheeled autos dominate petroleum avoidance and have been since 2015, therefore my consideration to the one-person electrical automobile area a couple of years in the past.)

What’s the market saying?

Is there any impartial information that makes this angle on inexperienced hydrogen being costly and hydrogen for power not being viable an correct evaluation? There certain is.

In September of 2023, the Boston Consulting Group revealed a white paper with over 1,300 hydrogen proposed offers value of knowledge categorized into whether or not they had been proposed, had reached remaining funding determination or had been in operation. Solely 0.2% of the offers by tonnage had reached operation. The underside finish of these offers was minuscule when it comes to tonnage as effectively. In November of 2023, BNEF reported on the 149 hydrogen offers of their information set, discovering solely 10% of the offers had any offtake agreements, and of that 10%, solely 13% had been agency. The deal backside finish was greater, however the complete BNEF tonnage was solely 7.9 million tons, so solely 0.1 million tons have assured patrons. Clearly the in-operation offers between the information units overlapped.

In each circumstances, the organizations tried to place optimistic spins on this remarkably dismal efficiency and lack of patrons. BCG went so far as to say that it confirmed vital momentum as an alternative of being a deeply cautionary story for inexperienced hydrogen.

In January of 2024, the Worldwide Vitality Company reported that renewables and biofuels had confirmed huge positive factors within the earlier yr, however hydrogen was barely transferring, clearly taking a look at information units which confirmed the identical issues the BCG and BNEF information confirmed. And not too long ago the EU has backed away from their hydrogen spine scheme, delaying tenders for a few years and making it clear that they had been on the lookout for non-governmental cash to fund the vast majority of it, partially as a result of the projected prices had risen sharply.

In one other IEA publication on the potential for artificial fuels in transportation, they put the price of alkaline electrolyzers at US$400 per kW of capability however with steadiness of plant at $1,700 per kW, whereas the comparable numbers for PEM electrolysis was $800 and $2,000. I mentioned this with Paul Martin, chemical engineer, skilled in hydrogen, designer for his profession of modular chemical course of engineering crops together with ones that labored with hydrogen and biofuels, and co-founder of the Hydrogen Science Coalition. He and I had tended to make use of a 1:1 ratio between electrolyzers and steadiness of plant in our value workups, and absolutely agreed that as electrolyzers obtained considerably cheaper, steadiness of plant wouldn’t.

There are issues with the IEA report, in that they’ve very optimistic prices for low-carbon electrical energy of about $30 per MWh with about 60% availability for a customized e-fuel plant constructed within the US Midwest with each wind and photo voltaic crops constructed close to by and nil grid or utility requirement, and as such they got here in nonetheless low on hydrogen prices, but it surely was nonetheless effectively above the $1.40 that many hydrogen for power proponents had been accepting as probably. And to be clear, the IEA obtained integrating hydrogen manufacturing instantly with the commercial course of that consumes it on the identical web site proper. 85% of hydrogen is manufactured at level of use within the portions required just-in-time for the method as a result of the prices of storage and distribution are so excessive.

The Boston Consulting Group revealed an evaluation of the probably value of inexperienced hydrogen in Europe, discovering that the illusory consensus amongst hopeful hydrogen proponents of €3 per kilogram wouldn’t be reached by 2030, and that even getting all the way down to €5 per kilogram was unlikely. That was explicitly the wholesale worth as higher specificity about that time is sinking in, but it surely’s additionally nonetheless undelivered hydrogen with out distribution, retail and revenue adders. As a reminder, grey hydrogen is the most cost effective type of hydrogen that exists with a wholesale worth of $1-$2 per kilogram, and within the USA and Europe at retail pumps it prices $15 to $35 per kilogram due to the prices of distribution, pumping stations and the requirement for income.

There are additionally the cautionary tales of PlugPower, Ballard and FuelCell Vitality, all three of which had peak inventory valuation in 2000, and are off by round 98% in 2023. Ballard particularly has been shedding cash on failed pilots for many years, with a median of $55 million in losses yearly since 2000 and a declare of getting gas cells in solely 3,700 vans and buses after 44 years in enterprise. The record of hydrogen for transportation initiatives which have been deserted after huge governmental subsidies is for much longer than the record of initiatives that are nonetheless working, and nearly all the ones presently working require huge governmental subsidies.

Hydrogen forklifts, which hydrogen advocates love to speak about, have a complete of 50,000 in operation worldwide since being launched over 60 years in the past whereas 1.2 million electrical forklifts had been bought in 2021 alone, nearly all the hydrogen forklifts are working in corporations the place the US Division of Vitality sponsored the refueling facility and preliminary purchases, and the primary facility to get non-fossil hydrogen is working an electrolyzer off of Colorado’s grid electrical energy which ends up in a lot larger carbon depth hydrogen than fossil hydrogen.

As I’ve mentioned greater than as soon as, each time a ramification sheet jockey is engaged to place an actual enterprise case collectively, hydrogen for power proposals disintegrate except governments are choosing up the invoice. The launch of initiatives will get press and hydrogen for power sorts have their biases confirmed, however they by no means do the laborious work of trying on the record of failures.

RMI are much less mistaken than some however not proper

And so, again to RMI. Let’s be clear. They aren’t all mistaken. However for the previous 5 years they’ve been mistaken a good quantity of the time about hydrogen. In 2019, they had been accepting the US$1.40 per kilogram inexperienced hydrogen illusions that grew to become widespread with baseless assumptions about free renewable electrical energy and grime low cost electrolyzers that existed with out steadiness of plant, distribution prices or income for anybody concerned. This was clearly mistaken then, and subsequent extra strong research and precise makes an attempt to construct enterprise circumstances have confirmed it.

An unlucky thread in hydrogen for power discourse is to first low-ball hydrogen manufacturing prices considerably, then mistake manufacturing prices for wholesale prices, distributed prices and even retail prices. That’s demonstrated within the linked RMI materials, the place the low-balled manufactured value for hydrogen is in comparison with the retail value for diesel. This lack of readability and precision is so common that it’s pretty clear that they don’t even notice that they’re doing it or that it’s a defect not a characteristic.

That low-ball value assumption is undoubtedly a part of what led the brand new RMI CEO, Jon Creyts, to ascertain a hydrogen lead, Oleksiy Tatarenko, and hydrogen workforce previously couple of years. No flies on Creyts, together with a PhD of mechanical engineering. He has the STEM chops to know higher however hasn’t utilized them to hydrogen for power. He does know tips on how to develop a company, taking RMI from a 50 particular person suppose tank to a 600 particular person international group in his decade with the group earlier than placing the CEO hat on, and now, in response to LinkedIn, over 1,200 affiliated folks. That transformation isn’t one thing I’d paid consideration to, however explains why Canary Media was so simply scooped up by RMI when Wooden Mackenzie reduce them unfastened.

No flies on Taterenko both, with a PhD in economics and academic high ups in Oxford and Cambridge, none of them STEM credentials however the science of hydrogen isn’t notably laborious or exterior of the power of lay individuals who work at it a bit. He’s a molecules for power man with 13 years at Shell, 5 of them or so involving hydrogen and carbon seize — one other principally lifeless finish know-how —, earlier than becoming a member of RMI on the hydrogen file after which taking management of their hydrogen workforce. He’s not an electrification man or a biofuels man, however somebody whose background predisposes him to suppose that molecules for power are way more required than they’re, that carbon seize is a factor, that business claims associated to blue hydrogen are dependable and that biofuels have extra issues than they do. He’s not an electrochemistry, manufacturing, electrical technology or a transportation man for that matter.

That is nothing he can’t overcome with rigorous Kahneman System 2 pondering, however that’s difficult when so a lot of his circle are contained in the hydrogen for power bubble. He can get impartial voices for the STEM work that’s not his talent set, so long as he realizes he must and prioritizes it. If requested, I’m certain he’d insist that he has averted all cognitive traps and is absolutely conscious of and accounts for his predispositions. From the skin trying in, he hasn’t. The one judgment I’m making is that he’s human, similar to all of us.

None of this may matter if Tatarenko weren’t a senior particular person within the group that also has one of many should trusted and influential impartial power suppose tank manufacturers, RMI. However Creyts and Tatarenko have a spot to face, and particularly with Creyts’ huge growth of RMI, a lever lengthy sufficient to maneuver the world. Really, that’s not fairly true. Within the case of hydrogen as an power provider’s inevitable failure, they’ve lever lengthy sufficient to sluggish the motion of the world a bit, however the state of affairs is pressing. We are able to’t afford to be slowed.

This isn’t to say that Taterenko isn’t a rock strong and rigorous analyst with a robust give attention to decarbonization, a robust ethical and moral sense, or that he isn’t completely dedicated to attacking the issue of local weather change. I do know plenty of ex-fossil gas business sorts who convey glorious expertise and power to decarbonization in a number of domains. It’s not saying he’s the mistaken alternative for RMI’s hydrogen lead, though the optics are a bit wonky. That is merely saying that everybody has baggage that they need to deal with in any position, and his baggage requires completely different dealing with than others.

Personally, I’d have most well-liked to see an industrial feedstocks skilled within the position, simply as I might have most well-liked to have the US hydrogen technique run out of the Division of Commerce moderately than the Division of Vitality. Beginning with the bulk case and lengthening is significantly better than beginning with the just about non-existent case and attempting to make sure protection of the bulk case. The US hydrogen technique drawback was mandated by Congress, however RMI didn’t have a Congressional mandate and will have made a special alternative.

To be clear, the Congressional mandate explicitly states that the hydrogen technique should give attention to making hydrogen from coal and fuel, sustaining as a lot fossil gas infrastructure as attainable, and put the hydrogen technique into the mistaken Division. The US DOE was handed a steaming pile, and has has been iteratively attempting to make it considerably higher, however their arms are tied. The outcomes of the technique, the IRA and 45V are clear, as the most important hydrogen expenditure below development by an order of magnitude is the $2 billion blue hydrogen facility in West Virginia, Joe Manchin’s state.

As a be aware, whereas RMI has a inexperienced hydrogen lead, they don’t have a biofuels lead so far as I can inform, regardless of there being a 100 million ton annual international market which is rising quickly for biofuels right this moment, and a nearly nonexistent inexperienced hydrogen market at current. If I had been Creyts or the Board, I’d be rethinking that. What’s so particular about hydrogen that it will get a lead and a full workforce, and the huge present biofuels market doesn’t get equal senior stage consideration within the group? For that matter, I couldn’t determine anybody with “transmission” or “HVDC” of their titles both, and that’s a a lot greater power wedge than hydrogen can be.  I don’t have RMI’s org charts, simply LinkedIn, so it’s attainable I’m lacking somebody.

And there’s query about what RMI’s precise actions at the moment are that it’s 600 or 1,200 folks unfold throughout a bunch of US places of work and one in Beijing. Clearly it’s not only a suppose tank doing researching and placing out strong publications anymore. Actually, lots of the extra substantive RMI reviews I’ve discovered round hydrogen are years previous and haven’t been up to date. So far as I can inform, they’re much extra engaged in particular initiatives with organizations which interact them to search out systemic change alternatives.

They’re working with lots of oil and fuel corporations to cut back methane emissions, a laudable purpose, however as famous the perfect answer for oil and fuel business emissions is to chop their enterprise out from below them as quickly as attainable. It’s fairly possible that Tatarenko spends a big a part of his time and organizational sources on blue hydrogen for refineries, an area that RMI has made a precedence.

RMI is doing one thing associated to constructing effectivity with free market options. They’re engaged on mobility as a service options with private and non-private companions, which interprets to me into serving to Uber and Chicken get into cities with much less friction (which I absolutely help, by the best way). They’ve a gas effectivity program for trucking and maritime transport. They’re facilitating renewables to displace diesel on islands. They’re working with federal buildings in some type of strategic contracting relationship to advise on effectivity packages. They’re doing lots of work with US cities associated to effectivity and well being.

In different phrases, they’ve lots of people doing lots of work, most of it aligned effectively. They aren’t a suppose tank, however a funded group of organizers, doers and enablers. They’ve objectives for influence meant to cut back greenhouse fuel emissions, and they’re organized round that.

However on hydrogen vs options for power proper now, RMI is slowing the required motion, complicated the dialogue and advocating for a poor answer in locations it now not has a spot to face. At that, they aren’t almost as dangerous as out and out hydrogen boosters like Hydrogen Europe, Cadent and the like. They get a bunch of stuff proper. It’s the stuff that they get mistaken that’s problematic.

What does RMI get proper and mistaken?

So what do they get proper, to offer them their due. Effectively, let’s return to a June 2022 RMI publication  — not authored by Taterenko and earlier than he took management of the workforce — and parse the record:

there are a number of no-regret, high-priority purposes of hydrogen that ought to be a core focus of insurance policies and funding right this moment: fertilizer manufacturing, petrochemicals and refining, metal manufacturing, maritime transport, and, in some markets, long-distance heavy-duty transport by way of each rail and vans. 

They get fertilizer proper. About 150 million tons of ammonia are manufactured right this moment, nearly fully for fertilizer, and it’s a big international warming drawback. It’s made out of black or grey hydrogen derived from pure fuel or coal leaving it with a carbon debt between methane emissions and CO2 creation of two to 6 tons of CO2e per ton of ammonia. When utilized to fields, nitrous oxides are launched for a median of one other three tons of CO2e. 5 to 9 tons instances 150 million tons signifies that the present carbon debt of ammonia we use right this moment is 750 to 1,350 million tons of CO2e. Job one is fixing that, they usually acknowledge that.

However the three tons of CO2e within the type of nitrous oxides wants fixing as effectively. With precision agriculture, agrigenetics and higher crop administration strategies like low-tillage agriculture, together with the peaking inhabitants, complete ammonia demand goes to say no considerably. We nonetheless must decarbonize it with really low-carbon hydrogen, which principally means blue hydrogen shouldn’t be a part of the answer resulting from upstream methane emissions, parasitic power necessities for carbon seize, distribution and storage, and fewer than 100% carbon seize.

Amongst different issues, carbon sequestration requires 90 kWh per ton of CO2 to push it right into a supercritical state.  Complaints in each Europe and the USA from the fossil gas business about not having the ability to meet required carbon intensities with blue hydrogen and calls for for cash to subsidize carbon seize and sequestration are very loud proper now.

RMI will get petrochemicals and refining as a requirement space proper, however I haven’t discovered proof that the ramifications of huge hydrogen demand reductions in that area are clear to them. Refineries are the most important customers of hydrogen, about 40 million of the 120 million tons right this moment. It’s used for eradicating extra water from crude (hydrotreating), eradicating sulfur from crude (desulfurization) and separating crude into lighter and heavier elements (hydrocracking). The extra sulfur and impurities within the crude and the heavier the crude, the extra hydrogen is required. As peak oil demand is upon us and refineries need to pay way more for low-carbon hydrogen, the primary crude off the market would be the heaviest and most bitter ones, so hydrogen demand for refineries goes to plummet within the coming many years. Additional, the petrochemical business which stays on the finish of the transformation will principally be working on the lightest, sweetest crude closest to water, so not a lot hydrogen can be required.

In different phrases, one of the best ways to deal with hydrogen carbon emissions for refineries is to speed up deployment of renewables and electrification of the economic system, to not waste cash on a quickly declining demand sector the place the cash may solely have a 20 yr worth span. RMI not often makes this clear assertion, however as an alternative tends to give attention to how refineries can decarbonize their operations.

Metal too is a spot the place new inexperienced hydrogen has robust potential, and the one development space in my projections. The 2019 RMI paper on the topic is kind of cheap, solely lacking MIDREX-technology fuel direct discount the place biomethane and electrical course of warmth could be substituted. As such, they overstate the demand for brand spanking new metal and inexperienced hydrogen, however they’re extra appropriate on this level than not. They do be aware the direct discount with electrification pathway, however to be clear, that’s an excellent lever in my projections, and I make it clear that the 31 million further tons of hydrogen I undertaking for this demand space shouldn’t be assured. The market will resolve which pathway is best, and there are a number of TRL 9 options between inexperienced hydrogen and direct electrical discount now.

They missed methanol from this record. Like ammonia, it’s an industrial feedstock, not an power provider right this moment, and we manufacture about 110 to 120 million tons of it a yr from pure fuel, coal fuel and different fossil gases. That has a carbon debt of about 500 million tons of CO2e per yr, a really vital quantity that have to be decarbonized. As it may be substituted with different industrial feedstocks in lots of circumstances, as its worth will increase resulting from decarbonization, cheaper options can be discovered and general demand will decline. Methanol does present up later nevertheless.

In addition they miss hydrogenation of vegetable oils into edible oil merchandise like margarine, the first use case. As soon as once more, as the value of hydrogen will increase, demand will shift and I undertaking a slight decline.

That’s the highest of Michael Liebreich’s hydrogen ladder, the one portion of the use circumstances prone to persist. The couple of lacking ones are superb, because the doc I drew the quote from was not making an attempt to be full, merely informative. As much as that time, RMI hasn’t gone mistaken, though it’s seemingly unaware of the probably decline in demand, a really substantial one within the case of oil refineries and petrochemicals.

As a be aware, hydrogenation and hydrotreating are additionally utilized in biofuels processing, and I added 4 million tons of yr demand to my projections to account for this.

What else do they get proper? They seem to have accepted the memo on gentle autos and on business and residential warmth. All electrification, on a regular basis. Extra use circumstances of Liebreich’s ladder knocked off.

However there are lots of locations the place they get it mistaken.

How does RMI do on maritime transport?

They posit a task for hydrogen in maritime transport, both instantly or within the type of artificial ammonia or methanol. A 2021 publication does be aware that maritime power necessities can be declining resulting from reductions in fossil fuels, however doesn’t seem to have factored that into their calculations. Additional, they posit no position for biofuels in maritime transport, asserting that every one biofuels must be diverted to aviation. This regardless of the perfect case prices for inexperienced ammonia and inexperienced methanol being double the value of biofuels which can be plug suitable. That plug compatibility issues, because it signifies that ships can have a single set of tanks and a inexpensive engine, and it means ports are spending much less cash bunkering extra molecules.

Greater capital prices, larger working prices and within the case of ammonia, larger security engineering and emergency preparedness prices, means the maritime business is usually going to purchase biofuels. Who, precisely, goes to inform them no when they’re a buyer competing for product? But RMI’s place is that by some unknown mechanism, biofuels can be preserved for aviation and the maritime business can be required to pay a lot larger costs for fuels.

This is among the locations the place Taterenko’s predispositions come to the fore. He asserted that biofuels could be reserved for aviation in on-line discussions with me and that the acquisition orders for ships powered by hydrogen proved me mistaken. Nevertheless, the ships in query are dual- and tri-energy ships — methanol or ammonia, diesel and batteries — with solely methanol and ammonia being probably made out of inexperienced hydrogen, and Maersk’s — by far the most important purchaser and operator on this class — methanol purchases being nearly fully biomethanol.

That’s proper, methanol could be a biofuel. It doesn’t need to be an artificial gas. Taking biologically created methane and turning it into methanol in the identical crops that create the product right this moment is totally cheap. The primary Maersk ships journey from South Korea to northern Europe was powered by methanol manufactured from methane emitted from a landfill, diverting an anthropogenic biomethane drawback right into a low-carbon gas. Biomethanol isn’t, nevertheless, prone to be a lot inexpensive than artificial methanol on a distance for greenback foundation.

The transport business is in a quandary, attempting to kind by way of the morass of lobbying from varied teams. The fossil gas business is pushing laborious for hydrogen and hydrogen derivatives as power carriers to allow them to promote lots of blue hydrogen. The methanol and ammonia industries see a worldwide market potential that multiplies demand and at the next worth level, in order that they’ve been taking part in quick and unfastened with the reality and pushing laborious for his or her merchandise.

Maersk has made a giant guess on low-carbon, low cost methanol — one unlikely to repay — and purchased mid-sized container ships for a 15% markup, $115 vs $100 million for 9,000 unit container ships. Others have adopted. As I mentioned with Sahar Rashidbeigi, Maersk subsidiary APM Terminals’ head of decarbonization, final yr, Maersk can transfer the market simply by committing itself. They personal 7-8% of the container ports and are the second greatest — now after greater than 20 years of being the most important —  container transport agency on the planet. They moved the market on methanol, and it’s nice that they made a guess. It woke the business up.

Megatons of diesel-equivalent energy required for martime shipping through 2100 by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Megatons of diesel-equivalent power required for martime transport by way of 2100 by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

However as I informed a Stena Line viewers of 60 or 70 maritime engineering, design and structure professionals final yr in Glasgow, I take into account biomethanol to be the perfect of the additionally ran maritime decarbonization options. If precise biomethanol made with present anthropogenic biomethane emissions turns into the de facto transport gas of the longer term, I’ll be simply superb with that, though I take into account the economics of that unlikely.

My projection for maritime transport transport fuels ultimately sport is about 70 million tons of diesel equal a yr. We already manufacture 70 million tons of biodiesel a yr, we simply waste most of it on floor transportation.

What about aviation?

RMI acknowledges a minimum of a bit that electrified standard take off and touchdown plane are a factor. That’s higher than many organizations.

However they’ve tended to just accept IATA projections of huge development of aviation. This isn’t lifelike. As famous above, there’s huge diversion to electrified rail in more and more prosperous China and decrease development of affluence in the remainder of the developed world. Additionally there’s flat aviation passenger demand within the developed world, and COVID kicked the enterprise passenger aviation’s legs out from below the phase. As I’ve mentioned with nationwide consulting executives I do know, shoppers aren’t going to pay for consultants to fly in each week when staff aren’t within the workplace a lot of the time. That’s 20% of the passenger aviation enterprise that’s not coming again.

Then there’s the fact that gas costs that are 19% of airways bills are going to extend so much. That’s going to be handed on to passengers, and so the reduce off revenue stage for normal flights will go up in actual {dollars}. This too goes to suppress passenger miles within the phase.

Projected shift in aviation fuel demand through 2100 by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Strategy Inc.
Projected shift in aviation gas demand by way of 2100 by Michael Barnard, Chief Strategist, TFIE Technique Inc.

Is that this borne out by information? To date, sure. Enterprise journey has rebounded by solely 50%. Non-public journey bounced up with suppressed demand and declined. Main hubs are struggling to search out workers and secondary hubs are combating lack of passengers. It’s nonetheless early days post-COVID, however by the information I’ve up to now, the bloom is off of passenger and cargo aviation. I’m ready one other yr or two earlier than updating my projection of civil aviation demand by way of 2100 and associated repowering and decarbonization curves to get higher post-COVID information because the sign remains to be messy.

The mixture makes the 4% CAGR one thing that’s clearly extra motivated by inventory valuation and debt financing necessities than by actuality. That’s not one thing RMI seems to just accept. The mixture signifies that they, like many different organizations, suppose that there isn’t almost sufficient waste biomass and that hydrogen and derivatives are the one choices.

What about trucking?

RMI holds out hope for hydrogen for trucking, a minimum of in some markets. It’s not clear why, I haven’t been in a position to determine what markets, they usually don’t assert the scale of these markets that I’ve been capable of uncover.

Nevertheless, as this more and more lengthy evaluation of their positions has identified, I’ve checked out lots of organizations’ protection of the necessity for hydrogen for trucking and have discovered precisely zero use circumstances that make the slightest sense in comparison with options.

Quadrant chart of sexy vs meh for ground transportation decarbonization by author
Quadrant chart of attractive vs meh for floor transportation decarbonization by creator

I’ve mentioned this at size with Professor David Cebon, PhD of mechanical engineering, professor of mechanical engineering at Cambridge for approaching 40 years, highway freight skilled, founding father of the Middle for Sustainable Street Freight over a decade in the past and founding member of the Hydrogen Science Coalition, and we agree, battery electrification for the win. Decrease capex and far decrease opex now and ceaselessly.

Cebon sees some transitional edge circumstances with vary extending biodiesel mills and overhead catenary strains, whereas I see battery power density enhancements making these very brief time period propositions. We each see the query as considered one of the place charging goes, not that charging is the reply.

And to be clear, different teams inside the 1,200 workers member RMI group clearly lend a hand. Not the hydrogen centric parts of RMI, nevertheless.

After which there are railroads

I’ve revealed a comparatively full evaluation of worldwide rail decarbonization, simply taking a look at what main jurisdictions are literally doing. I’ve assessed a number of rail hydrogen pilots and located tiny, short-lived passenger and infrequently vacationer rail. Canadian Nationwide Railroad was considered one of my shoppers, and I’ve clambered over a diesel electrical locomotive as a part of an introductory rail operations course they provided in order that I might higher perceive their enterprise, a part of delivering a North American map-based KPI and asset monitoring answer for them.

Table of statistics pertinent to rail assembled from multiple sources by author
Desk of statistics pertinent to rail assembled from a number of sources by creator

The world is simply placing up overhead catenary strains above railroad tracks that don’t have already got them. They’re including battery automobiles to get previous bridges and tunnels the place the costly of including wires is just too excessive. They aren’t passing Go. They aren’t accumulating $200. India will probably be completed with heavy rail electrification this yr.

Solely North America is resisting this, and North American railroads are pushing themselves into an uncompetitive nook. 4 million rail automobiles a yr of coal are going away. Seventy thousand automobiles of oil a yr are going away. Street freight will electrify and scale back labor prices with extra autonomous freeway trucking. Rail tonnage will drop considerably as they grow to be much less aggressive and bulks disappear.

The USA has much more rail observe miles than is sensible given their low tons per mile ratio by international requirements. RMI is a US-based group that’s expanded. Biases on rail to North American patterns are comprehensible. As a be aware, I additionally couldn’t discover a railroad chief at RMI on the equal stage of the hydrogen chief both.

What about industrial warmth?

The commercial processes used within the manufacturing of issues like metal, cement, glass, and chemical compounds all require high-temperature warmth. Presently, this warmth is produced by burning fossil fuels. For these hard-to-abate sectors, there’s basically no solution to attain net-zero emissions on the scale required with out utilizing hydrogen.

That’s a exceptional assertion from a 2020 publication, an opinion that they seem to proceed to carry, a minimum of in elements of the now huge, 1,200-person, multiple-office, remote-working group.

However because the RMI metal evaluation from final decade made clear, metal doesn’t want hydrogen for warmth. Electrical arc furnaces run at 1,500° Celsius to three,000° Celsius already as they soften metal. That RMI publications on the left hand ignore this and assert hydrogen is the one reply whereas on the proper hand settle for excessive temperature, environment friendly, electrical warmth is par for the course for hydrogen for power teams.

Sexy vs meh quadrant chart of commercial, residential and industrial heating solutions
Horny vs meh quadrant chart of business, residential and industrial heating options

What about cement? Electrical limestone kilns have existed, on and off, for a century. The drawback is economics, not warmth, and electrical energy is at all times going to be cheaper than hydrogen for warmth. Hydrogen shouldn’t be the reply right here both.

Glass? What are they smoking? Pure electrical glass furnaces are lavatory commonplace.

Chemical compounds? As Paul Martin, chemical engineer, lifelong designer of modular chemical crops and co-founder of the Hydrogen Science Coalition has made to clear to me a number of instances, nearly all warmth in chemical crops could be electrical, it’s solely economics that drives it to fossil fuels, and electrical energy will at all times be cheaper and extra environment friendly than hydrogen. When he designs chemical processing crops, all early work is with electrical sources of warmth and solely the top enterprise case drives burnable fuels.

There’s a rounding error of business warmth the place the traits of burnt fuel are required, but it surely’s a rounding error.

I’ve spent lots of time taking a look at industrial warmth and talking with international industrial warmth consultants in several international locations. I’ve assisted a serious inexperienced infrastructure fund to refine their funding theses within the area and reviewed a number of present and new applied sciences. I’ve executed value workup comparisons in a couple of circumstances.

In each case, whereas electrical energy is likely to be costlier for high-temperature warmth than fossil fuels, there is no such thing as a world during which the per Btu value of hydrogen for warmth is decrease than the price of electrical energy. For blue hydrogen, the place 45% of the power that’s within the pure fuel is thrown away, leaving solely the hydrogen behind at vital carbon seize and sequestration value, the price per Btu is at minimal double fossil fuels and normally triple. Inexperienced hydrogen is much more costly on a Btu multiplier foundation.

As I famous at size, there are capital expenditure issues, operational expense will increase and disruptive applied sciences which make retrofitting present crops difficult, and favor new construct opponents who begin with electrification. And there are lots of cognitive challenges that abound within the area as effectively, with present fossil heating gas distributors lobbying laborious to say that electrification gained’t work, can be too costly and that hydrogen can be low cost.

However as I additionally assessed, the EU’s carbon border adjustment mechanism, based mostly on their emissions buying and selling scheme, will apply to all greenhouse fuel emissions of imports to the third largest economic system on the earth. Their budgetary steerage for enterprise circumstances is strongly aligned with the harmonized social value of carbon that the US EPA and Canada share, with solely minor variations annually by way of 2050, and a 2040 expectation of $287 per ton of CO2e.

Cost implications for commodities of EU carbon border adjustment mechanism by author
Price implications for commodities of EU carbon border adjustment mechanism by creator

This has vital value implications for corporations contained in the EU and people exterior of the EU wishing to export to the block. As I famous, the one business can’t survive with out fossil fuels, and that’s the fossil fuels business. Any agency which has fossil fuels in its worth chain that’s exporting to the EU can have vital aggressive disadvantages.

I had this dialogue with Chinese language enterprise executives as a part of a seminar by way of the China Enterprise Executives Academy, Dalian (CBEAD) final yr, and China has some vital benefits on this regard. First, they’ve the acquisition powering parity and Wright’s Regulation benefits which signifies that they will promote merchandise together with photo voltaic panels, electrical autos and wind generators at a revenue for costs that western corporations typically can’t meet. Additional, China already has an emissions buying and selling scheme just like Europe’s, albeit at a cheaper price level at current, so corporations will have the ability to apply for and obtain a reduction, one which is able to improve as China’s ETS notches up. Lastly, China is pivoting quick on decarbonization, with peak gasoline in 2023 per Sinopec, peak coal this yr per Asian evaluation corporations just like the Lantau Group, vastly extra wind, photo voltaic, hydro, pumped hydro and transmission than every other nation, and vastly quicker electrification of transportation.

Different international locations can be laborious pressed to compete except they decarbonize industrial warmth quickly and on the lowest value. And that’s typically going to be trendy processes and applied sciences which can be electrified in new crops. Hydrogen shouldn’t be the bottom value supply of warmth in any actual comparability, as its warmth and flame traits imply any industrial course of that used it will require vital capital prices to adapt for it and its operational prices are multiples of electrical energy.

The RMI clearly shares the false perspective of the US hydrogen technique that industrial warmth requires hydrogen. It’s a US cognitive drawback it appears.

What about blue hydrogen and hydrogen’s GWP?

Over the previous few years it’s grow to be clear that there’s a darkish greenhouse fuel aspect to hydrogen. It’s indirectly a greenhouse fuel like carbon dioxide, methane or nitrous oxides. However it it interacts with airborne molecules known as hydroxyl radicals to delay the lifetime of atmospheric methane, which is a really potent greenhouse fuel, and one that almost all hydrogen is made out of. Additional, hydrogen is near the leakiest molecule within the universe. It’s tiny and is a Houdini of escape artists.

What does RMI say about hydrogen’s greenhouse fuel drawback? It downplays it considerably, saying explicitly as a key message that “Hydrogen Is Not a Important Warming Danger”.

Bluntly, hydrogen’s present manufacturing is a worldwide warming drawback on the size of all of aviation. Methane emissions from hydrogen and coal fuel are massive issues. Inexperienced hydrogen multiplies no matter carbon debt stays in electrical energy by three to 6 instances, relying on hydrogen use case. Hydrogen leaks. Hydrogen within the environment has an oblique international warming potential twelve instances stronger than carbon dioxide.

For RMI to so utterly downplay hydrogen as a worldwide warming drawback is exceptional and remarkably mistaken. It’s apologetics, not a transparent eyed evaluation.

On the blue hydrogen aspect, they’re fairly trustworthy that it barely exists right this moment, it sucks with the USA’s upstream methane emissions issues and that inexperienced hydrogen from renewables will at all times be higher. However they maintain out lots of hope for blue hydrogen the place it isn’t merited.

What are the most important blue hydrogen initiatives in operation and deliberate? Sponsored oil refinery efforts for hydrogen for refining heavy, bitter crude. Keep in mind, that’s a market that’s going away quickly.

And blue hydrogen relies on carbon seize and sequestration. I’ve assessed each CCS facility with better than one million tons of claimed seize per yr, learn the technical reviews, regarded on the value adders, regarded on the efficiency numbers and located the next. For carbon seize, it’s at all times uneconomic. It by no means performs as promised, at all times falling far in need of meant seize. For sequestration, nearly all of it’s really extracting fossil CO2 from underground in a single place, piping it a couple of tens or tons of of kilometers and injecting it in tapped out oil fields for enhanced oil restoration.

Excess CO2 annually and historically compared to global CO2 market
Extra CO2 yearly and traditionally in comparison with international CO2 market

The entire cash spent on the area because the Nineteen Seventies would have achieved a lot better atmospheric carbon advantages if it had been spent on wind and photo voltaic crops as an alternative.

Additional, any vital carbon sequestration growth requires carbon dioxide pipelines working by way of closely populated areas. That’s a really vital danger as pipelines do rupture. As a result of nature of CO2, it have to be liquified and even put into supercritical section with a purpose to be piped anyplace, which signifies that when a rupture happens, huge volumes of CO2 fuel instantly emerge from the upper density liquid. As CO2 is a heavier fuel than the oxygen and nitrogen combine within the environment, CO2 swimming pools on the bottom and in low spots till it diffuses.

This can be a deadly mixture. Present CO2 pipelines are used nearly fully for enhanced oil removing and run by way of barely populated rural areas. But even with this low penetration, one ruptured within the tiny city of Satartia, Mississippi in 2020, inflicting dozens to fall unconscious in convulsions on the bottom, tons of to be evacuated and stopping inner combustion emergency and evacuation autos from working. CO2 poisoning could be deadly, so it was mere luck that nobody died, but it surely consists of mind harm and organ harm, so lifelong well being impacts are undoubtedly being felt.

Given the shortage of CO2 sequestration websites close to most locations the place blue hydrogen is likely to be manufactured, pipelines could be required to run by way of plenty of way more closely populated areas, creating a large, costly and pointless danger. There’s no motive to imagine that any metropolis or area would supply permits for this.

Your complete area is thermodynamic nonsense in any occasion, making an attempt to reverse entropy at nice expense as an alternative of simply leaving already sequestered carbon alone and as quickly as attainable getting off of fossil fuels.

Each carbon seize effort is admittedly one other subsidy to the fossil gas business.

Regardless of this, RMI has created a complete carbon seize competency and is working carefully with the fossil gas business on efforts, one thing vital to its perspective that blue hydrogen is likely to be viable.

Unrelated to hydrogen, however one other place the place RMI has fallen off of the go of smart delicate power paths and programs pondering is that RMI additionally plenty of direct air seize workers and helps initiatives within the area. That is even worse entropy-defying nonsense that they actually ought to shut down in favor of their really helpful packages to cut back fossil emissions extra quickly.

And sure, I’ve revealed extensively on a number of direct air seize options together with proposals for manufacturing artificial fuels, with chemical engineering, value and carbon debt workups. Most extensively, I did a complete collection on Carbon Engineering’s claims, declaring that its solely pure market was enhanced oil restoration on tapped out oil fields with unmarketable volumes of pure fuel to energy it, with prices borne by governmental funding. And, certainly, that’s precisely what they did with Oxy, aiming for $250 per ton of CO2 injected to convey up oil which when burned would produce way more CO2. Oxy, after all, purchased Carbon Engineering outright final yr.

As a part of that journey, I’ve spoken with many individuals working within the area together with David Keith, Graciela Chichilniski, Peter Eisenberger and the CEO of a UK agency whose title escapes me, in addition to effectively as many analysts like me who’ve executed the mathematics and science and are equally clear that it is senseless.

That RMI has a full carbon seize workforce that features direct air seize and speaks positively about it’s indicative that it’s not Amory Lovins’ group any extra. He was clear a number of instances that ditching fossil fuels and nature-based drawdown approaches had been the answer, and he was proper.

The carbon seize and direct air seize missteps are very like RMI’s hydrogen for power misstep.

What about hydrogen or derivatives as an power provider?

That is clearly one other place the place RMI has purchased into the idea that the present follow of transferring huge tonnages of power containing molecules is required.

They aren’t alone on this, however actuality is biting this place laborious. To begin with, 85% of the present roughly 120 million tons of present hydrogen is manufactured on the level of consumption within the volumes required as a result of transmitting and distributing it’s so costly. That’s what’s going to occur within the decarbonized future as effectively.

As famous extensively, hydrogen of any shade goes to be multiples of the price of pure fuel in the absolute best case situation, and costlier than simply utilizing electrical energy instantly. However transmission of hydrogen?

Hydrogen pipelines barely exist, with a couple of hundred kilometer industrial community in a chemical business heavy portion of Germany which is fed by steam reformation grey hydrogen and about 2,600 kilometers within the USA, principally feeding refineries. In contrast, there are over 5 million kilometers of just about fully fossil gas pipelines within the USA alone. For essentially the most half, pipelines can’t be repurposed simply or cheaply, though it’s in some circumstances inexpensive than constructing fully new pipelines.

Hydrogen, being a lot much less dense than pure fuel, requires thrice the compression to ship the identical items of power. That requires all new compressors. Hydrogen embrittles metal, particularly at weld seams, and that degrades pipelines quickly with the stress drops and rises in addition to thermal growth and contraction. German research have discovered that repurposing pipelines would really require a fraction of the quantity of pure fuel to be transmitted to stop fast finish of life.

Along with compressors, all sensors must get replaced, as hydrogen is way more reactive with electronics than pure fuel. Sometimes, lining the inside of pipelines could be required.

These bigger compressors or vastly decrease volumes upend the economics of the pipeline, which means that the price per unit of power delivered goes up considerably. I’ve assessed the potential for repurposing of the Maghreb Europe pipeline as a part of an engagement to evaluate European efforts to show northern Africa right into a hydrogen for power exporter, and the price will increase are grim, on high of the a lot larger value of blue or inexperienced hydrogen.

Regardless of the shortage of an precise requirement, RMI’s formal revealed opinion is that there’s an pressing want for a huge hydrogen pipeline infrastructure program. They level to Europe’s more-stalled-than-not hydrogen spine as if it’s a working exemplar of what must be executed within the USA.

Is there a substitute for pipelines? Sure, HVDC delivering inexperienced electrons from the place they’re created to the place they’re wanted at extremely excessive efficiencies and energy ranges. There’s a bunch of typically self-serving research that declare that HVDC delivers vastly much less power than pipelines that fail primary assessments of system boundaries and data of HVDC.

I’ve assessed and revealed critiques of a lot of them, together with DNV’s research, funded by the European pipeline business affiliation, that discovered that hydrogen manufactured offshore at wind farms within the North Sea and piped to main demand facilities could be €3.24 in the absolute best situation in 2050 with all kinds of thumbs on the size however solely on the finish of transmission with out additional distribution, pumping, compression, wholesale income or retail income. Even that manufactured and transmitted worth level is ten instances the price per unit of power of LNG imports, the costliest type of power international locations use right this moment. It’s utterly uneconomic, however they don’t level that out on this deeply self-serving research funded by the one folks it will profit, the pipeline producers and operators whose whole enterprise mannequin is dissolving.

The Oxford Institute for Vitality Research launched a research I assessed late in 2023 which solely will get considerably higher, however nonetheless manages to get a number of issues mistaken with the comparability. They nonetheless fell over badly on programs boundaries.

And that is solely hydrogen transmission, not native hydrogen distribution. Gasoline utilities have been claiming that they are going to repurpose the pipes below city streets, however quickly discovered what anybody who is aware of what these pipes are manufactured from and the traits of hydrogen discovered, that fully new pipes had been required. The one hydrogen for dwelling heating and cooking trial that’s foolishly going forward within the UK is getting utterly new infrastructure at nice expense. There isn’t a hydrogen distribution reuse.

Trucking hydrogen is vastly costly, with even the hydrogen pleasant US DOE publicly stating that it takes 14 tanker vans of hydrogen to ship the identical power as in a single truck of diesel. That quantity isn’t happening a lot because of the dangers of trucking much more closely pressurized or liquid hydrogen over busy routes.

Going again to the EU, one of many proposed hydrogen pipelines is from the port of Rotterdam to the commercial and inhabitants hubs of extra central Europe. However that assumes huge ships carrying hydrogen could be steaming into Rotterdam from elements of Africa.

As soon as once more, I’ve executed the mathematics on the prices of hydrogen transport in comparison with LNG transport. The traits of liquid hydrogen imply that it takes a full third of the power within the hydrogen to liquify it and hydrogen boil off throughout journey is far larger. That is way more problematic than already costly LNG. My 2021 evaluation of a Namibian proposed inexperienced hydrogen manufacturing scheme with transport to Europe discovered that transport hydrogen would value 5 instances as a lot as transport LNG.

When all types of hydrogen for power are a number of instances the price per unit of power as pure fuel and distribution is vastly costlier, transferring lots of hydrogen round in a future world as an power provider could be financial suicide for any nation which settled on it as a premise.

I’ve assessed this for a number of international locations, together with Australia and Japan, two geographies that are within the throes of determining tips on how to wean themselves off of coal exports and imports, a part of my behavior at trying globally for exemplars of the way forward for decarbonization.

Tatarenko himself is lead creator on an RMI report extolling the virtues of the EU importing hydrogen. Clearly the RMI below his watch have by no means regarded on the precise prices in any lifelike manner and in contrast it to options.

What’s actually taking place globally? Heaps extra regional renewables decreasing the requirement for power imports. Heaps extra electrification driving down main power necessities and as soon as once more decreasing the requirement for power imports. A number of HVDC interconnects spanning areas to share electrical energy.

For Europe alone, the Tunisia to Italy HVDC interconnector and the Georgia to Romania HVDC interconnector had been greenlit final yr, the Greece to Israel HVDC interconnector is being constructed, one thing like eight interconnects between Europe and the UK are in operation or below development, the Morocco to UK Xlinks undertaking is effectively on its manner and MEDGrid is continuing.

In Africa, a Chinese language-African group of researchers utilizing European modeling software program designed and simulated a 12 nation, 10,000 km HVDC interconnect from western Africa to South Africa, with drop offs, storage and renewables in each nation sharing electrical energy, and all these sub-Saharan international locations are a part of China’s Belt & Street Initiative making precise deployment way more possible. Australia’s Solar Cable to Singapore is again in movement having ditched the hydrogen for power obsessed Andrew Forrester, whose personal mining agency has determined to disregard hydrogen for power.

I’ve been assessing and following the expansion of HVDC for seven years, revealed a number of assessments together with the critiques linked above and spoken to builders and energy engineering consultants globally.

HVDC is the brand new pipeline. Molecule stuffed pipelines are buggy whips. RMI doesn’t appear to appreciate that, half and parcel of its drawback with hydrogen for power.

And RMI apparently believes that as hydrogen is tough and costly to ship, then taking massively extra power to transform it to liquids and gases like methanol, ammonia and different hydrogen carriers, then transport these can be really value helpful.

As a reminder, inexperienced ammonia and methanol in the absolute best case situation are 4 to 6 instances the price of diesel, which is vastly costlier per unit of power than pure fuel and absurdly extra so than electrical energy.

Different elements of RMI seem to get this. However they hydrogen centered workforce are manner out over their skis, not even realizing what they don’t know.

What does this RMI evaluation web out to?

The strong-brand worth Rocky Mountain Institute has been became the aggressive development and affect RMI group with a lot much less give attention to Lovins’ glorious insights and a bunch of robust motion packages. It’s employed fossil gas hydrogen for power consultants and aligned itself with fossil gas corporations way over it ought to have, clearly. It’s expanded to the purpose of missing any coherent perspective. It’s doing lots of contradictory issues today that aren’t aligned with programs pondering Lovins would acknowledge.

Does this imply that RMI shouldn’t be a productive group? No, it means it contradicts itself and the hydrogen for power perspective — and the carbon seize perspective — is each poorly aligned with lots of the remainder of RMI and a minimum of the hydrogen for power facet is elevated too far within the group. That is probably resulting from political issues given the US subsidies for hydrogen below the IRA and 45V, the same carbon seize subsidies within the nation, the laborious push again from regressive rail and trucking organizations across the actuality of electrification, the Congressional mandate for fossil hydrogen and the 4 of seven blue hydrogen hubs.

Is that this Amory Lovins’ RMI? Not an opportunity. RMI has grow to be a really completely different beast, vastly much less iconoclastic and visionary, vastly much less of a thought management group, however nonetheless leaning closely on what Lovins created. It’s grow to be way more lively with packages which is nice. It definitely maintains Lovins in its branding, together with Lovins’ dwelling as considered one of its workplace areas though he’s not concerned everyday or in governance in any respect any extra.

Am I proper about RMI’s hydrogen (and carbon seize) challenges? Possibly. I seen that RMI was beginning to be quoted about hydrogen for power in odd methods a few years in the past. It’s been more and more highlighted in current months. As I’d dug by way of the odd positions and errors of the ICCT, the German working teams on transportation, the SBTi materials and the IMO materials, together with a lot else, I’ve been debating whether or not to dig into RMI. Clearly I made a decision to, and clearly it was needed.

To be clear, this was considerably triggered by Tatarenko. Three weeks in the past I revealed a Forbes article introducing the assorted choices for remaining maritime transport power that may be required after diminishing volumes and large electrification. It was a part of a collection of ten the place I analysed the requirement, each power pathway and articulated within the final piece why it was effectivity, batteries and biofuels for the win. I posted a gloss on LinkedIn, and Taterenko leapt in with a remark assuming that I’d lastly come down in favor of artificial methanol and ammonia as fuels, which wasn’t what I had mentioned within the article or within the LinkedIn submit. To be clear, I didn’t acknowledge the title, and solely realized he was with RMI after I checked his profile. Him understanding who I used to be and my place on maritime transport is a supposition on my half. I don’t assume anybody is aware of who I’m till confirmed in any other case.

A number of days in the past, I stumbled throughout RMI’s odd protection of the excessive international warming potential for hydrogen and its acceptance of the potential for blue hydrogen to have a big position. I posted a quick LinkedIn submit saying that it was unlucky that RMI had fallen into the hydrogen for power lure. Tatarenko leapt to the RMI’s protection and arguably his personal given his management place on the file. Mainly it amounted to telling me that what I’d posted was false after which stating a bunch of issues that are from my perspective false. Tatarenko, so far as I do know, didn’t interact with my moderately voluminous publications on the topic to begin a nuanced and knowledgeable dialogue, he simply said unequivocally that I used to be mistaken.

And to be clear, he did that from a place not as a maritime transport, aviation, pipeline, electrical technology, grid storage or floor transportation skilled, however as a molecules for power skilled.

Tatarenko and I’ve exchanged a couple of feedback on-line which supplied extra indications that RMI is off observe. My evaluation of what I discovered over a couple of hours of poking on the query has uncovered a bunch of issues with RMI’s hydrogen and associated carbon seize perspective. However I’m one analyst trying on the work of a company that appears to have became a 1,200 particular person bureaucratic juggernaut whereas I wasn’t paying consideration. I’m undoubtedly lacking lots of good things as a result of I’m taking a look at a wedge. The obvious lack of a biofuels or transmission chief is regarding, however that could possibly be generic title misses.

Is RMI nonetheless doing good? Sure, but it surely’s muddied by its hydrogen perspective and perhaps others I’m unaware of. Without having assessed the work of all 1,200 affiliated folks in all of their groups and places of work, I assume many different teams have misplaced the conceptual framework of soppy power paths and truly helpful power options as effectively. I might guess that a minimum of half and certain way more of the workers haven’t learn Smooth Vitality Paths: In the direction of a Sturdy Peace. It’s an imperfect and early tackle the transition, however it’s nonetheless way more proper than the hydrogen for power nonsense together with blue hydrogen that the RMI now helps.

What ought to RMI do?

Declaring a serious drawback and never suggesting an answer is dangerous type, so I’m going to supply a suggestion totally free, which is value each penny in consequence. For my part, ignoring bizarre US hydrogen politics, the RMI wants a reset on this file and the related carbon seize file.

I often return to Richard Rumelt’s Good Technique Dangerous Technique: The Distinction and Why It Issues for a majority of these issues. His kernel of fine technique consists of solely three issues — actuality, coverage, actions —, which is why it’s shocking that so few good methods exist. technique, which RMI clearly doesn’t have on the hydrogen entrance would look roughly like this.


Hydrogen is an industrial feedstock with annual inexperienced home fuel emissions within the scale of all of aviation globally, one to 1.5 billion tons of CO2e. The largest single shopper is the fossil gas business and that demand phase will plummet. Different main demand segments like ammonia fertilizer, methanol manufacturing and hydrogenation of meals merchandise will persist however at decrease volumes. Whereas hydrogen has been thought-about to be a substitute for fossil fuels both instantly or as derivatives, these fashions are clearly uneconomic in comparison with options. RMI’s efforts so far haven’t been effectively aligned with this actuality.


RMI will give attention to persisting demand segments for hydrogen as an industrial feedstock, pouring its sources into fertilizer, methanol as an industrial feedstock and vegetable oil hydrogenation efforts. As with different decarbonization areas, RMI will create targets and overview success on an ongoing foundation. RMI will resist makes an attempt by the fossil gas business and others to sway us from this coverage.


  • Create and publish targets for this actuality and coverage.
  • Decide what human and different sources are required to create detailed plans and obtain the targets.
  • Assign sources and achieve further funding for the scope required.
  • Determine high-value collaborators in business and authorities centered on the segments in query.
  • Create detailed motion plans to realize the objectives.
  • Set up governance to make sure that inappropriate misalignment of hydrogen efforts doesn’t recur.
  • Set up cross-RMI data sharing with the purpose that any use case for hydrogen is contextualized absolutely towards options.

Is Tatarenko the proper particular person to steer this reset? I doubt it, given his response to me and clear funding in a perspective on  hydrogen that’s not based mostly on empirical actuality. However he is likely to be. That’s for him and Creyts to determine, if both of them reads this far and takes it critically. If he wasn’t incumbent, it’s deeply unlikely {that a} expertise search would put him high of the record.

RMI may take it critically. They definitely ought to accomplish that.

What are my motivations in scripting this?

It’s a legitimate and cheap query. Few folks get up one morning, dig by way of years of a serious group’s publications and write a 13,000 phrase evaluation for enjoyable.

First off, that’s the sort of factor I do do for enjoyable. I do my very own quantity crunching on the key recordsdata of local weather change and examine and distinction it to different analysis and research as a serious a part of yearly, and have executed so for about fifteen years. I publish continuously, with essentially the most frequent adjective I hear being ‘prolific’. In different phrases, I’m optimized for this and it’s simple for me. I’ve executed multi-part analyses of the ICCT’s publications on trucking, maritime transport, aviation and hydrogen as a result of that’s one thing I do. RMI is in the identical area.

However it took time and a spotlight and enhancing. Why did I hassle?

As a result of RMI issues. As a result of Amory Lovins issues. He was one of many first power theorists I learn within the Nineteen Eighties who clearly was authentic, and additional much less mistaken than most, though it took a very long time for me to appreciate the methods during which he was much less proper. He’s as necessary as Jane Jacobs in understanding urbanization or Kishore Mahbubani in understanding Chinese language-USA relationships. Anybody purporting to have effectively based opinions on any of these topics who hasn’t engaged deeply with their work is unlikely to have really effectively based opinions.

And on hydrogen for power, RMI is way more mistaken than proper. They’re pushing for laborious power paths with molecular flows, which is just about the antithesis of Lovins’ perspective. A number of the remainder of RMI remains to be recognizable, however this bit and carbon seize? No, this a part of RMI has been captured by the fossil gas business, and that’s not one thing that shouldn’t be known as out and corrected if attainable.

Is that this the simplest solution to deal with this? Fairly probably not, however you employ the instruments at hand. Tatarenko had provided to debate me as LinkedIn remark exchanges are essentially restricted, however as I think this materials reveals, it’s unclear what we’d discover it fruitful to debate. I’m not going to be taught something from him about hydrogen that I don’t know higher than he does as I’ve really executed the chemical workups and value workups for a number of use circumstances and manufacturing cases. I do know extra about prices of distribution since I’ve really executed the price and physics work ups for that a number of instances for a number of use circumstances as effectively.

He has a lot much less depth and breadth on many of the topics coated on this doc as a result of his depth is within the fossil gas business, massive fossil gas offers, fossil gas coverage and for the previous few years, attempting to push the string of hydrogen for power uphill. He’s not positioned to usefully focus on floor transportation, maritime transport or aviation decarbonization, industrial warmth electrification, energy technology, power technology, grid storage or transmission with me. I wouldn’t be taught something from him, and for a dialogue to be helpful, each events need to be taught. I’ve spent lots of time studying from these extra educated than me on all of these topics. I do know all Tatarenko’s sources and have mentioned them with consultants.

This isn’t to say that he’s in any manner insufficient, he’s simply deeply centered in a single legacy business which needed has to die out, and has a body that stops him from understanding that changing one molecule with one other isn’t an answer for the overwhelming majority of power, or that his most well-liked type of molecule isn’t the only option for creating the restricted quantity of molecules for power we’d like in a decarbonized world. This isn’t uncommon, but it surely’s simply not that attention-grabbing both.

An precise debate would have RMI’s hydrogen workforce undergo each single area above and all my analyses to attempt to refute them. They aren’t effectively positioned to take action by themselves, as they’ve been trying narrowly at hydrogen to unravel issues. They would wish to have interaction plenty of different folks from the higher aligned teams inside RMI to help them. That may be a helpful train, one that may quickly shrink the remaining use circumstances additional, eliminating many of the hydrogen for power ones. It’s a part of my beneficial strategic motion plan above in consequence.

I provide this evaluation freely. If RMI desires to have interaction with it, nice. If they need my help in resetting this file, I’m pleased to have interaction, but it surely gained’t be professional bono. They’ve some huge cash, considered one of Creyts’ legacies, and I don’t come notably low cost.

A number of phrases on credentials, authority and bias.

It’s fairly simple to search out causes to contemplate the RMI’s publications and positions extra credible than mine, and to contemplate my critique of the RMI’s place on hydrogen as slight. That may most likely be a mistake, but it surely’s an comprehensible and forgivable one. Let’s discover this a bit.

On credentials, RMI has so much PhDs together with Tatarenko, even when indirectly related to their RMI publications. I’ve a few years of undergraduate science and math, a computer systems and enterprise diploma and a bachelor of literature. It’s simple to imagine from that their publications and opinions are extra credible. I do the identical credibility calculus.

That mentioned, not one of the analyses I do or the critiques I provide require PhD ranges of science or math. Every part I level out is one thing {that a} first yr science and math and even grade 12 science and math pupil may determine. This isn’t rocket science. It’s primary stuff. Nobody who desires to examine the numbers or science requires a PhD to remodel the fundamentals. A PhD extends human data, however not one of the RMI materials extends human data, it simply analyses what is thought. At greatest it’s Masters stage work. Frankly, a disciplined particular person with a 100 IQ and the web may do what I do, albeit probably extra slowly. Does this imply I’m proper and they’re mistaken? After all not, but it surely does imply that their credentials are solely considerably related.

On authority, the researchers have an even bigger place to face and a lever longer than mine. They’re members of a a lot revered power suppose tank with a number of places of work that’s been round since 1982. They’ve Amory Lovins’ title and fame behind them. I’m one man with my one-person suppose tank and consultancy.

They write reviews and papers usually with a number of authors and presumably reviewers previous to publication. I do analysis, crunch numbers and write articles that get retracted or corrected after I make embarrassing errors, articles that sometimes get bundled into reviews, pulled into peer-reviewed journals at different’s request or added to different folks’s books as chapters or particular information factors. They’ve respectable budgets for formatting and graphics. I exploit Google Sheets charts and generative AI picture instruments.

It’s fairly simple and never mistaken in any respect to imagine that RMI is extra authoritative than I’m. I wouldn’t start to disagree. If readers select to lean on RMI’s materials and positions as an alternative of my assessments and critiques, that’s utterly cheap. That doesn’t make them proper. The attraction to false authority is likely to be a logical fallacy in both course.

On bias, neither the RMI or I’ve a venal predisposition to fossil fuels and therefore hydrogen for power for these causes. We share a predisposition away from fossil fuels and for local weather motion. However the hydrogen workforce chief is a fossil gas business insider and long run hydrogen for power man. That reveals in a lot of his positions and the publications and positions RMI has taken since he assumed the position.

Does this imply that my independence is essentially much less biased? After all not. There are innumerable impartial cranks on the market who make it clear that iconoclastic independence isn’t remotely a precursor to rational, empirical evaluation. And it doesn’t make me resistant to the group suppose which has clearly caught the RMI hydrogen workforce in its net. I’ve my very own networks of people that agree with me, even when the ties are extra ephemeral. I’m as topic to the challenges of affirmation bias and bubbles, just a bit much less so than than the RMI hydrogen workers seem like.

And I’m topic to particular criticisms associated to bias. I’m or have been on the advisory boards of two electrified aviation begin ups. I’ve been a strategic advisor to a battery electrochemistry startup. It’s simple to level at these particulars and say I’m promoting a perspective. Besides, after all, that I got here to my conclusions on batteries and aviation earlier than taking these positions. These positions had been provided to me by deep professionals together with electrochemistry PhDs as a result of I’d executed and revealed the laborious evaluation work from the basics of science, math and economics, not as a result of I used to be prepared to pitch their perspective. I’ve turned down way more advisory roles than I’ve accepted. Does this make me an ideal and virtuous Spock-like creature? After all not. It simply counter balances an apparent criticism.

The final level on bias is expounded to framing. The hydrogen workforce at RMI clearly has a molecules for power focus and interprets all the pieces by way of that lens. They usually particularly have a hydrogen for power focus which signifies that they interpret lots of issues like Maersk’s principally biomethanol ships as being a excellent news story about hydrogen. It’s attention-grabbing that they don’t do the work to match the price of hydrogen molecules for power to present fossil fuels in any rigorous manner, or to biofuels for that matter. Their lack of any curiosity in evaluating the price of hydrogen as an power provider to electrification is a slender body symptom.

By comparability, I’ve a body which incorporates all the use circumstances for power and business, together with calculation of hydrogen manufacturing, distribution, compression and liquification. Meaning I embrace a minimum of extra of the choices, but it surely does imply that in terms of detailed analyses and simulation of slender lanes inside the area, I’m prone to miss stuff. Attempting to know all of the fundamentals means I’m prone to miss salient particulars. I’ve labored by way of lots of that however don’t fake to know all the pieces.

I believe beginning with a body of hydrogen for power and attempting to justify it with out rock strong evaluation of options is a nasty body.

All of that mentioned, the funders, Board and government of the RMI ought to be contemplating critically the information, logic and supporting materials I’ve introduced collectively on this critique. If I’m appropriate in my critique, RMI must pivot this portion of their group.


Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Wish to promote? Wish to counsel a visitor for our CleanTech Speak podcast? Contact us right here.

Our Newest EVObsession Video


I do not like paywalls. You do not like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Right here at CleanTechnica, we carried out a restricted paywall for some time, but it surely at all times felt mistaken — and it was at all times powerful to resolve what we must always put behind there. In idea, your most unique and greatest content material goes behind a paywall. However then fewer folks learn it!! So, we have determined to utterly nix paywalls right here at CleanTechnica. However…


Like different media corporations, we’d like reader help! In case you help us, please chip in a bit month-to-month to assist our workforce write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech tales a day!





CleanTechnica makes use of affiliate hyperlinks. See our coverage right here.


Supply hyperlink